My Climate Change

My views about climate change have morphed as a result of my past year’s experiences. I’ve always thought that it is wrong to power our economic growth with fossil fuels. It is unsustainable, since there is a limited supply. And it is disrespectful toward our Planet Earth — burning burning burning without due regard for the pollution and the waste of precious resources.

But when the focus turned to climate change, I was ambivalent. The climate is always changing — why make such a big deal about it? Even though human activity is causing rapid changes that would not happen otherwise, my thought was that probably it is no more disruptive than the natural changes over, say, ten thousand years. Humans need to adjust to the changing environment. Our wasteful polluting greedy behavior will simply force more adjustment in the near term.

Over the past year I have had my eyes opened, and my heart. I have met some of the families that will be directly affected by sea level rise. I have seen the low-lying islands and experienced the people’s unique dancing and singing and drumming. I’ve been invited into some of their homes, and met their children. I’ve been touched by what will be lost in the “adjustment.” It has become personal for me, and thinking of the loss now brings me tears.

In the past year I have also become sensitive to the idea of climate JUSTICE. I get to have my big house and powerful car, to drive or fly hither and yon, to eat foods from around the planet, to own all sorts of appliances and electronic devices…and the hidden cost of my abundance includes the destruction of some small island nations. Places like Tuvalu, a beautiful place, a beautiful culture, and friendly people who are the ones who will have to “adjust” despite having done nothing to contribute to the rising ocean or the more frequent and more powerful cyclones that are coming.

My original assessment of relying on fossil fuels…unsustainable, polluting, wasteful, disrespectful…still holds. But I can no longer look at the climate “adjustment” we are forcing as merely tweaking the long-term / short-term knob, as though the people and cultures don’t matter. So now I add “unfair” to my assessment. Hugely unfair. Fundamentally unequivocally grossly wrong!

At the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris an agreement was signed yesterday. I think this is a tremendous achievement. To have 196 countries agree on ANYTHING is amazing, and where those countries have vastly different short term interests it is more amazing. Do the terms of the agreement go far enough to save Tuvalu? Will the terms of the agreement be honored by the nations that contribute most to the problem? So long as big corporations that respect nothing but profit are allowed to operate unfettered, is it possible to achieve goals that are (in the short term) unprofitable? In the United States, in particular, it seems we have much more work to do to restructure our capitalist system to reflect our values beyond just the dollar.

The Blue Planet Odyssey’s focus on climate change has not always been evident, but it is always there in the background. Mostly through our blogs and our contacts with students, we have tried to call attention to the issues. I don’t know what impact we have had. But the experience has certainly had a deep impact on ME!

San Blas Islands
San Blas Islands
Society Islands
Society Islands
Tuvalu
Tuvalu
Vanuatu
Vanuatu
Indonesia
Indonesia

10 thoughts on “My Climate Change”

  1. Hey Zeke. Thank you again for posting. Your experiences have made the climate crisis (and I think it is a crisis) more real for me – by reading your posts and seeing your photos. I could not agree more with what you just posted (which is probably no surprise to you). I think we need a people’s movement that will force our governments to change, as well as working in the NGO sphere to support alternatives that save our planet and her peoples. I am struck by the Native American belief of thinking 7 generations out as you take actions that affect our mother earth. I cannot even imagine 7 generations out, but I really like the idea. More when I see you next week!

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  2. Thank you for all your reports. I believe that we all have felt like you use to feel because it is just too far away from our everyday lives. Through you the reality of what is happening to our earth is becoming real and also personal…..It’s not until it is personal that we / I tend to want to act. So again thank you for all your report because now climate change and the rising seas are real to me and once it is real it is my moral duty to act. Linda A-F

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  3. And your blog has brought home the devastating effects to me, in a personal way even without being there. Cheers for the Paris agreement. Now the hard work of implementation begins.
    Thanks for taking me along.

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  4. Alan shared this post with me and others on Facebook.Really moving post Zeke.Thank you. You have made the issue of climate change so palpable. Uggh!
    (Alan Frank’s wife)

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  5. I really appreciate your honest and thoughtful climate reflections that have come about as a result of your travels. Perhaps because of Tom’s close involvement (14 years) with Bangladesh I have long been all-too aware of what the impact of what our Western hyper-capitalism’s use of fossil fuel will do to the low lying countries (Bangladesh alone has 160,000,000 million people in a land mass the size of Greece). The rising of the sea in these low areas will create another refugee crisis as they are forced to leave their homelands. Many in the lowlands of the US east coast will have to move, too, btw.

    Fish, birds, animals, even tree are already on the move as quickly as they can. People will not be too far behind. I fear that the rise of the seas, along with other aspects of climate disruption, will likely happen much more quickly than can easily be adjusted to. For one thing significant movement of peoples, as we are already witnessing, whether from war or climate also cause enormous economic and political change. These kinds of upheavals, at all levels from the personal to the geopolitical are not absorbed quickly. And that’s just the beginning…

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  6. Thanks, Zeke. Brings to mind a Mark Twain quote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earh all one’s lifetime.”

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  7. It is truely a priceless gift having an open heart & mind! I’m happy you & Jesse have had much of this journey together, you surely have impacted others along the way for the better as they have you!
    HAPPY HOLIDAYS, LOVE ,LIGHT,LAUGHTER,,,,,

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    1. Climate change is a fact. The sometimes-still-debated question is how much change is being fueled by human activity, and how much change will occur how quickly. Although there are still people trying to deny it, almost all scientists are agreed that human activity is contributing bigtime. The rate of change, and the impact of change, is very difficult to predict. And unfortunately the effects are hard to see, so far. Most of the inhabitants of low-lying islands have not “seen” a rise in the sea level yet. They only know that last year’s cyclone/typhoon/hurricane was very powerful/damaging. In Tuvalu tropical cyclone Pam caused the sea to sweep over much of the land, and this killed many of their breadfruit trees. Rising sea level and warmer oceans will make for more frequent and more powerful storms, but there is no obvious trend identifiable yet. Unfortunately, by the time there is a clear trend it would be too late to cut back on the human causes. The recent Climate Summit in Paris, where almost all the world agreed to a plan for addressing climate issues, provides some hope that we humans will make some needed changes.

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  8. Zeke, I have just begun following your blog. I wish everyone could read this post. Your personal experience of climate change is so powerful!

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