Archive for the ‘Fossil Fuels’ Category

We tend to forget that climate change is a human rights issue.  A force created by people, our warming climate and acidifying seas are not only drowning polar bears, they are drowning entire cultures. I am convinced that if more people understood this aspect of the problem, we might generate the enormous demand it will take to shift our global society from fossil fuels to clean energy.  And now there is a simple way to get this argument out there: share with friends and family the remarkable story of The Island President.

Former President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed.

When it comes to the issue of the “right” to continue use of fossil fuels, The Island President challenges us to reconsider who pays the price. In this fantastic movie, we gain unfettered access to the intimate workings of President Mohamed Nasheed’s tireless campaign to save his people and his country from becoming the first in modern history to literally disappear.

Long before corals or polar bears blink out of existence, small island nations like the Maldives may cease to exist.  I wrote about this issue several years ago when Nasheed first took office, and worked with the organization, Islands First, to help establish climate change as a threat to national security within the UN.  And although some progress was made, not enough has been done to help those people who are most vulnerable to—and least responsible for—rising seal levels.  Part of the reason, I think, is that most people have no idea that entire nations, along with their millennia of culture and history, could be wiped off the map.

Roots from a palm tree exposed after beach erosion in the Maldives. Photo credit: Nattu

Roots from a palm tree exposed after beach erosion in the Maldives. Photo credit: Nattu

And the reality of this fate is different than anything that has ever occurred before in history. It is different than an invasion, where, over time, a displaced population can return home. It is different than a natural disaster which may devastate a section of a country, and over time, can be rebuilt. It instead is the literal extinction of land and with it, the historical and cultural ties of an entire people—and it is the result of actions taken by foreign countries. For people whose ancestors lie within these islands, their national identity is as tied to the land as it is to each other. Climate change threatens to tear them away from both. If displaced, how will entire countries manage to keep their cultural and national identities when their people are scattered far and wide? How can they maintain their sense of self when their entire history sinks beneath the surface? It is not hyperbole, therefore, when Nasheed claims that for his country, climate change is like a Nazi invasion—though at first it was perhaps unintentional, we are now fully aware as developed and developing nations that by continuing our use of fossil fuels we are directly threatening the national security of dozens of countries and contributing to the eradication of entire cultures across the globe.

Time is running out, but this amazing story of a true climate hero provides a simple way for all of us to get this message out there and help raise support for action. I urge you to bring the movie to your town by hosting a screening. If that seems too big a task (but really, is that so much to ask?) you can download it on itunes and invite some people over to watch. Share it with your kids, neighbors, co-workers, and especially those you are most hesitant to engage—they likely need it most.

After, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear about who has hosted an event and what kind of conversations or actions it led to.

To continue to get involved, check out 350 to find out about activities happening in your neck of the woods.

President Nasheed was unfortunately deposed in a military coup last year… so now, more than ever, his story needs to be amplified. We must pick up from where he left off while he continues to fight for the democratic freedom of his country.


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Photo from NOAA

Good news from the Gulf of Mexico post-oil spill: things are cleaning up a little faster than expected.  All in thanks to two factors that we humans can take absolutely no credit for whatsoever.  Instead, we’ve gotta give kudos to Mother Nature for molding the Gulf in its particular shape and for making some miraculously ravenous microbes that enjoy dining on our sludge.

A new research study has found that the basic topography of the Gulf of Mexico helped create circulation patterns that swung blooms of bacteria around and around over the well site—as if on a merry-go-round, the bacteria could continue to graze on the oil with each pass. Had the spill occured in a different location, the bacteria bloom would likely have been swept away.

Some will point to the rapid uptake of spill spew as evidence that people have over-exaggerated the impact of the spill. They will say “see, nature can handle it,” and press on with their Drill Baby Drill mantras. But the truth of the matter is, we got lucky.  Really, really lucky. Mitigation from disaster was completely out of our control. And counting on fortuitously hungry microbes and topography is really not something to base sound policy upon. Instead, we need to move forward with energy policy that is safe and clean—solar and wind are obvious starts. The fallout from the spill is also far from benign—livelihoods have been swept away and countless ecosystem impacts continue to manifest. Recovery is still years to decades away.  This news just makes us aware that it could have been a lot worse. It should serve as a warning.

But, for the moment, I will take my hat off to the millions of microbes that feasted so luxuriously on the crude that spewed from the broken well. And be thankful the Gulf is shaped as it is…

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The news of the massive oil spill in the Gulf is as black as the goo darkening the once blue waters.  But even with lots of media coverage, it is hard to really wrap our heads around how big and damaging this spill really is.   Paul Rademacher’s Google Earth layer allows users to compare the size of the spill to their own cities.  Go ahead and check it out.  Seeing how the amoeba-like slick completely covered the entire island—the Big Island at that—where I lived, definitely help bring home the scale of this disaster.

Then, consider all the environmental damage that is already likely occurring, even before the glistening grease reaches shore.  At then, after getting mad, act.

That’s right. Act. Because you can do something—several things actually—right now to help.

Last week I posted a blog on Change.org that highlights all the ways each of us can help turn the crude tide.  If you are tired of simply listening to bad news, you can start putting your energy into some productive ways to help.  There are many volunteer options for those who live locally, and for those of us who aren’t near the Gulf, we can donate lots of other things in replace of time: money, detergent, and even the hair on our own heads.

As always in times of crisis, the human spirit and capacity for enormous innovation and creativity is coming through. It’s one of the few silver linings on this dark cloud.  So join in, and put some of that frustration to work to help make a difference—starting with signing a petition to urge the President to ban offshore drilling once and for all.  Prevent future disasters while supporting a greener, more efficient, stable energy economy. Now that is something worth digging deep for.

Photo credit: NASA Goddard

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