When Ocean Meets Home

Ever have water in your basement? Uninvited water from a creek that rose above its banks or water rising up from the ground with a spring thaw? What a nuisance. Years ago I lived a few hundred feet from the side of a small mountain in the Southern Adirondacks, and without fail, every spring when the snow melted and the ground thawed, we’d get a few inches of water in the basement. To remove the water, I would use a flat snow shovel to push the water across the concrete basement floor towards the sump pump. Fortunately it never got more than an inch or two deep, but it was problematic. It was an inconvenience. Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.05 PM

Ever have sea water rise up and flood your property and home? Salty water that saturated the ground, contaminated your drinking water, and severely damaged your home? I can’t even begin to imagine such a scenario. Most others can’t either unless they’ve been directly impacted by a major coastal weather event such as Superstorm Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan, Hurricane Katrina….. But if you are a small island state nation resident, salt water lapping at your door has become frighteningly all too familiar.

A weak low pressure system, a lunar high tide, or fetch driven waves are all culpable for flooding. You might wonder, why build a home so close to the ocean? I mean, people should know better.  Right?  Well, small island nation cultures span centuries, and until recently managed just fine the periodic hurricane or typhoon.  Sadly, periodicity, predictability, and consistency no longer are the rule as climate change impacts gain momentum. Today, much like Norfolk, VA, Miami, FL, and other low-lying cities, sea level flooding is common.  The stark and unfair difference between residents of small island state nations such as Majuro in the Marshall Islands and those in larger countries is acreage and altitude. Where do you go when you’re living on an island a mere ten feet above sea level at its highest point? If you live in Miami, you move inland or out-of-state. But for the 25,000 Majuro residents, there is no place to move other than to another country. In the end, you have become an environmental refugee.

I have Facebook friends living in vulnerable small island nations, and their alarming comments and pictures posted earlier this month on Facebook are another reminder of the suffering climate change is causing. While I lament the nuisance water that occasionally got in my basement, friends are threatened by loss of home and place. Their (and our) suffering is sure to grow many fold as atmospheric anthropogenic gases increase and sea levels continue encroaching inland. From the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change Report, “Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century. Under all RCP scenarios, the rate of sea level rise will very likely exceed that observed during 1971 to 2010 due to increased ocean warming and increased loss of mass from glaciers and ice sheets” (IPCC, 2013, p. 25).  In other words, we must act now.

(Photos of Majuro, courtesy of Dustin Langidrik).


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Join Live Earth  and be one of a billion voices demanding our leaders take climate action on climate change now.

IPCC, 2013: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex, and P.> Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 pp.

My Climate Change Allergy

You won’t even feel it,” she assured me as I surveyed the needles and clear fluid-filled vials sitting on her steely cold shiny table. While tapping the syringe to remove air bubbles, she commented half to herself, “It will be itchy after the injection, but don’t worry, we’ll monitor it before sending you on your way.” She smiled and I thought to myself, “I can handle this. Two injections and then itchiness.” Welcome to the world of allergy shots.Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 11.41.45 AM

I have very little to complain about and remind myself regularly of being in good shape and spirit. Of course, this is winter and right now it’s easy to breathe without any sinus or bronchial inflammation. There are no sneezing fits. No coughing spasms. No waking up in the middle of night unable to breathe with a runny nose, itchy eyes, and a general feeling of flu-like malaise. If you suffer from hay fever, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I’m 56 and have tolerated allergies for over 40 years. Until recently, I managed to take antihistamines sparingly. I don’t like taking them for a variety of reasons, mostly because they make me tired and don’t always work. However, my allergies have become unbearable to the point where hay fever meds are now part of my daily regimen. And I still suffer hay fever symptoms! Thank you climate change.

It’s really no surprise that a warmer world is causing increased incidences of allergies and other health problems, but it is affirming when mainstream doctors note climate-related health problems in their patients. A survey of 15,000 specialists in respiratory and critical care fields found 77% observed an increase in air pollution-induced chronic illnesses and 58% noted increases in mold and pollen allergies. 54% stated climate change was affecting their patients.

Allergies are generally an inconvenience to those who suffer them, but there are cases where they can become life-threatening. The real issue is increased allergies and chronic respiratory illnesses are but another “canary in the coal mine” indicator of a warming planet. They add to the red flags of rising sea levels, species extinction, severe weather, and other climate change uglies.

Oh, and by the way, my nurse was right. The allergy shots were painless. If my body develops immunities to the allergens in the air, then the shots will have been worth their time and money. I just wish fixing climate change were as simple.


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.




Keystone Pipeline, Politicians, and The Climate Mobilization

So why are we voting to approve the Keystone Pipeline? And who really benefits from this pipeline? The American public? No. The people of Nebraska? Certainly no. Then who? Canadian oil company, TransCanada. That’s right, a Canadian fossil fuel company. And I don’t care if TranCanada were French, Mexican, Algerian, or Norwegian. The fact that they are an oil company that has curried favors from our elected politicians is what burns me up. BeFunky_Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 1.jpg

Though our elected officials were voted into office to act on behalf of the American public, TransCanada expects the United States Congress to stand up for them and approve the pipeline (I guess that’s a fair expectation when you spend millions of dollars hiring lobbyists to court our politicians). And it looks indeed that Congress will not disappoint. Again, who benefits? TransCanada. Not you or me.

There are no oil sources more polluting or environmentally destroying than the Canadian tar sands. Hell, you’ve got to inject hot steam and water into the Earth just to soften up the black, viscous, tars so they can be sucked out of the ground. Oil loaded with sulfur, metals, and other nasty chemicals. And clear cutting Alberta forests to access these oily sands is antithetical to a warming planet. Not to mention that the pipeline would run across the vast Ogallalla Aquifer and its permeable layers of sand and gravel. Which brings me back to my disappointment with many of our elected leaders.

Don’t believe the BS about jobs and “it’s good for America.” Once completed, there will be few jobs serving this mammoth pipeline (39 permanent jobs is the estimate by the State Department Environmental Review). And any project that helps move oil out of the ground is a bad one. We’re better off spending our money and time on renewable energies that will create more jobs and address climate change at the same time. Remember, this pipeline is for Big Oil, not you and me.

The Keystone Pipeline has been a major battleground for 350.org and much of the environmental movement the past few years, and will continue so until the pipeline is defeated. Playing defense against Keystone and other environmental catastrophes in the making is fine and good, but sometimes climate activism needs to go on the offense. An offense that demands a rapid transition to carbon-free energy and agricultural systems desperately needed now.

That is The Climate Mobilization’s platform, a decade long, WWII scale transition to carbon neutrality. If we manage to grow TCM into a major political force, we will have the leverage and voice to change the political conversation from “Is climate change real?” or “What is most important-jobs or the environment?” to “How can we scale up renewable energy at the pace we need?” and “Does this candidate have the strength of character to lead the mobilization effort necessary to reach carbon neutrality?

Many of our politicians are beholden to where the money is, not the public they were elected to represent. So, next time we have an election, find out which candidates are for us and which are for the fossil fuel industry. Unsure of a candidate’s position on climate change? Check out The Climate Mobilization to see if the candidate has signed the pledge. Better yet, join The Climate Mobilization and share with your friends. When enough people voice their discontent with the political status quo, then we will start seeing the leadership necessary to fight climate change and ensure a viably healthy planet for our children, grandchildren…..

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.

An Apology To My Social Media Friends

Dear friend, colleague, family member… I’m sorry for filling your Facebook page, Twitter feed, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts, etc with the same climate change stuff day after day. Those endless posts, tweets, emails, and pleas to fight climate change are surely annoying. I just can’t stop myself from sharing. And I know each time you see my latest item, you’re thinking, “Oh my God, If he posts one more thing about climate change, I’m unfriending him, removing him from my contacts list, cutting him out of my Google circles.” I know all my posts take up social media space on your sites. I’ve got a problem, and that’s the first sign of recovery.  Right?BeFunky_Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 11.jpg

Who wants to read that climate change crap anyway? After all, life’s confusing enough without having to see the “clarion calls for climate change action”. The “we’re all doomed if we don’t act now” messages. Besides, not everyone believes humans are changing climate. Or at least, they have too much invested in our present ways of living to want to believe in climate change. And then of course we have the misinformation engine of the Koch Brothers. Okay, here I go again. Preaching about the sins of fossil fuels and the urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. See, I’ve got a problem.

In truth, we all have a problem with climate change. And contrary to the nincompoops who assure us all is well with the climate, the reality is our lovely planet is getting hotter and hotter. Sea levels are rising higher and higher. Oh my God, I’m doing it again. Okay, it’s time to stop. But one last thing. If you can join me and the millions of other climate change fighters on this Paul Revere crusade, then I won’t have this problem any more (actually, it will just be a more manageable problem). And neither will your children, grandchildren, or the many other future generations to come. Join me in my addiction to raise climate change awareness and action. Let’s make a difference for our planet. Oh, and by the way, it’s official: 2014 was the hottest year on record.

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Yes, you’ve seen this action item before. But given the inaction in Congress, is there any other way to get things done?

Margaret Mead reminded us to “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.



The Earth’s Climate Change Doctors Have Spoken

Your doctor tells you you’re a heart attack waiting to happen and to “cut the sugar, salt and red meat or else.” What do you do? Find a second opinion? Throw caution to the wind? Wait and see how things go? What if 1,000 doctors reviewed your health data and came to the same conclusion as your doctor’s? In fact, they wrote a detailed report on how your body got to its present condition, and made predictions on your future physical health based on four different diets you could choose from to get better. If the medical community spoke to you like that, my guess is you’d heed the warnings and act quickly to minimize the damage.1499

Now let’s take the above example and apply it to climate change. This past year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released Working Group One’s report. Nearly 1,000 of the world’s brightest climate scientists prepared the 1,500+ page document. From the report’s foreword: “The science shows with 95% certainty that human activity is the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century. The report confirms that warming in the climate system is unequivocal, with many of the observed changes unprecedented over decades to millennia: warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, diminishing snow and ice, rising sea levels and increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1950.”  And if that were not enough to give one pause, the report warns, “Climate change is a long-term challenge, but one that requires urgent action given the scale by which greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere . . .” The climate science doctors have spoken.

If your doctor says eat better or else, you may or may not do your best to follow his or her advice. But if 1,000 doctors had the same message, you’d be foolish not to make serious changes in your diet. That same logic should apply to climate change. 1,000 climate scientists scoured the climate change research, had their work peer-reviewed, and then told society, “You’d better cut the burning of fossil fuels and take actions for a warmer world or else.” The “else” is almost too horrific to elaborate on. The climate doctors have spoken. Let’s change our diet with or without our political leaders. Too much is at stake to wait and see what happens in Washington (See ClimateReality Project clip below).

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Oil stocks are falling with plummeting oil prices, and investment strategists are suggesting now is the time to invest in the beaten down energy sector. Don’t do it. As tempting as it may be, divestment is the only option for fighting climate change. End 2014 on a positive note by selling any equities held in the fossil fuel sector. You’ll feel better for your actions.

Climate Change Conversations Require Embracing Confusion

Conversations on big ideas that don’t fit mental models can be confusing, perplexing, scary, infuriating, and frustrating. Evolution vs Creationism, sun-centered versus earth-centered model of the universe, flat earth vs round earth, and so on. Amidst the dichotomies are believers, deniers, and confused skeptics somewhere in the middle. Despite the misinformation cast by rich fossil fuel barons, believers listen to climate scientists and recognize the climate of their youth is very different from todays. Spring comes earlier and winter arrives later. Storms are more intense, ocean waters a little warmer, and flooding more common.Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 4.13.12 PM

You read the headlines and know things are changing, but not everyone believes in climate change. So what do we do? How do we reach the deniers and skeptics and engage them to take action when the stakes are so high and the noise deafening? One option is to follow Margaret Wheatley’s philosophy and embrace confusion to better understand one another, to see each other’s perspectives, to find solutions. We end confusion by “embracing” it. By having the difficult conversations.

Embracing climate change confusion means confronting skeptics and deniers with conversation–not an easy task. It hurts deeply to talk about something we are destroying that is so precious to us. But there is no other course of action.  We must talk. We can not sit on our hands and adopt a “Wait and see” approach. As Margaret Klein of The Climate Mobilization recently wrote, “Passivity, in a time of crisis, is complicity. It is a moral failure. Crises demand that we actively engage; that we rise to the challenge; that we do our best.” Margaret Klein’s essay is a reminder, push, nudge, exclamation point that climate change is a crisis that demands our immediate attention and collective efforts. So let’s get out there, embrace confusion, and have those important conversations with deniers and skeptics.


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Make a list of three people who are either confused or don’t believe in climate change. Organize five simple talking points to prepare for your conversation (go to the Environmental Protection Agency’s page for information about climate change). Have a frank but serious talk about what climate change is and why you are worried about it. Share your concerns about the world our youth will be inheriting. Let them know the very powerful fossil fuel industry is sewing seeds of confusion just as the tobacco industry did years ago on the risks of smoking. And it’s okay to not know all the answers.

Praying About Climate Change

“Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?” sang Janis Joplin. And if not a Mercedes Benz, perhaps an end to climate change? Better yet, how about restoration of Earth’s air, water, and land to a time prior to the Industrial Revolution? “Dear God, now that we know that dilution is not the solution to pollution, please give us a second chance to make amends. We’ll do better. Promise.”
Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.11.24 PM

We all pray for things, or at least 83% of us pray according to a recent survey. The statistics on prayer are interesting, and in some cases, amusing. The interesting: 31% of Americans pray multiple times a day, and the vast majority of people who pray believe some of their prayers get answered. The amusing: only 12% pray for politicians and 5% pray for things God would not approve of. I believe in prayer. It is good for the soul, soothes the worried mind, quiets the noise and helps us focus attention on life’s priorities.

There’s so much to pray for. We need to pray for our politicians, particularly the climate deniers who fail to “see the light”, as they negotiate climate change policies in the coming year.  We need to pray for the island dwelling peoples who are the first to experience the wrath of climate change as rising sea level washes away their homelands. We need to pray for farmers, particularly those in drought stricken areas around the world, as their crops and livestock struggle with hotter temperatures and less moisture. And we need to pray for humanity, that we figure out how to work together as one global nation to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Amen.

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Say a prayer. Then go out and speak about climate change.  Check out this resource on communicating about climate change from Columbia University’s The Earth Institute. And if you want to know what you’re praying to avoid, check out GlobalWeirding.

Climate Change IS Paradise Lost

“Welcome to paradise” chimed the friendly Sanibel Island Floridian dressed in Santa Claus shirt and khaki shorts as I remarked about having just arrived hours earlier from Upstate New York. It sure did feel like paradise after having braved freezing rain and plane deicing earlier in the day at Albany Airport. I looked around at the tanned people in Christmas-themed shorts and sandals moving about at the Captiva Island Luminary Festival and confirmed to myself that this moment in time was indeed paradise-like.IMG_4733

Paradise is temporary, fleeting, and always a state of mind. What makes for beautiful sub-tropical island conditions on a warm December evening are long gone in the hazy, hot, humid days of summer. Conversely, the bitter cold winters of Northern New York are a distant memory during the lovely summer days of recreating in the Adirondacks. Paradise is also a product of awareness. I was certainly aware that walking in sandals, shorts, and a short-sleeve shirt in 75 degree weather was much more pleasant than plodding through ice and snow with five layers on.

I came down to this sub-tropical paradise to present a session on teaching climate change through children’s literature.  The American Reading Forum, the organizer for this conference, holds their annual conference in Sanibel for educators interested in promoting literacy. Of course, there is some interest in just escaping the early winter doldrums for a short brief stretch of white sands, seafood,……but the main focus is to help people help others to read better. After all, learning to read is the key to reading to learn.

My visit to Paradise ended on Friday with the conclusion of my presentation. My wife and I packed our bags and with a little tinge of sadness, headed to the airport for the flight back to New York. We arrived at our home a long ten hours later to 15 degrees Fahrenheit and 18 inches of snow and ice.  Tired and sore from sitting, we widened a snow path to our back door and lugged our possessions into the house.  The next morning I headed at sunrise to SUNY Plattsburgh for fall graduation (Talk about being busy). Along the drive I rediscovered paradise in the winter wonderland landscape I drove through.

IMG_4837I was reminded during the drive north to Plattsburgh that paradise is being present in the Earth’s beauty. Whether one lives in Sanibel, Florida, Warrensburg, New York, or Akron, Ohio, paradise is there if you look for it. At least it is for the time being. Scientists have warned us that climate change threatens our entire biosphere, and with it, our sense of paradise.  We can not afford to lose paradise, which means we’ll need a well-educated populace to make good decisions regarding climate change. Decisions on who to vote for in elections, what types of food to eat, how to reduce energy use, etc.  We can save paradise. We must save paradise.


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Margaret Mead reminded us to “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.

Fighting Climate Change Is A Moral Imperative

Scenario One: The sketchy rental down the street is a crack house. You’ve seen the steady stream of users enter and leave the house at all hours of the night, and a close friend told you he knows an addict who gets drugs from the house. What do you do in this situation? Call the police or hope things get better? Scenario Two: You see your colleague at work drinking on the job. After denying she did anything wrong, she breaks down in tears and confides in you that her marriage is crumbling and her “morning pick-me-up” helps get her through the day. What do you do? Let Human Resources know what’s happening, or ignore things and hope your colleague gets better?
Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 10.53.16 AM

Doing what’s right, the moral imperative, is not always simple or pleasant. In the two scenarios above, the best thing to do is promptly inform those in power so that they can do something about the problem. The crack house infects communities and ravages lives, and an alcoholic hurts themselves and those around them. There is no waiting or hoping for things to improve—a closed crack house and a colleague getting necessary support and services require immediate action. But what about problems that are much broader, impactful, and long-range? Problems that literally threaten life on this planet?

Scenario Three: Scientists and politicians worldwide convene on December 10, 2014 at the World Climate Summit in Lima, Peru, to lay the foundation for a sweeping climate change agreement set to be developed in Paris next year–an agreement that demands action beginning in 2020. However, you know from scientists’ reports that waiting till 2020 to begin targeting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will lead to an average 3.6-degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature within 30 years. What are you going to do with that knowledge?  Worse yet, you know that if we fail to reach agreement in Paris, we could be looking at a ten degrees Fahrenheit hotter world by 2100. Scientists know this. We all know this. And this is not a scenario but reality.

We can’t “hope” things will improve. Nor can we wait and see what happens. We have a moral imperative to act on behalf of the Earth’s climate. On behalf of our children’s children. On behalf of the multitudes of flora and fauna at risk in a hothouse planet. So, what will you do knowing that a 2020 target date for implementing a climate plan leads to a 3.6-degree Fahrenheit increase within 30 years and that having no agreement at all results in a 7-10 degree increase by the end of the century? This is the harsh, unforgiving reality of our changing climate. A reality that gets starker by the day. Fighting climate change is THE moral imperative of our time. So what are you willing to do, and do you feel a moral imperative to act?  If not, why not?


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Willing to do more but need to better understand the science behind climate change?  Read this  free e-textbook from Stanford University.

Do Individual Actions Matter When Fighting Global Warming?

Below is a guest post from Quentin Prideaux, Climate Reality Leader and Partner at Alder Associates.

Assuming for the moment that you are not the President, CEO of ExxonMobil, the Editor of the New York Times, or even an influential Sustainability professional, can your actions on global warming have any real effect?

There are two ways you can affect global warming – via your personal carbon footprint and through the influence you have on others.

Let’s consider your personal carbon footprint by turning it on its head. Imagine for a moment that you’d never been born (I was a ‘surprise’ baby so that’s easy for me). Once you are over the existential angst notice that your carbon footprint just dropped to zero. Is the planet saved now? No. Oh dear.Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 6.53.23 PM

If changing your own emissions doesn’t do it, maybe you can influence enough other people to make a difference? You are one of 7 billion people on earth, and maybe one of the 315 million Americans. Can you personally reach enough of them to turn round global warming? No. Oh double-dear.

Does this mean that personal action is pointless? Absolutely not. Every single thing that mankind has ever done, is doing, and will ever do is done by individuals. There are no aliens running the planet (really). There is no “them”. It’s us.

The link between a seemingly ineffectual individual and all of humanity is that all the individual actions *do* add up. From action chaotic ripples of outcomes are created. This is the ‘butterfly effect’ of personal change – unknown and unforeseen consequences occur far from the small initiating action. Your use of LEDs not only reduces your use of dirty coal, your lights are seen by others who may try them out. And because you purchased LED bulbs more are manufactured, reducing their price, increasing sales. Tipping points are passed. Influence spreads.

These butterfly effects won’t have a clear link to your desired result, but every single desired result does come from individual action.

And overtly influencing others works too. A climate presenter I know gave a presentation in a small town in Australia, and someone came up to her afterwards to discuss the issue at length. That person was an MP. Who later voted for carbon legislation. That passed by one vote.

This September 400,000 individuals went for a walk in New York holding banners. Just so others could see how many cared so much about global warming. It was a very visible crowd with a very visible effect. Made up of individuals who acted.

Personal action does matter. It is the only thing that can matter. Through the butterfly effect, through direct impact, through politics, commerce, social networks, houses of worship, institutions, schools, colleges and more. Gradually the impossible becomes the inevitable. Just like it did for female suffrage, civil rights, ending the cold war, legislating acid rain, banning DDT, The Montreal Protocol, and more.

It starts and ends with personal action. With us. With you.