Tag Archives: climate change

It’s Too Late, Baby

Carole King’s Tapestry, the concert based on her album and performed last year in Hyde Park, London, has been turned into a film and opened in theaters across the U.S. yesterday for a one night stand. We bought our tickets in advance online, imagining the show would sell out.  It didn’t.  In fact, attendance at the Providence Mall Cinema was sparse. As her fans know, King’s album transformed her overnight from a songwriter best known for writing hits for others to a star in her own right. If you missed the show last night, keep your eyes open.

As she launched into her opening number, I Feel the Earth Move, well, I did. Feel the move, that is. It has been that kind of week — New York Magazine’s The Uninhabitable Earth, the Guardian coverage of the sixth extinction, and then this morning, the news of the collapse of the Larsen C shelf, an ‘iceberg the size of Delaware,’ forming a new island. A small piece of the earth. Moving, we don’t know where or what else could change as a result.

For me, these events tend to crowd out the news about the G20 meeting, mounting cries of Impeach!, and anxiety over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions given the current state of our own governance. I know my own diplomat father who spend several months a year as a delegate to the Geneva disarmament talks in the late 50’s, would be turning over in his grave, if he had one. I put my trust in the quiet, behind the scenes, work of special counsel, Robert Mueller, to help bring a shameful chapter of our history to a conclusion.

That said, I found myself weeping when Carole King launched into It’s Too Late and the cameras panned over the faces of the immense crowd (estimated 65,000) of Londoners, many of them young, many of them singing along.  For the same reason, I feel rocked by the sounds of little children in the playground right next to the AirBnB where I am currently living, and when I think about our teenage grandchildren — all children — whose lifespan may expose them to decades of life-threatening hypothermia, water and food insecurity, disease we had thought vanquished, and the breakdown of civil life.  Maybe, as my friend (father, poet and blogger, The Green Skeptic), Scott Edward Anderson says (and not for the first time), “We’re toast!”

I was in the process of pounding out a post more in keeping with Transition Tales (Tip, Tools and Ideas for a More Resilient Future), about how decentralized solar power is bring electricity and positive change to parts of Africa, when Scott’s social media comment attached to the said link popped into the screen.  Usually I ignore these, but I stopped writing and read the New York Magazine piece — “too scary,” “climate disaster porn, ” could spur cities into action or make people feel hopeless” — and that was that for the upbeat post I was working on. Even before the Guardian’s piece or today’s news from Antartica.

So, I put it to you readers: Do you agree it’s game over?  Are we toast?  Is it too late, baby?  And if so (given that climate crisis denial is not an option here), what are you doing to keep your spirits up, to press on with your climate and political activism, to keep on keeping on. Seriously, I want to know because it has been that kind of week.  Whatever you care to share, my comment section awaits. I’ll be there, yes, I will.

Earth Hour 2015: Lights Out

Where were you when the lights went out? If you are of a certain age and lived in the Northeast United States, you’ll remember at least one major blackout, with those of 1965 and 1977 perhaps the most indelible because normal life was disrupted for so many people across a vast region.

I was caught in a blackout in New York City in the early 80’s while on a research assignment in Brooklyn for Technology Magazine – the irony sank in sometime later.  Fortunately for my co-worker and me, we were above ground when the power went out, not trapped in a subway car or skyscraper office.   We, along with hundreds of others hit the streets, giddy with relief.  It was late afternoon when we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, into Lower Manhattan and the Village. There, a party was in progress as restaurants who had lost their refrigeration, were turning out meals on make-shift charcoal grills and offering them, along with slightly warm beer, to whomever cared to take them up on their offer. Although that particular blackout would prove to be relatively local and short-lived, there was no way to know at the time.  “It’s tempting to ask why if you fed your neighbors during the time of the earthquake and fire, you didn’t do so before or after,” writes Rebecca Solnit of the San Francisco earthquake in  A Paradise Built in Hell: the Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster.

Eventually, I got my foot-weary self to the Port Authority Bus Terminal that evening to wait with other New Jersey commuters for the power and interrupted bus service to resume.  Here, too, there was unusual cooperation and camaraderie.  We riders of the DeCamp 66 and 33 who barely exchanged a word before, were talking, exchanging stories and phone numbers, discovering we were neighbors after all.

unpluggedEarth Hour, 8:30-9:30 pm local time, when the Strip in Las Vegas, Times Square and the Eifel Tower intentionally go dark to raise awareness about climate change, was launched in Australia in 2007 by the World Wide Fund for Nature and has become a global movement.  Getting millions of people to power down for one hour a year doesn’t seem like much to ask, even of the electronic device-addicted populace of our century. In our home, we mark the occasion with an hour of candlelight, a glass of wine, a ukulele, some songs, enjoying the respite from the mixed blessing of an always-on, always-connected life that we have embraced so wholeheartedly.  Viewed in long-range or aerial images, Earth Hour is spectacular, and more than a little unnerving.  I would like to think that this scale of community arts activism will help us wrap our heads around what is impossible to contemplate, even for climate advocates: a world without power; life as we’ve come to know it, unplugged.

Artists of all kinds have often taken the lead in making the invisible (under-appreciated or ignored) visible, because they can.  Some are using their gifts to wake people up to the really wicked, society-transforming problem of climate change and a rising sea, e.g. The HighWaterLine project. The brainchild of artist, Eve Mosher, the HWL helps communities visualize the impact of climate change in our own neighborhoods and streets. Mosher began her work in 2007 in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, mapping areas predicted to be impacted by flooding during storm surges. After deep research into climate science and Google maps of flood zones, she spent six months using chalk and a sports field marker to draw the 10-ft. above sea level line in the streets and on the buildings. Yes, that was five years before Sandy.  Click here for more on the HWL.

Blue LightsAs residents of one of the states most vulnerable to sea level rise, Floridians are fortunate that Eve Mosher will be making a return engagement, this time in Palm Beach County later this month, chalking sea level rise for the HighWaterLine Delray Beach event. This day-long performance is part of the 2nd Annual Florida Earth Festival, a series of workshops and demonstrations that runs April 18 through 25, including a weekend of intensives at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boca Raton, 2501 St. Andrews Blvd.  Volunteers are needed for all kinds of tasks during the festival, and if you are able, I urge you to find what speaks to you and sign up.  For this yoga instructor and lover of dance, it is the prospect of being in the grand finale of the HWL mapping: a ‘movement choir’ of dancers holding blue glow lights and moving to Neil Young’s new anthem: Who Is Going to Stand Up for the Earth.

I’ve also signed up for the Beautiful Trouble workshop in the hopes that it will help me hone my new-found voice as a spoken word artist (thanks Vagina Monologues!) into a poetry flash mob or open mic performance on environmental themes.  In any case, it sounds like way more fun than climate advocacy usually is, Greenpeace Gorilla suits and the Raging Grannies notwithstanding.  These trainings are intended to serve as “A Toolbox for Revolution.” Bring it on.

Earth Hour visuals

Earth Hour, March 19, 2016

Biggest Blackouts in History

HighWaterLine Action Guide

Like Water For Avocados

After an announcement about a possible shortage of Hass Avocados caused near panic (and perhaps some welcome publicity), Mexican food chain, Chipolte, tried to soothe its fans with an announcement that there is no “guacapocalypse” in the offing.  Really?  Avocados are a thirsty crop, second only to another California favorite, the endangered almond.  According to Mother Jones, it takes 74.1 gallons of water to grow one pound of avocados as opposed to strawberries (9.8 gallons) or lettuce (5.4 gallons). For the time being, the California Hass is big business for the state: “… about 80 percent of all avocados eaten worldwide and … more than $1 billion a year in revenues in the United States alone.”  (California Avocado Commission).  

Headlines like this one from Newsweek 3/13/15: NASA: California Has One Year of Water Left, should be setting off alarm bells in the Congressional denialist camp on the basis of the economic impact alone, with the nation’s food security right up there next to it.  So it’s particularly bad news for all of us who love avocados — heck, like to eat regularly! — that Senator Ted Cruz now heads the Senate Science Committee, and that he has told NASA to stick to space and drop its climate investigations.  We need to pay close27_smap20150224-16 attention to what happens next.  After all, budget cuts that could threaten programs like NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Soil Moisture Mapper (SMAP)  — a satellite that can improve weather forecasts, monitor droughts and predict floods —  will hurt us all, now and in the immediate future. Maybe we should take a page from Senator Snowball’s playbook and start jamming the inboxes of legislators of his ilk with our favorite guacamole recipes.  This sounds like a job for Beautiful Trouble, fearless artist/activists.  Hi-jinks and hackery that exercise our creativity and even soothe our souls.   

It’s great to learn that Al Gore is newly optimistic that we can bring ourselves back from the brink, but yesterday on World Water Day, I couldn’t help thinking about what ordinary Californians are doing about a drought so severe, it has its own website?  Not nearly enough, according to figures from January this year which showed that conservation of water dropped from 22% to 9%, possibly spurred by an end of the year rainy period.  We are so addicted to short-term — or maybe it’s magical — thinking!  No wonder we are so easily distracted by shiny new things, blockbuster movies, and gossip about people we’ll never meet or particularly want to.

So I decided to ask a friend who lives in Huntington Beach about the water crisis, and she assured me that although some of her neighbors still have lawns (and presumably, have not as yet been prohibited from watering them), she has embraced a more desert scape, that is, rocks and succulents.  OK, it’s something, and granted, this is a minuscule sample.  But isn’t this typical of a common mismatch between the complexity of the issues we face — economic, health, safety, civil society — and the response of too many people like my well-meaning friend, as well as those in positions of power?  California officials, writes Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, are “staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.”

Although drought isn’t an issue for Florida at the moment, we have our own water challenges: a rising sea (flooding, coastal erosion, threat to infrastructure and property) and the migration of salt into the agricultural water supply.  So much for the idea that California’s agricultural losses might be somewhat mitigated by Florida’s food growing power.  For more on this including the Sea Level Rise Symposium 2014, see my blog posts from last July, Water: Next Capitalist Tool? and November, Raising Fields.  Not enough water or the wrong kind — none of this is good news for living things.  But compared to what many see as the threat of water wars in the not too distant future, these issues are a drop in the bucket.

What can we do?  First, recognize that climate change is with us here and now and that we humans have no history or experience with the kinds of change it will likely produce in our lives.  On a beautiful, cool morning in South Florida as I write this from my patio, it’s possible to imagine that we have a decade or two before we are forced to adjust, to take action, or possibly, flee for higher ground. Even if that were true, it’s cold comfort for our children and grandchildren. Second, cut your consumption: repair, reuse, repurpose, skip the upgrade, minimize air travel, and make do while these are choices we can still make freely. Third: ask yourself to imagine a world without your favorite food (yes, avocados), a beloved bird, flower, tree, pollinators in general, a particular beach, a cherished vacation spot, a life experience you now take for granted (hiking a pristine trail, growing vegetables, access to a wide variety of fresh food, taking a hot shower, feeling safe on my streets and in my home, are all on my list).  What would you do to preserve these ordinary treasures, for yourself and those you love?  Do it.

See also: The Dark Mountain Project and Movement Generation

Telling the Good Stories of 2014

Crisis and opportunityWhen climate activists in South Florida meet, the mood is often serious bordering on grim, and I usually head out the door with a to-do list and a heavy heart. We know what we’re up against in our state legislature, so one doable strategy is to attempt to convince our local municipalities, one mayor and/or commissioner at a time, that we are holding them accountable for the preservation of our towns and cities, and our safety. For this we need local citizen volunteers to join in the effort. My team mates have developed a terrific script suitable for phone or email.

This is good, worthy work, yet I fear we may not attract many takers without the leavening agent of uplifting stories, and the truth is, 2014 was a pretty good year for the environmental movement. Last December, I tapped into Mongabay for positive stories, and this year, some that appeared on its current Top Ten list are also on mine:

  1. The ban on fracking in New York State shows what can happen when the people don’t give up, and keep the heat on indecisive elected officials. It worked in Denton, Texas, the state where fracking was born. Another small victory: would be frackers got fined in Florida. We have only begun to fight. Stay tuned, and keep an eye on other fracking news.
  2. Pope Francis, whose agenda for 2015 includes a rare papal encyclical to 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, an address to the United Nations, and a summit of the world’s religious leaders. His Holiness has connected the dots that many miss:

    “An economic system centered on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it.”

  1. The Climate Pledge between the U.S. and China, a savvy move by President Obama to sidestep an obstructionist Congress. What he will do on the KXL when it is (most likely) reintroduced, remains to be seen.
  2. Breakthrough in palm oil plantations as Kellogg, L’Oréal and Nestlé, signed a declaration pledging to help cut tropical deforestation in half by 2020 and stop it entirely by 2030.  You don’t mess with Harrison Ford.
  3. EPA ruling on power plant emissions comes under the Clean Air Act. Unless the Supreme Court changes its mind, this should stand. Thanks again to crafty POTUS.
  4. September Success: Over 400,000 people from diverse groups join in the climate march in New York City, and in smaller demonstrations elsewhere: Transition Palm Beaches, EcoArt South Florida, The Sierra Club and Raging Grannies (among others) in Delray Beach.
  5. The business connection.  Earlier this year, I found my way to the B Team whose stated mission is to ‘catalyse a better way of doing business for the wellbeing of people and the planet.’   http://bteam.org/about/ I figure any group that includes Muhammed Yunus (founder, the Grameen Bank of micro-loan fame), Arianna Huffington and Mary Robinson (former president of Ireland and member of The Elders) is a vote for humanity.
  6. The Transition movement continues to grow in the U.S. You can avail yourself of great, free seminars with some of the smartest, forward thinkers around, e.g. Cecile Andrews, author of Living Room Revolution: A Handbook for Conversation, Community and the Common Good.In partnership with the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, Transition US announced the People’s State of the Union, the first in a series of new, participatory civil rituals. From January 23-30, 2015, people across the country are invited to convene “story circles” with neighbors, friend, and community members to respond to three prompts:
  • Tell a story about a moment you felt true belonging – or the opposite – in this country or your community
  • Describe an experience that showed you something new or important about the state of our union
  • Share about a time you stood together with people in your community.

May 2015 bring about an awakening to both our perils and possibilities, and action as our conscience dictates.

#fastfortheclimate

fastfortheclimateI’m no stranger to fasting since my daughter introduced me to The Master Cleanse years ago, and it still feels like a good way to balance the excesses of holiday celebrations.  But this is the first time I’m fasting as an act of solidarity with climate activism, specifically with the massive international fast in conjunction with the Lima Climate Change Conference that opens today and runs until December 12.  So, if you are just hearing about this for the first time (and I hope not), it’s not too late to shed a pound for a good cause.  My tribe of activists just got bigger and more diverse as soon as I took the pledge and checked out the pages of  http://fastfortheclimate.org/en/:  bishops, CEOs of NGOs, activists, TV chefs, musicians, UN officials, and negotiators from around the world (though not to date Yeb Sano, the young Filipino diplomat whose emotional presentation at the 2013 Warsaw climate talks, and subsequent two week hunger strike, inspired this movement.)

Astonishingly, the comment section of fastfortheclimate.org has an outsized number of enraged comments from the denial crowd, most of which fall into the ‘protest too much’ category and lead me to hope that the evidence of climate change is beginning to hit home.  I even got some flak from a foodie member of my family when I posted my intention for the day on social media.  Eating is itself a political act no matter where you stand intellectually on climate science. Just ask anyone attempting to prepare a Thanksgiving meal that will please everyone.  Free-range or tofurky?  It seems that too many of us Americans hate and resist any suggestion that we must change our own habits.  This made a best-seller of Who Moved My Cheese? and explains why diets usually fail, and more importantly, why we continue to live with the devils we know: money-corrupted politics and dysfunctional government (a topic I’ll be blogging about as soon as I finish reading Lesterland).

Well, as anyone who has tried fasting for any reason knows, as the first day of your fast wears on, you realize just how much time you are saving not preparing and consuming food, let alone thinking about it.  This can feel almost liberating. Even if you are not taking solid food, you must keep yourself hydrated — lemon water and herbal teas for me — and you may actually start to enjoy the experience of some lightness of mind and body.  Not to mention how ambrosial the first bite of solid food tastes!  Fasting, like dieting, does interfere with the social aspect of eating, which is not a small thing in a household where a favorite word is ‘lunch.’  Of course, most of us climate fasters are doing this for one day, although some intend to extend it to the first day of every month (no promises). It is a far cry from famous individuals like Gandhi and Cesar Chavez who effectively used the extended hunger strike as a form of nonviolent activism and changed the course of history for the better.  To them, and to my fellow December 1 fasters — may our numbers increase —  I raise my cup of mint tea.

More links:

http://fastfortheclimate.org/normal-post/fast-for-the-climate-with-us-on-1-december/

https://www.facebook.com/fastfortheclimate

http://kitchencounterculture121.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/fast-for-the-climate-1st-of-december/

Raising Fields: What History Can Teach Us

When you come in for a landing at Palm Beach International, you pass over a network of blue waterways, canals, inlets, and bays that link pastel buildings and homes to the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal.  In fact, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway that touches my life and yours if you live and work here, is a much larger network that runs North-South, from Norfolk, Virginia to the Florida Keys, some 1,090 miles of navigable interstate.  This Blue Highway is what makes our part of the state so attractive to boat-loving vacationers and retirees alike.  It is also what puts South Florida’s future as a tourist mecca, retiree haven, and agricultural giant (second to California) at great risk from sea level rise (SLR). The experts in local government and higher education know this:

The risks from sea level rise are imminent and serious. This is not a distant problem, but one that is affecting us now and will certainly affect our children.  Sea level rise will impact millions of Americans and threaten billions of dollars of building and infrastructure. — Sea Level Rise Summit 2013

And so do the insurers and activist organizations, and all have our work cut out for us, given the denial in Tallahassee and among billionaire developers.  The latter are (for now), as one Facebook comment had it, so 20th Century.

???????????????????????????????Attorney Mitchell Chester isn’t waiting for anyone’s blessing to bring the message of SLR to whomever will hear it and act upon it. The fastest way to get up to speed on sea level rise is to visit his site SLRSouthFlorida for the latest news on the subject. It’s not good news for us coastal dwellers, but it may also represent an opportunity to save the Florida that people have loved almost to death, and to prosper in an entirely different way (and I don’t mean Waterworld).

I first heard Mitchell Chester speak at a breakout session at the Second Annual Sea Level Rise Symposium in July, sponsored by The Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for the Everglades, the Oxbridge Academy and the League of Women Voters of Palm Beach County.  The session addressed the need for our legal and financial systems to “engage the shared emergency of sea level rise.”  Meaning, of course, that they are not doing so in any significant way.  Currently, for example, you will not find any warning about the threat of a rising sea to your property in your real estate disclosure documents.  Mortgage documents also reflect the same myopia.

Last week, I heard Mr. Chester making an electrifying presentation to the Climate Action Coalition meeting about his idea to save the billion dollar South Florida agriculture, “some of the best growing fields in the U.S.”  He was here, he said, “to bring reality to the recommendations” of adaptation and mitigation contained in the South Florida Regional Climate Action Plan.  Without action, our ability to grow 250 food crops (and feed the country) could end “as soon as the second term of the incoming American president.”  Whoa!  That’s within 10 years.

In a nutshell: “For [Florida’s] agriculture, it’s either up or out.” As he pointed out, the strategy of containing the sea by building up the land is nothing new. The Dutch have been doing it for centuries, and are still the masters of their dike-and-windmill system in modern times.  The Maya and Aztec also created farm lands on human-made mounds and managed excess water with canals, according to Raising Fields, the website created by Mitchell Chester to educate and make a case for adaptation of this kind.

While the ocean will advance and someday cover Southeast Florida, the use of mound farming and elevated agricultural strategies will serve to extend the life of valuable rural properties and precious growing fields.

For us South Florida residents, it could be an idea whose time has come.  And, as if to anticipate the drum beat about jobs gained or lost that plays through every political discussion, this proposal has an answer.  To build a new agriculture for a wetter, water-logged South Florida — and continue to feed all those urbanites who rely on farmers they’ll never meet — it will be everybody in, everybody working together: engineers, economists, architects, agronomists, water experts, farmers, environmentalists, mapping experts, permitting agencies, planners at many levels. And that’s before the first shovelful of soil.

Links to help you dig in 🙂

SLRSouthFlorida
Raising Fields Blog  — you can back up into the main site
South Florida Regional Climate Action Plan
EPA Climate Change Adaption SE
That Sinking Feeling – NBC Report

 

 

 

Miami Dice

I love Miami. I love the amiable mix of cultures, the scene at Hoy Como Ayer in Little Havana, the outdoor murals of Wynwood, the new South Pointe Park, the art deco homes, the new Perez Museum, built inexplicably enough on Biscayne Bay, next to new science museum under construction. Miami is a mere 77 miles from my hometown and along the same coast, so what happens in Miami isn’t going to stay in Miami. My county may be a foot or so higher in sea level, but we share the same porous limestone, the same array of barrier islands with their luxury high rises, and the same professional climate change deniers.

The sense of carpe diem might have had as much to do with our choice of Miami as a destination to celebrate our 30th anniversary this past summer as the city’s many undeniable attractions. So, we treated ourselves to three nights at the Marriot on Biscayne Bay where the management – alerted to the occasion by a child – gave us an upgrade that included a sweeping view of the Bay, Causeway and cruise ships. To my surprise, this Marriot (as in West Palm Beach) is growing food on site for its restaurants. Lettuces, tomatoes and herbs are the edible landscaping by the pool area.

That ‘farm to table’ glimmer aside, I am worried about Miami. It is clearly failing the test in how coastal cities will need to adapt to a rising sea. The $500 million earmarked for a new pumping system for Miami Beach is already acknowledged as a mere stopgap. I am concerned about friends there who recently spent weeks and a small fortune to install stronger new windows in their ground floor condo. I fear for the stalwart efforts to forestall what appears inevitable, even if we were able to cease using fossil fuels immediately. One of these is a permaculture food forest, right in the heart of the city, designed by Deva Marcus Thompson, founder of Permaculture Miami, whose intensive at The Mounts Botanical Garden I attended this weekend. Eve Mosher’s High Waterline project to show just how high the water will rise, is another. Also, Colony1, a sustainability research center that combines art and science. Closer to home, and heart, Transition Palm Beaches.

Sunshine_State_movie_posterIt is uplifting to see smart, persistent media coverage on the climate crisis, e.g. a feisty overview of what keeps The Sunshine State from becoming a solar energy giant in a blog post from Fred Grimm in The Miami Herald last Friday: Florida Utilities Stay Shady…  While Florida denies, he writes, neighboring Georgia is preparing to add 900 megawatts of solar by 2016, thanks to an unlikely alliance between environmentalists and the Tea Party, aka, The Green Tea Party (the latter on free-market principles).  When you realize that some $12 million has been allocated by our largest utilities to fund, “on average, one lobbyist for every two [Florida] state legislators each legislative sessions between 2007 and 2013,” you know what we are up against.   The choice at the polls has never been clearer.  Or the need to rid politics of money.

On the local level, my Unitarian Universalist congregation has become a partner in the Climate Action Coalition of South Florida, joining the UU Fellowship of Boca Raton, The Arthur R. Marshall Foundation, Oxbridge Academy, the local chapter of Organizing for Action, and League of Women Voters, among others. Our goal is to educate our municipalities on the risks we face as small cities and citizens, and get them to sign the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Action Plan. We hope to bring Eve Mosher’s High WaterLine to our area.  There is mounting evidence that local politics may yet do, piecemeal, for Florida what the big boys can’t, see: Pragmatism on Climate Change Trumps Politics … 

Pitch in, please, every way you can. It sure beats relocation to … Anchorage.

Read more:

High Water Line: http://grist.org/cities/street-artists-trace-against-time-and-sea-level-rise/

http://highwaterline.org/building-a-resilient-miami/

High Tide on Main Street, John Englander

Safer Cities