Category Archives: #RatherBeInCourt

There Will Be Riots & Blood In The Streets

Welcome to The Sink or Swim Project’s first “vlog” (video blog). You can watch the video below or you can read my old-school post like I’ve been publishing for years. Let me know what you think about the vlog or the post, or anything else. 

The recent holidays reminded me how much I love my family traditions.

Whether it’s how we decorate our home for Halloween, traveling to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee to have Thanksgiving dinner with 90 or so members of my mom’s side of our family, singing Silent Night during Candle Light Service at Church on Christmas Eve here in Miami or spending New Years’ Eve under a pitch black sky painted with millions of stars on the remote island of No Name Key. If given a choice, or a vote, I’d not change a single one of those traditions or many others that I treasure.

And I don’t think I am much different than most people. Most folks don’t seem to like change whether in their own holiday traditions or their day to day lives. I get it.

In order for us to fix our climate change crisis we will, however, need to conceive and embrace the word change on a massive, likely often uncomfortable scale, global scale and that starts right here in the USA. But it will be hard. Very hard is my guess. Perhaps approaching going to war hard in some ways in terms of the short term sacrifices, pain and change that’s needed to save our planet much less mitigate the economic and social impact on society.

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” 
– George Orwell, 1984

As 2019 begins there are examples around us of just how difficult these changes will be, especially the early or voluntary pioneering ones that are popping up all over planet earth. To some people these changes and the resulting response will seem are straight out of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four or Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange but they will not be some view of dystopian fiction but our reality.

Autonomous electric cars?

Imagine what people in most of the last century would have thought about news of self-driving vehicles yet all of a sudden they are coming true all over our planet as I type these words. And while we are not (yet) at the point of the Jetson’s promise of flying cars it’s clear that industries and governments are embracing the promise of more efficient, less costly, and safer transportation. General Motors has announced that it is shifting its entire line-up towards electric cars. Ford has done just the same thing, announcing some layoffs and a shift to electric cars.

Insurers all over the planet know that 94% of all accidents are tied to human error and realize that the need for auto insurance in the future will greatly diminish as self-driving cars become prevalent and are, therefore, planning to focus their businesses in other areas of risk over the next five to ten years.

Wielding rocks and knives, Arizonans attack self-driving cars

And yet, people are fighting back against their fears that machines are taking over just as would be the case in a science fiction novel. The recent article entitled Wielding rocks and knives, Arizonans attack self-driving cars sure caught my attention and is just one example of our near term future filled with change and transition. Waymo, a part of Google, makes self-driving cars and vans and since 2017 has been piloting them in places like Chandler Arizona.

Just a few months ago the New York Times ran a story about how there have been almost two dozen attacks on these vehicles by people with concerns over the use of the artificial intelligence technology they use, their safety or the possibility that some people could lose jobs. Some have thrown rocks. Some have slashed their tires. Others have tried to run the vans off of the road.

Yellow Jacket Riot

Yellow Vests, Tear Gas, Water Cannons & Guns

On Christmas Eve the picture above caught my attention and is, I fear, a precursor to the decades ahead and what many will face in transitioning towards a sustainable future. A future that will not be achieved, it seems, without established industry and many good people all over the world fighting back. Along the way people will be jailed, beaten and perhaps killed. If people are already attacking cars, for gosh sake, when the stakes really start to increase I think we are in for some dark, warlike times.

This picture is of a policeman in Paris who had pulled his gun out on French citizens, protesters who had taken to the streets for the sixth weekend in a row to riot against a proposed carbon tax, a device designed to nudge consumers away from fossil fuels such as gasoline and towards sustainable solutions such as electric cars, public transit, walking and so forth. In November and December those riots evolved into protests over a wide range of frustrations including wage stagnation and the French government including President Macron but it started with news of the new carbon tax.

The good news is that the police officer in this picture did not fire his gun and understandably was responding to threat of the large crowd that approached him. That situation was diffused but others will not, I fear, be so lucky in the future as the need for such taxes and other changes in our ways of life increase as global temperatures rise.  The so called Yellow Vest riots, led by people wearing yellow vests in solidarity over their concerns, have continued thus far in 2019 and what is happening should alarm all of us but also should serve notice of just how hard the changes we will need will be. Yellow Vest riots in France thus far in 2019 have seen:

A river boat that houses a restaurant on the Seine River set on fire.

Motorcycles and cars all over Paris burnt by protesters.

Smoke and tear gas covering the Orsay Museum and famous gold dome of the French Academy.

A government building, the Ministry for Parliamentary Relations, attacked and officials in that building evacuated.

Police and their equipment all over France attacked and destroyed.

Vandalism, looting and chaos filling French streets by as many as 50,000 protesters a night.

“In the scientific community the urgency has always been clear—if we want to substantially slow the warming of the climate, then dramatic reductions in CO2 are required.”

– Dr. Ben Kirtman, Professor of Atmospheric Science, University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

No, these revolts and riots are not out of some science fiction movie but real life. Real people faced with changes that they perceive will hurt their wallets and ways of life. And yet, without starting to truly solve our climate change crisis at this time the cost will only rise and rise until the time comes that it’s too late.

As 2019 begins all of us must consider how we can leave this place we live in, earth, in better shape by the ends of our lives than we found it when we were born. And that starts with eliminating carbon pollution from our atmosphere and oceans.

“It will take dramatic and immediate reductions in CO2 emissions, both for the U.S. and globally, to achieve that goal.”

– Dr. Brian Soden, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

Consider a report just out by an independent economic research firm, the Rhodium Group, that uses data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and estimates that carbon emissions increased 3.4% in 2018, the largest increase in eight years. An increased fueled, pun intended, all over our economy from Buildings and Industry to Transportation and Electrical Power. The scientific data shows us that carbon dioxide levels are higher today than they have been in the past 800,000 years.  And the science shows us that it will not be sufficient to stabilize our climate, it will require that in the decades ahead that we cool it. Experts estimate that to stop more warming, more damage, that 2020 (NEXT YEAR) needs to be the peak of man’s global greenhouse gas production and that over the 50 years that follows we will need to reduce emissions to zero and then beyond that produce negative emissions.

We can, of course, elect to not change our ways and allow the continued growth to warm our planet to catastrophic levels that leave us no time to make the dramatic changes that are needed to offset the worst possible outcomes, outcomes that threaten the very survival of places like Miami, the Everglades and the Florida Keys. Outcomes that will lead an estimated 2.5 Million people in South Florida to become climate refugees and the same thing to happen to hundreds of millions of people all over earth. The choice is ours.

And when I say ours I mean every single person’s on the planet. The climate change crisis is not strictly a problem caused by the United States, nor one that we will solve alone. That’s why what’s happening in places as different as Arizona and France are telling about just how hard all of this will be. China, for example, produces 27% of global carbon emissions and, thus, countries of every size, region and political persuasion on earth must come together for the good of humanity and this place we call home. Global diplomacy on an urgent scale is needed and the time has come to set politics aside, educate people, create a plan and begin to implement transformational solutions to the problem.

Of course, if we don’t take serious action, actions that will forever change how we travel, conduct commerce and live, then the science will only become more and more ominous.  And as temperatures and seas rise the riots, revolts, violence and madness will exponentially grow. What we see happening all over the world including here in the US will, I fear, be looked back upon as the beginning of the real upheaval and chaos unless we change. And no, none of this is or will be science fiction but the lives we have chosen because of fossil fuels.

Speaking of the recent holidays, Happy New Year to you. Here’s a new year’s wish to hoping that late in my life I can still celebrate Christmas in Miami and New Years on No Name, that those places and countless others all over earth will be accessible to my family and all of the generations in the future.

Our Generation’s Moon Shot? The New Green Deal

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I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.

No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft.

– President John F. Kennedy’s Address to Congress About Going To The Moon, May 25th, 1961

In 1961 President Kennedy announced to the world that the United States should attempt to put men on the moon before the end of that decade and many people thought he and the idea was crazy science fiction. That is until America led the world into the future when Neil Armstrong stepped on the lunar surface on July 20th, 1969 and became the first human in history to step foot on the moon. The idea was bold, brazen and, yes, a little bit crazy but crazy in an inspirational, look towards the sky and America’s future way. And it was America at its greatest in my view. It was America leading the way for the rest of the world to follow and the time has come for all of us to look towards the sky, our atmosphere, and into our oceans, and to come together to lead the way for the rest of the world to follow these great United States of America.

I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.

– President John F. Kennedy, Address to Congress About Going To The Moon, May 25th, 1961

Today’s announcement by 50 or so Congress men and women led by Freshman New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey for a Green New Deal offers our country the same hope and inspiration as President Kennedy announcing our plan to land on the moon.

Except the idea of the Green New Deal is likely even more important.

The Green New Deal calls for a “10 year national mobilization” led by the goal that within that time America is “meeting 100% of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources”. And while these are aggressive goals we need just that, to think boldly and creatively if we are ever to solve our climate crisis before it’s too late.

Should we care from whom this comes from or whether AOC (Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez) as she’s often called is new to Congress or is “so” young at age 29?

Nope.

Not one bit.

We should not care about the politics, whether this is a Republican or Democratic Bill, or whether one sees themselves as a Democratic Socialists or Capitalistic Conservative or something else. And while I am certain that the reactions by many to the proposed new law will be highly political (and critical) in nature we all need to understand that the pollution and problem does not care about our politics.

Should we care that the goals are aggressive and would require change on a scale rarely seen in our society’s history?

Or for that matter that other countries are doing or not doing one thing or another to address this global crisis?

No and no.

Rather than spend precious time debating climate change, a debate the science has made clear is over, or what countries like China, India or others are doing to address the issue or whether they are doing it fast enough, the time has come to embrace the science and have the United States do what it has done for so very long. Lead the world into the future. And in this case that leadership needs to rapidly be towards a clean future rather than continuing to protect fossil fuel oil companies, utilities, auto manufacturers and others who want to live in an antiquated past filled with greenhouse gases that is rapidly destroying our atmosphere and oceans.

There is a fantastic article and podcast on NPR’s website today about the proposed law as well as a copy of the proposed Bill itself. You can find it here and I suggest that everyone read it but, perhaps more importantly, I ask that everyone dream of what’s possible, of what’s needed and of how American’s can come together to eliminate man-made carbon pollution from our lives and environment before it’s too late. We can do this, it is our generation’s moonshot, it is our generation’s greatest challenge, but just as America inspired the world to look to the sky in the 1960’s we can do it again by leading the world in the right direction towards curing our sick and dying climate.

Now that would be a good deal for everyone on earth, a New Green Deal.

A Catastrophic Irony For Florida?

Thwaites-Glacier

West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier is located in one of the most remote places on earth and just so happens to be about the size of the State of Florida. Scientists have recently used cutting edge satellite ice-penetrating radar technology to discover an enormous hole, a cavity as its being called, under the glacier that is two thirds the size of New York City and they believe it is melting at a much more rapid rate than previously thought. In 2014 a University of Washington study concluded that over the course of the next 200 or so years this and other West Antarctic glaciers would melt from global warming and cause seas to rise by 4 feet, but the most recent research out this week suggests that the melting is happening much, much faster than previously thought.

The cavity is “big enough to have contained 14 billion tons of ice, and most of that ice melted over the last three years

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About five years ago I spent a few incredible days in Climate Reality training courses here in Miami with Vice President Al Gore and bunch of other fantastic experts. And after one of those long days of training I dashed over to Miami Beach where I got to hear, and then meet, one of the world’s most important, respected, and honored climate scientists, Dr. Eric Rignot. Dr. Rignot is a professor at the University of California, a Senior Research Scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a Lead Author on the United Nation’s IPCC’s Fifth Assessment, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 (his work, and that of VP Gore’s work, meant I was able to hear, meet and learn from two Nobel Peace Prize winners in one remarkable day!).

Dr. Rignot studies the relationship between our climate, our oceans and ice. He’s what is called a glaciologist. He uses the most advanced satellite technology in the world to study these things and while he and his team have believed that the Thwaites might not be completely attached to the bedrock beneath it, what they found is alarming. The size of the hole in it, and the speed in which it has grown as our climate continues to heat to catastrophic temperatures, should concern us all.

The glacier holds “enough ice to raise the world ocean level a little over 2 feet (65 centimeters”

You see, that one glacier, a glacier the size of Florida, currently has enough ice in it that if it fully melts away it would cause all of the world’s oceans to increase by more than two feet. And if it continues to melt and disappear then the even larger glaciers near it would then be at increased risk of eroding and those, if (when?) they melted, could add 8 feet of sea rise to our oceans. As temperatures all over earth continue to rise they not only have an impact on the surface ice that we can see but they also warm the oceans below and that warmer water melts the ice under those glaciers, the part we can’t see until now thanks to the help of NASA, people like Dr. Rignot and their incredible tools.    

Consider what South Florida would be like with sea levels two feet taller than they are today.

And then consider that a single quickly melting glacier in Antarctica the size of one of the most fragile places in all of the world, the State of Florida, home to the place most at risk from sea level rise (South Florida) in our country, could cause exactly just that to happen. Should we see that as sadly ironic or a global call to action?

Sea levels all over the world have already begun to rise as a result of our man made climate crisis and places like Miami, Miami Beach, the Everglades and the Florida Keys are at dire risk of being lost forever. The news that glaciers we knew were melting are doing so much faster than previously thought can’t be overlooked and the sooner our society ends the use of fossil fuels that emit the warming gases causing the problem, the better chance we have to mitigate the damage that’s begun.

To learn more about what’s happening in Antarctica and under the Thwaites Glacier please click here and here.

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