Posts Tagged ‘Climate Change’

Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina. Photo by pclvv

Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina. Photo by pclvv


Sometimes, the best answer to a question really is another question.  I’m convinced that this is the case when faced with the common query these days:

“What is the one thing you recommend I should do to help stop climate change?”

It’s a fair question. And it often follows from presentations or events where a certain effect of climate change has been brought into focus. Such was the case during a question and answer session at the Waimea Film Festival, with Chasing Ice Director Jeff Orlowski and producer Paula DuPré Pesmen.  But, instead of stumbling through the familiar “top ten” list of things people can do, Orlowski responded, “I don’t know. It depends on you—and I don’t know you. To answer your question, I need to know: what are you good at?”

At first, this response might seem a dodge, or at the least, frustrating, for someone who just wants to be given a simple answer.  And there is some risk that in providing a response that requires some thought, we may dilute the participation levels of the crowds.  “People are too busy to think about it…just tell them what to do” is a common sentiment.

But, Pesmen and Orlowski provided a compelling argument for why that approach just doesn’t make sense:  it all comes down to passion.  Each one of us has our own interests, our own skill sets that we can bring to the table. And when we act based on those, we tend to follow through and have more impact. When it comes to Climate Change, the solution just requires each of us do SOMETHING.  The technology is there. The economics are there. What is preventing sound action on Climate Change is political will. And to create that, we need a massive shift in public engagement in the issue. We need everyone who is “too busy” to become engaged—to show that this is something that they care about.

The best way to make that happen is to encourage individuals to do something that draws from their own interest, their own skills, their own personal passion.

So, if you are an artist, paint. If you are an activist, create a demonstration. If you are a stay-at-home mom, teach your kids about energy saving and share your lessons with fellow moms. If you are good at writing, help organizations create editorials for the local paper. If you commute, start a carpool.  Each and every one of those things matters. Each shows a shift in public consciousness and values.

Orlowski used his talents as a filmmaker to create a documentary. Pesmen used her talents as a producer to move the film onto a larger stage.  The folks with the Crochet Coral Reefs project used their love of crocheting to raise awareness. The question is: what will you choose to do?

The Chasing Ice website has a “Make a Difference” section that provides both simple, concrete steps and more open-ended suggestions for how we can all make a difference.  The Learn section includes links to many fantastic resources and organizations that can serve as launch pads for your own interest. It’s a great place to start. But remember, there is no silver bullet to solve this. Let the answer to the question reflect your own colorful flare. Whatever your passion, make that your action. That’s the way to create true change.


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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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An iceberg drifts towards the Atlantic. Photo credit: James Balog, Extreme Ice Survey

An iceberg drifts towards the Atlantic. Photo credit: James Balog, Extreme Ice Survey

Imagine an ice version of lower Manhattan. The pure white skyscrapers jutt upward against a bright blue sky. The sun glistens off the white metropolis, shining at the edge of the sea.

Suddenly, there is a deep groaning, the waking of a giant.  A slow creaking sound rises as a deep crack slices across the southern end of the island. Within moments, the buildings topple like dominoes, shattering and crashing as the island splits. The southern end, now severed from the island, careens over sideways and plunges into the cold dark waters.  The sea boils with ice, frothing and foaming. Waves lift 50-story tall white towers high up in the air, swallow them whole, and then burp them out with a tremendous splash.

Two hours later, all is quiet again, with little evidence that anything momentous occurred—except the city is noticeably smaller than it used to be.

What’s amazing isn’t that this actually happened. It’s that it continues to happen, at faster and faster, in bigger and bigger chunks, every year.  It’s not a phenomena of concrete cities, of course, but of dozens of glaciers across the globe.  Called a calving event, its the way icebergs are born.  The leading edge of the glacier, formed of ice structures taller than most of New York’s buildings, slides into the sea along a slippery slope greased with fresh meltwater.  With climate change fueling higher temperatures, more meltwater forms, meaning these glaciers are sliding headfirst into the ocean at rates faster than they are reforming up on land.

Watching the process of something so massive suddenly tumble off the edge of the world and drift away is a truly unbelievable experience. Comprehending the scale at which it can happen is nearly impossible. You have to see it to believe it. And thanks to Chasing Ice and the Extreme Ice Survey, you can.

Chasing Ice follows renowned nature photographer James Balog, on his ambitious project to provide evidence, through stunning time lapse photography, of the effect of climate change on the world’s glaciers. Called the Extreme Ice Survey, the project has over 30 cameras permanently positioned across the globe in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, the Rockies and on Mt. Everest. During daylight hours, these electronic eyes snap a picture every 30 minutes, providing an otherwise impossible perspective on the disturbingly fast rate of this glacial change.

Enduring insanely harsh weather conditions and logistical nightmares (you try rigging up highly sensitive electronic devices on the sides of mountains in hurricane winds and minus 40 degree temps), Balog’s determination and incredible foresight to see this project through are inspiring.  And the pictures say a 1000 words.

The images captured provide undeniable proof that our planet is undergoing an unprecedented loss of ice—a phenomena that reaches far outside the natural thaw and freeze cycles of the past and can only be explained by man-made climate change.

The loss of glaciers has profound implications for sea level rise, global freshwater supply, ocean chemistry (and thus fisheries and weather patterns) and more. And as the EIS shows us, it is happening right now.  But although EIS has received some attention (Balog was asked to present at the 2009 COP15), politicians continue to bicker over who is to foot the bill for reducing climate change (while their countries continue to pollute), and industry lobbyists and skeptics continue their mission to derail the many sensible, profitable, and beneficial solutions to shifting our society away from fossil fuel.  And a highly confused and misinformed public remains immobilized.

But not for long.

The brilliance of Chasing Ice is that it provides a new way for getting this evidence out there. And it is hard evidence. Undeniable, beautiful, horrible evidence.

Whiteout Glacier, Alaska. Photo credit: James Balog, Extreme Ice Survey

To win the climate change battle in the US will require an engaged, active, and motivated public. It is the only thing that can overcome 6 lobbyists per Congress member whispering tall tales day in and day out.  It is time to re-kindling those conversations with the skeptics in your world—at the dinner table, around the water cooler, at the bus stop. And here is a beautiful way to do it: buy them a ticket and take them on a movie date.

Unlike many activist films on climate change, this movie invites the skeptics. It doesn’t preach or throw tons  of statistics at you (the few graphics are really well done and helpful). Instead, it is like walking through an art gallery—Balog’s photographs on the big screen are something to behold in and of themselves. At times, the awesome grandeur and beauty of these icy worlds is so breathtaking, you can almost forget you are gazing at Earth. And there are moments when the scale of destruction is so large and so fast, it is nearly impossible to believe. If you didn’t have the photos to remind you.

Find the helicopter below. That gives some scale as to the size of these walls of ice, the crystal towers tumbling into the sea.

A helicopter flies past a section of the face of a glacier in Greenland. Photo credit: James Balog, Extreme Ice Survey

A helicopter flies past a section of the face of a glacier in Greenland. Photo credit: James Balog, Extreme Ice Survey

So take that deep breath, and invite someone who is not yet engaged to come and have a look, to see what only a few people in the world ever get to witness: the awesome, raw power of nature and the unthinkable, unintentional power we have unleashed upon her.  And take comfort knowing that with each conversation you have, each effort you make, we are one step closer to generating the tidal wave of support needed to turn this tide.

Balog’s camera’s will continue to click on in the distance, recording our results.

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