Category Archives: Sea Level Rise

Portugal. The Man: Trust the Native Alaskans

My friend John Gourley is, by his own admission, not a scientist. He is, however, a Native Alaskan and is today the lead singer of one of the most popular alternative rock bands on the planet: Portugal. The Man.

I had the opportunity to hang out with John after his recent set during Riptide Music Festival on Ft. Lauderdale Beach and I think his comments are some of the most important that I’ve ever shared with readers of my blog and am pleased to share part of my interview with you.

Before becoming the lead singer of a world famous rock band, John spent his childhood in rural Alaska. His childhood in the 80’s and 90’s was much different in many ways than for kids growing up in a big city like Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. While he did not have internet or Netflix or other modern devices, he filled his time skateboarding, snowboarding, exploring the outdoors, and tending to his family’s pack of Iditarod racing (mushing) sled dogs.

John knows and loves the Alaskan outdoors, but he is deeply concerned that it is disappearing before his and his friends very eyes because of climate change.

Alaska is a challenging state because it is filled with so much abundant nature and as John says, “it’s easy to overlook the impact of climate change while there is still so much rural environment remaining”.  It’s also challenging because the oil industry has a significant stake in producing and then transporting their products, but John knows that the Alaska that he loves is melting away and he told me that he worries about what will be left of that magnificent place when his daughter grows up as “more of the coastline melt[s] away”. Speaking of coastline, the state of Alaska has the largest amount of coastline of any state in the United States and Florida, including that beach where John’s band performed, has the second most coastline.

John’s message is a strong one and includes the suggestion that we listen to people in places like Alaska who are living with the impact of climate change right now, people like John and his friends, and especially indigenous people like Native Alaskans. As John explained, “It’s easy to be ignorant to this stuff or naive and just not see it, but trust somebody who’s been around it and grew up in a place that you think is cold. It’s not cold year-round anymore. Alaska’s not cold anymore. Trust the Native Alaskans. People who have been there for thousands and thousands of years.”

Almost two years ago I had the honor of giving a keynote address at the Florida Atlantic University Sea Level Rise Summit: Alaska to Florida after which I received a standing ovation and later learned that some in attendance actually cried while listening to my comments. At that time I could not fully understand the reaction or the emotion from the several hundred esteemed professionals that were in attendance – scientists, educators, and policy makers including many who had flown in from Alaska for the symposium. That is until yesterday when John portrayed so vividly what he has been seeing and explained it as if it were one of his songs.

John talked, for example, about the city of Shishmaref, Alaska and how climate change there is obvious to the naked eye; I mean that’s where you really see the effects of climate change. That’s where you see the permafrost melting, you see the island melting… it’s just an island and you see it melting away into the water and you see houses falling into the water.”

Like John said, he’s not a scientist but that does not mean that he doesn’t have eyes or want to see the climate change crisis addressed for himself, his daughter, and future generations. When asked about climate change and sea rise, Florida’s governor Rick Scott also says that he’s not a scientist but he does this to avoid talking about what’s happening to our state. And yet non-scientist Governor Scott leads a state where places like Miami Beach ($450 million) and the City of Miami ($200 million) are spending huge sums of money to begin addressing the sea level rise problems caused by our global climate change crisis that people all over South Florida – most of which, I might add, are also not scientists either – see with their own eyes and leads me to ask and wonder why ‘leaders’ like Governor Scott avoid this so very important issue. It can only be because of politics and that, in my view, is terribly shortsighted given that the climate change crisis is likely the biggest issue that my generation will ever face.

Pretending to not see what’s happening does not solve the problem, because climate change is not about donkeys or elephants, red states or blue ones, it’s much more important than politics.

As John said about what he’s been seeing and why we must set politics aside and focus on solutions before its too late, “It’s not normal. It’s something that we’ve all seen. Just leave the political views aside and just look at science and just trust it. Science is based on fact. Politics are based on the guy down the street that paid me to give a speech. Don’t let politics be a part of it.”

As I said at the end of my interview with John, I can’t say it any better than that, nor agree more. Rock on Portugal. The Man, and thanks again, John, for being so passionate and public about this important topic.

To learn more about Portugal. The Man, please check out the Miami New Times article      and while you at it consider listing to some of their most excellent music.

Fall Forward

“In the bottom of an old pond lived some grubs who could not understand why none of their group ever came back after crawling up the lily stems to the top of the water.  They promised each other that the next one who was called to make the upward climb would return and tell what had happened to him.  

Soon one of them felt an urgent impulse to seek the surface; he rested himself on the top of a lily pad and went through a glorious transformation which made him a dragonfly with beautiful wings.  In vain he tried to keep his promise.  Flying back and forth over the pond, he peered down at his friends below.  

Then he realized that even if they could see him they would not recognize such a radiant creature as one of their number. The fact that we cannot see our friends or communicate with them after the transformation which we call death is no proof that they cease to exist.”

The Dragonfly Story

By Walter Dudley Cavert

Do you know the feeling when you walk into a room and there’s that one person who fills up the place with his or her energy?

That person who everyone is drawn to and no matter what they are talking about, their thoughts and passions are contagious to the point that you want to meet them and become involved?

That’s my friend Hudson Lowe.

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I met Hudson in Downtown Miami in 2015 at Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality training. We, along with about 1,000 people from all over the world, spent three glorious days together studying the science of climate change with many of the planet’s leading experts. At the time I was a 15 year old Sophomore in High School and Hudson a Freshman at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

Immediately I could tell Hudson was a difference maker. Someone who would change the world. As Lin Manuel Miranda writes about Alexander Hamilton in his perfect play, Hamilton, ‘The man was non-stop’.

One idea after another came out of Hudson from the minute I met him and did not stop during the three days we spent together. Honestly, I’d never met anyone like him. He was smart and interesting and while I am often reserved and quiet, he was outgoing and instantly drew a large crowd of other young people to him that created a group that during those three days were inseparable. Together we knew we would change the world and it was obvious that Hudson would help lead the way.

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I found Hudson to be fun and funny while also being serious and concerned at the exact same time. He also made it clear how much he loved music and so it did not surprise me when in the midst of talking about the serious impacts of climate change to our future that he announced to me “Let’s make a rap video about climate change together’.   In honor of Hudson and the fun we had here’s our quick creation;

His enthusiasm and concern for climate change aside, I was impressed by how much my new friend had accomplished at such a young age. To call his accomplishments impressive is an understatement. In High School he’d founded the Ocoee Green Initiative which not only had an impact on his community but led to his school being honored by the Green School Recognition program. He’d traveled to Iceland as part of the Green Program, a student sustainability project and, like me, he knew that solar power should be installed everywhere so it was no surprise that while still in High School he made a presentation to the Orange County School Board to ask them to install solar panels on area schools. And he told me how he’d place stickers on the light switches all over his school, and pretty much anywhere else, reminding people to turn off the lights while instilling sustainability into their minds and lives.

And just like the work I do with The Sink or Swim Project, Hudson told me about how much he loved lecturing at elementary schools and educating children about climate change. As you can imagine, meeting someone my age that was doing the same type of work I was doing made a significant impression on me and gave me hope that I was not alone. In Hudson I knew that our generation had another soldier, a leader, to help spread the word and to demand the changes our society needs.

In college as an engineering student his interests and passions only grew. He joined FAU’s Mission Green Association program, its Ideas for Us, traveled to Vietnam and Hong Kong as part of a global leadership program,  and even found time to intern at the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management.  Taking rigorous classes in a challenging major would be plenty for most students, but not Hudson. He was out to change the world and was doing it with great gusto.

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Over the years since we met in 2015 I’ve thought a lot about Hudson, about his passion to be involved in so many different and important initiatives and how he inspired everyone he met. And I’ve especially thought about him nearly every day since learning of his passing late this summer, knowing he died at a far too young an age, yet had an impact that will last a lifetime and beyond.

Over the last few months I’ve tried hard to find the words to express both my sorrow over his loss and my appreciation for his friendship but Thanksgiving strikes me as a good time to thank Hudson for who he is and always will be in my mind and heart. It’s also what Hudson would want, to have me and all who knew him to “Fall Forward“.

And so to his dad Randy, mom Chris, and sisters Dakota and Delaney, thank you for raising such a fine young difference maker and leader. The world needs more Hudson Lowe’s to solve our climate crisis, to lead the way in treating people with kindness and to inspire our generation to be actively involved in making this place we call home, our planet, a better place.

To Hudson and the Lowe family, and to everyone else, Happy Thanksgiving.

To learn more about my friend Hudson Lowe and his lasting legacy, please visit the organization founded in his honor: www.ourgreenfuture.org, as well as follow them on instagram: www.instagram.com/fall_forward_.

Righteousness or Reality?

Righteousness

Just when I thought I’d heard everything possible from the Trump Administration’s attack on our environment, including doing all they could possibly dream up to deny that man’s use of fossil fuels to power our cars and utilities and lives contributes to our planet’s climate crisis, comes this headline:

Energy chief Rick Perry says fossil fuels can prevent sexual assault

Wait.

What?

It will not surprise anyone that Perry, the former Governor of Texas and 2016 Presidential Candidate who is now President Trumps Energy Secretary, is a loyalist to fossil fuels given that his home state is filled with the stuff and that most of America’s biggest oil companies are based there. But now it appears that we’ve learned he is not only deeply biased but perhaps delusional too.

At an event sponsored by Axios and NBC News Perry explained that on a recent trip to Africa a girl there told him that electricity was important to her because she wanted to avoid using a lamp that produces noxious fumes to read at night, to study. He then went on in the interview to say:

“electricity also was important from the standpoint of sexual assault. When the lights are on, when you have light that shines the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts.”

When I read the word righteousness I immediately think of its use in the context of religion or morality. To hear the United States Energy Secretary, a member of the President’s Cabinet, use it to tout the use of fossil fuels or to seemingly suggest that fossil fuels serve a righteous purpose is alarming. Could he be trying to suggest that God supports the use of fossil fuels? Or that the distribution and use of fossil fuels hold some moral purpose? You can decide for yourself by reading the article that caught my attention here but such a statement is troubling on any level (sickening really) and to read his comments that there is a link, or what he called a ‘positive role’, between fossil fuels and preventing sexual assault, is deeply disturbing. 

REAL NEWS FLASH To Secretary PerryElectricity is generated all over the world by all sorts of power sources other than fossil fuels including clean, sustainable sources such as the sun (solar), water (hydro) and wind.

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I’ve been to Africa but I’ve not yet been to India. Thankfully former late night TV host and comedian David Letterman traveled to India as a Correspondent for the Season Two Premier of National Geographic’s Years of Living Dangerously entitled ‘A Race Against Time’ where he reported finding children studying at night by noxious kerosene burning lamps. He also reported that some 300 Million people in India (nearly the equivalent of the entire population of the United States) have no electricity of any type and that solar power is being used to provide electricity to change their lives for the better.

If you’ve not seen Years of Living Dangerously, a show that’s been called ‘must watch television’, then click here and start with David’s excellent episode and while you’re at it catch the episode entitled Saving Miami to learn about Miami’s plight.

Reality

I believe that our planet’s climate change crisis is the most significant issue that my generation will ever face. Of that I am certain and while I don’t know Jeff Dorian I sure do agree with what he wrote in a Letter to the Editor in the November 2nd edition of the Miami Herald and want to share it as a dose of reality.

DENYING REALITY

I smoked cigarettes for 30-plus years. I ignored the warnings — liked them too much; kept thinking they wouldn’t affect me. The odds were in my favor. There is no family history of cancer, and my diet and exercise regimes were excellent.

Then came the heart attack.

I quit smoking, but the damage was done: irreversible loss of functioning capacity. If only I’d quit sooner, surely my health would be much better today.

All of us face a similar dilemma today. We must give up fossil fuels. Most Americans don’t think carbon emissions will affect them. The threat seems unsure and far in the future. We enjoy cheap fuel and fast cars too much. We don’t know how to give them up.

The warnings, again from scientists, again are clear and easy to understand. The deniers in Congress are once again denying and supporting business interests over protecting the public interest.

Once again, the damage is irreversible. My heart is not going to get stronger, and the ocean is not going to recede. People are now dying from effects of carbon emissions and associated climate change.

The solution, though not easy, is exquisitely simple: Just Google carbon fee.

– Jeff Dorian, Plantation

The debate on whether man has impacted our climate is long over97% of all scientists agree that that’s exactly what has happened and that carbon in our atmosphere has never been higher and that earth’s temperatures have, in 137 years of recorded data, never been hotter. And if we set politics, and ridiculous statements such as what Secretary Perry said last week aside, even the Trump’s Administration knows the truth and just published it on Friday November 3rd in America’s annual National Climate Assessment.

Hundreds of experts from 13 agencies in our federal government and the academic world researched and wrote the report which was then peer-reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences. You can find the report here and once you’ve read it, or read one of the many articles published about it in recent days like this one, we should all ask ourselves whether we, as citizens of this planet, will continue to allow politicians and their puppets to lie to us, to disrespect us, or do we decide to elect leaders who are serious about solving this well documented problem?

IF the Trump Administration’s goal is to truly do what’s righteous for our country’s future then allow me to suggest that the President announce that the United States will quickly become the world’s leading manufacturer of solar panels and that America will install solar power any and everywhere in our Country as well as in places such as Africa and, for that matter, India too. Make it our generation’s ‘trip to the moon’ as President Kennedy did in the early 1960’s when he made sending men to explore the moon our national focus. The reality is that such an inspirational initiative would create millions of jobs while changing people’s lives and our environment for the better at the same time.

Now that is a reality that I can support and one that would be truly filled with righteousness.

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