Author Archives: DReynolds

The United Nations

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Solving our planet’s climate crisis requires that societies all over earth must evolve from a fossil fuel energy economy to a sustainable one during my lifetime. And for many of the most fragile places on earth and their inhabitants, those most susceptible to rising seas and other risks, the stakes are the difference between survival and extinction.

Every citizen of our planet now faces a crisis that has no boarders, one where people’s language, religion or the color of their skin simply, and thankfully, do not matter. For this reason my recent opportunity to address the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City was a unique and important chance to draw global attention to the fact that we need all of today’s world leaders to begin embracing change. The type of positive change that our world needs to solve our environmental problems before it’s too late.

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At UNESCO’s invitation, children from all over the world representing their World Heritage Marine sites including some of earth’s most iconic, yet endangered environments, such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands and South Florida’s very own Everglades National Park, gathered to ask UN members to join us in pledging their support. The diversity of the children was profoundly beautiful but even more impressive was the passion that these children have for our planet.

#MyOceanPledge Ceremony in NYC.

To be asked to speak on their behalf, both for the children that joined me on stage at the UN in New York and children all around the world was the greatest honor of my young life. My speech to the General Assembly sought to define why these special places are so important but to also illustrate that they are at dire risk. As I shared with the audience that day;

“in our increasingly virtual world, nothing can compare to the majestic beauty of our natural environment, those special places on our planet that touch our hearts and that inspire our imagination.

Such places have had a profoundly important impact on our society for generations but they are also fragile and face many challenges, in some cases even extinction, from risks including coral bleaching, our planet’s climate change crisis, overfishing, pollution from plastics or run off from pesticides to name just a few.”

#MyOceanPledge Ceremony in NYC. #MyOceanPledge Ceremony in NYC.

And we called upon the world’s leaders to join us in taking the #MyOceanPledge by signing a petition that recognizes the environment’s importance to our collective futures. To read more about the petition and why having the world’s leaders join us is so important to all of our futures please click here for Andres Oppenheimer’s timely editorial in yesterday’s Miami Herald entitled World May Not Melt, Despite Trump’s Insane Decision on Climate Change.

Mr. Oppenheimer’s editorial brilliantly recounts a recent interview that he conducted with none other than the United Nations General Assembly President Peter Thomson including his thoughts on President Trump’s short-sighted decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. President Thompson knows that the world is serious about solving our climate crisis and he especially knows this based on what he saw and heard from the children and me during the U.N. Ocean Conference. As Mr. Oppenheimer wrote and shared: He said he noticed that movement during the U.N. Ocean Conference held June 5-9, shortly after Trump’s decision. At that meeting, he said, there was a “hugely positive wave” of support for action against climate change, which included “a very big input from America’s civil society, states and cities.”

I noticed it too during my time in New York, at the UN and at the other events leading up to Worlds Ocean Day that we attended. It was everywhere and was what Mr. Oppenheimer quoted Mr. Thompson calling a “tidal wave of support” for action against climate change”.“I think what you’re seeing all the way from Europe to China and in the developing world, indeed everywhere I look, is that people are saying, ‘Hey, this only makes us stronger… I’m confident that people will step up on that. And I remind you that the biggest investors in renewable energy are American investors.”

#MyOceanPledge Ceremony in NYC.

And it was not just ‘talks’ and speeches but people taking action. Important people including heads of state, global business people and many others. People like Prince Albert II of Monaco, the first person to sign our pledge scroll and also someone Mr. Oppenheimer mentioned in his editorial when he wrote: Asked for specific examples of what is being done, Thomson cited the U.N. partnerships with celebrities such as billionaire Richard Branson and Prince Albert of Monaco to petition governments to protect 30 percent of their oceans by 2030. There is already an ongoing U.N. plan to have 10 percent of the oceans protected by 2020, and “I think that’s going to be doable,” he said.’

Delaney Reynolds preso

And speaking of Prince Albert II, here is a picture of my brother Owen and me, along with our friend Sarah Ramos, with the Prince of Monaco just after he signed the petition Mr. Oppenheimer wrote about, #MyOceanPledge. As you can see, he sure does not look too stressed about President Trump’s lack of vision or recent decision.During what was an incredible week in New York I had the privilege to get to know children from Papahanamokuakea, Hawaii; Lord Howe Island, Australia; Seychelles; South Africa; Sudan; the Great Barrier Reef, Australia; and the Wadden Sea, Netherlands among other World Heritage Marine sites. And no matter which amazing place these children live in we all shared the same undeniable bond; a deep love of the ocean and our natural environment.

IMG_3637And speaking of amazing places, the Everglades National Park is the only environment of its type on earth. The Everglades is a treasure chest filled with magical, mystical creatures unique to its enchanting and diverse environment, from its mangrove lined coasts and sandy beaches along our ocean’s shore to its majestic pineland forest and slow moving River of Grass. And it’s a big part of why I was invited to address the General Assembly.

While working on my book on sea level rise, Sink or Swim?, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Everglades National Park Superintendent Ramos last year about the fragility and importance of this special place. Superintendent Ramos was generous with his time and shared a passion for the Park that left me feeling like the Park is in very good hands with a very good man.

Unfortunately, the Everglades is also at dire risk from all sorts of threats including encroaching development, agricultural pollution and run-off, rising seas and more. Sadly sea level rise alone threatens a large portion of the Park from possibly becoming extinct within my lifetime. As I said, it’s also one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Marine sites but its also a World Heritage in Danger site too given the many risks it faces to even have a future.

#MyOceanPledge Ceremony in NYC.

The folks at UNESCO in Paris saw a TEDx Talk I’d given a couple of years ago and, thus, invited me to address the General Assembly and have the honor of representing the Park and our region. And, if that was not enough, I was even able to be joined on stage by my brother, Owen, and our friend, Sarah.IMG_3684I have countless memories to share with you in future blogs about the outstanding children that joined me in New York, the time that we spent with people like Sylvia (‘Her Deepness’) Earle at The Explorers Club (only one of the coolest places you could ever hope to visit) and the truly exceptional people at UNESCO. I promise to share stories and pictures about all of those things and a lot more in time but, before I end this blog, allow me thank a few special people who were the reason I was honored to be asked to address the General Assembly.

#MyOceanPledge Ceremony in NYC.

Thanks to UNESCO, The Explorers Club, the Government of Flanders, Stefan and Irina Hearst, The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, Dr. Fanny Douvere, Robbert Casier, Vanessa Lucot, Nolwazi Mjwara, Taylor Butz from the UNESCO World Heritage Center, Alison Barrat and Elizabeth Rauer from the Living Ocean Foundation, and Joel Sheakoski (for your amazing pictures).To each of you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the work you do literally all over the world every day to protect some of the most important places on earth.

Thanks to Mom and Dad for facilitating the trip for Owen and me, much less introducing me to New York for the first time. I know that the entire experience was a bit overwhelming so thanks for not crying too much while we were on stage!IMG_3649Thanks to my #1, my not so little, little brother Owen. Thanks for standing outside the theaters with me to get autographs in the rain but mostly, thanks for standing on stage with me in front of the world and for always supporting my passions and dreams.IMG_3639And lastly, allow me to give a special shout out and thanks to the incomparable and ever so kind Pedro Ramos and his lovely daughter, Sarah. Pedro, it is my distinct honor to know you and to know that such a perfect steward of the environment is helping protect the Everglades. Its habitats, animals and I could never thank you enough.

OK, its time to get back to work on local solutions. Despite the circus that’s in Washington right now all of us have important work to do in our local communities, the regions and towns we live in, and in our states. If you’ve read this far then I would ask you to start local, stay local and find ways to make a positive change in your community. That’s my plan and I hope it’s yours too.

IMG_3689 #MyOceanPledge Ceremony in NYC. unnamed

Walking In A Plastic Wonderland

Some friends of mine just celebrated graduation by going to Bimini, Bahamas and that reminds me of a trip I took over Spring Break to the Abaco Islands. A local fishing guide suggested that my family and I hike through a gumbo limbo forest along what seemed like a secret path through the jungle above a cliff overlooking the ocean until we came upon a private, secret beach. A beach with the most beautiful sand, the most incredible colored water, and coral reef you have ever seen.

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The coral reef was amazing in that you could just step off the sand, into the ocean, and swim out a few yards into another world filled with a kaleidoscope of color, fish, sponges, sea fans, and beauty.

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But, as pristine as that beach was, and as secluded as it was in that we did not see another person the entire day we spent there, that beach was evidence of a growing environmental disaster that our planet, its oceans, and the creatures living within it face: man-made plastic pollution.

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The pictures below are all from that same beach and I should share with you that it wasn’t hard to find plastic. It was everywhere of every size and shape and it was related to everything that you could imagine; from food products to clothing to marine uses to household goods, you name it. It was like walking through a department store and finding a who’s who or a what’s what of things that you and I could buy everyday but that end up in our oceans and on our beaches.

The worst part, perhaps, is that these types of things not only end up on the sand but they all too often end up being eaten by or entwined around one harmless sea creature after another. Not a few, but probably a few million all over our planet and that needs to stop.

 

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The United Nations UNESCO and the World Heritage Marine Programme will be hosting The Oceans Conference next week in New York. According to UNESCO, here are a few plastic marine pollution facts to consider:

  • Plastic debris causes the death of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals.
  • About ten years ago, the United Nations Environment Programme estimated that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic
  • Seven of the EU States, Norway, and Switzerland recover over 80% of their used plastics. That’s the good news. The bad news is the rest of the world remains a serious issue and has limited to no strategy in place at this time.
  • Plastics and other forms of litter often concentrate in our oceans and are drawn together by the ocean’s current into what are called gyres. There are five gyres in our world’s oceans now. The North Pacific Gyre is the biggest one, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and is about two times as big as the state of Texas.
  • Currents in the North Pacific Ocean gather litter from North America, Japan, and other areas in the region before bringing them together in the “Garbage” patch.

Stay tuned for more news about the United Nations and UNESCO’s incredible work (including about The Ocean Conference taking place at the United Nations in New York from June 5th through June 9th and World Oceans Day on June 8th) both here and through my social media channels and until then, please think of ways to keep our plastic products out of our oceans and off of our beautiful beaches.

Our oceans cannot protect themselves from mankind’s modern living, that’s up to each of us in our homes, on our boats, or while enjoying a day at the beach.

P.S. Over the last 24 hours, since the President’s announcement that he has decided to remove the United States from the Paris Pact, many people have asked me what I think and what we should do. My answers include staying calm and embracing hope.

The solution to our climate change crisis, in my view, begins on the local level, in the cities and towns all across America and in our States, not so much in Washington but all over America. Implementing local laws will begin to solve the problem and if anyone needed any motivation, then the farce of an announcement should certainly serve as motivation to take to the streets, to visit your local city council, your mayors, your state capital, and demand change. That should be our focus for the next three and a half years until we elect a president with vision for a sustainable future.

Paris

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On Sunday CNN published an article by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz entitled Ted Cruz: Trump should withdraw from Paris climate pact that asked President Trump to back out of the Paris Climate Agreement and in, doing so, uphold one of Trump’s key campaign promises from the 2016 election. In the article Cruz wrote;

Meeting the 2025 emissions reduction target alone could subtract $250 billion from our GDP and eliminate 2.7 million jobs. The cement, iron and steel, and petroleum refining industries could see their production cut by 21% 19%, and 11% respectively. To read the article please click here.

I cannot confirm Senator Cruz’s figures but I can say that an estimated 2.5 million South Floridians are at risk of becoming Climate Refugees, of being displaced from our region in a future of rising seas. And that’s just here in South Florida. So if you think about it, and assume his 2.7 million figure is close to correct, then those jobs will be about the same number of people in just our region that will be displaced. The number all over America will be tens of millions of people.

And the impact to our citizens, to the Climate Refugees aside, what will happen to those communities that lose their tax paying citizens and trillions of dollars of improvements in the form of roads, bridges, sidewalks, much less people’s homes and businesses? And faced with those types of losses, not to mention the increased health hazards and changes to America’s agriculture industry, how dare Senator Cruz suggest we not work to cool our climate and transition from a fossil fuel economy such as he seems to so love to a sustainable one. How dare he threaten people and use short term fears to avoid protecting our planet and society for the long term.

That said, I can’t say that I am surprised by Senator Cruz’s support for the fossil fuel industry, an industry that is significantly based in his home state of Texas, nor that of polluting businesses such as the coal and steel industry. His comments embody the same old fashioned, antiquated, thinking that those people protecting coal and fossil fuels of the world have been using since the 1970’s when greenhouse gas became a threat to the future of businesses dating to the industrial revolution.

Well it’s time for a new revolution. The Sustainable Revolution.

I will not, of course, be one bit surprised if we learn this week that the President decides to announce that the United States will not abide by the Paris agreement. He of the belief that all things climate change are nothing more than a ‘Chinese hoax’ or from his ever growing universe of ‘alternative facts’ but, then again, in a way I kind of hope that the President does exactly what Senator Cruz suggested.

Trump backing out of the promises our Country made in Paris, backing out of America being a climate and environmental leader for our planet as should be the case, would create yet one more very big reason to demand change in November 2018’s mid-term election much less for making his a one term administration when we get to vote in the 2020 election.

In my live lectures I often make reference to the fact that none of us travel around in horse drawn carriages as would have been the case in the 1700’s and 1800’s when that was the state of the art in transportation.  And I mention that the people who worked to raise, train and care for horses, or build and drive carriages, all had to transition from those jobs to that of the new automobile industry or other jobs and that, when that happened our country, did not collapse. In fact, you can easily argue that things actually improved. And I mention that another such transition has begun, in this case to electric cars and then, in just a few years, the widespread use of autonomous cars. There is no stopping this exciting progress and that is the way things have always been. Progressing. Evolving.

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Change, invention and revolution are part of who we are as humans so to keep living in the past, a polluting past, makes no sense. What our country needs are leaders not named Trump, Cruz, Scott or Rubio.

People with the vision to inspire and support a logical transition over time from fossil fuels to sustainable solutions.

The type of leader that can inspire new innovations and our country not with fear but with HOPE that America can be the world leader in sustainable energy and, in doing so, create millions of jobs and new businesses while also correcting our climate crisis.

That is the type of leader my generation needs and deserves, one for the future, not one that is stuck in the past.

At the 2013 Values Voter Summit.

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