“Governments and people are realizing that our weather has changed…”

Posted November 18th, 2008 in Blog, Featured 1 Comment »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

Can you say the headline with an Aussie accent?  The quote comes from Michael (??? couldn’t make out the last name), one of many people being interviewed this week on the Today Show‘s week-long series, Ends of the Earth.  Michael is a lawyer in Australia who has taken up the work of “sustainability coach.”  It’s a job with a future.

The Blue Hole - Belize Coast

The Blue Hole - Belize Coast

Today has placed its four hosts, Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Al Roker, and Ann Curry in four corners of the Earth where global climate change is threatening perhaps our most precious resource — water, and all the teeming life that goes with it, what makes our planet alive, as compared to other planets, for example.  Those locations are the coast of Belize, site of some of the most magnificent coral reefs in the world, Iceland, land of fire and ice where the ice is melting quickly, Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, where receding glaciers are threatening the water supplies for thousands upon thousands of people, and Australia, enduring 7 years of severe drought and rising temperatures, conditions that many climatologists believe may be permanent.

The Today Show has put all this week’s segments on video and you can view them at this link.

Melting glaciers of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Melting glaciers of Mt. Kilimanjaro

To sum up, we’re in trouble.  As Ann  Curry says, Mt. Kilimanjaro has seen “84 percent glacial loss in less than a hundred years,” just one example of what is happening to glaciers in every part of our planet.  It’s “a warning,” she says, as “we are seeing the beginning of water shortages to come.” Hundreds of millions of people in Asia, Latin America, as well as Tanzania, rely on glaciers for their water sources.  Curry is right when she says that this is “a story of increasing human suffering.”

Not the usual cheery Today Show fare.  Not fluffly news over breakfast.

Of course, the week is not over and it will be interesting to see if these reporters can take this dire news and suggest the kinds of changes that are commensurate with the seriousness of our planetary crisis.  Because these stories suggest the obvious — a wholesale change in how we live our lives.

Standing on a boat off the incredible Blue Hole, part of the coral reef system off the Belize coast, Fabian Cousteau, grandson of the great oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, said this to Lauer:

“We depend on our oceans, and on water in general for food, for water, and for health, and for air as well.  Things that happen here end up on our dinner plate, and if we don’t become proper stewards to our planet, and specifically to our oceans, which seem so far away, we’re not going to have any of those things.”

Yikes!  Not food? not water? not health? not air?  And people think I’m doom-and-gloom!

Lauer responds by talking about how beautiful and pristine the ocean appears.  Yet, in one episode, following a big storm that hit the coast, he shows what washed up on the beach — human detritus — plastic bottles, plastic bags, and other trash dumped by, well, you know, us.  As Cousteau notes, that contamination will eventually “come back to us and pollute our bodies.”  You see, we are all part of one planet, one organic system where everything is connected.  We trash the planet, we use up its resources, we trash ourselves and end up with no resources, nothing on which to live anymore.  That’s the course we are on.  That’s the future just a couple of generations ahead of us.

Before we reach that future, as Curry points out, there is this “story of increasing human suffering.”

In another segment, (see embedded video) Cousteau notes that less than 1 percent of our planet is protected in conservation areas like the one off the Belize coast. “The rest of it is in danger of becoming a real barren wasteland.”

You see? Some folks are a bit overwhelmed by the bleak scenario that I describe in my book, Living Beyond the ‘End of the World:’ A Spirituality of Hope, but I have plenty of good science, lots of folks in intimate relationship with the natural wonders of our planet, to back me up. And now we have even our mainstream morning news fluff presenting this dire scenario to us. I guess the message is becoming increasingly inescapable.

We are living in profound ecological overshoot while at the same time wasting the planet, spewing toxins into every part of its environment, from our atmosphere to our biosphere, from our oceans to our mountains, our soils and our bodies. We are rapidly changing its climate, and one result is a continuing long line of mega-disasters (like the wildfires in Southern California, a region suffering severe drought, overpopulation, serious ecological overshoot, completely misplaced development, growing population and agriculture in a land that is actually desert), with more to come.


Now here is something so refreshing to hear in the mainstream media, so unusual, that I found it striking — Lauer speaking about the notion of interconnectivity, an idea that is finally “beginning to register with us, how every little thing that everybody does around the globe, eventually ends up right in the same place.” Cousteau: “Everything’s connected. It’s one big circle, and our oceans…are the biggest part of it…everything that happens in the ocean will affect us.”

Yes, and everything that is happening to the glaciers will affect us. And everything that is happening to the climate will affect us. And what we are talking about here is whether or not we will have food, water, health, and air.

Which is why we focus here on this question of how we are going to live through this period of ecological crisis, an era begun already as we can see and feel all around us, an era that will go one of two directions. We continue as we are, maybe with a few superficial changes in our lifestyles (turning the heat down a bit, replacing light bulbs, buying a hydrid car), and end up extinct, or with a remnant of humans living on a depleted planet struggling for survival. Or, we chart the new course, a radically new way of life that ratchets down the whole human project, allowing the Earth the space and time it needs to regenerate its ecosystems, living with radical simplicity, a new hierarchy of values that emerge from the planet itself — and we do this with justice, with a commitment to ensure that the poor of our planet are not the ones forced to bear the greatest burdens of the mess we have made — because they did not make the mess.

This is the most important moral, ethical and spiritual challenge of our age. It is also inescapable — because we all need food, water, health, and air. Just no way around that one.

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Photo Credit:
The Blue Hole
Mt. Kilimanjaro, melting glaciers

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One Response

  1. Steven Earl Salmony

    People are going to have to stop sleepwalking through life and immediately awaken, however difficult that may be, to the human-driven global challenges threatening human wellbeing and environmental health in our time.

    Perhaps necessary change is in the offing because its occurrence must come soon.

    Otherwise, I fear, the human community will reap the Biblical whirlwind that gives rise to some kind of unimaginably huge and destructive global ecological wreckage.