Pale Blue Dot

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Last Thursday Caroline Lewis and the CLEO Institute held its Annual Celebration at Coconut Grove’s The Kampong, the former bayside home of explorer-botanist and Miami pioneer Dr. David Fairchild. The evening was lovely and included a silent auction, live music, food and fun in one of South Florida’s most special places.

And there can be little doubt that the cool, clear weather we enjoyed was influenced by the night’s keynote speaker, my fellow CLEO Board member John Morales, the esteemed, Emmy Award winning Chief Meteorologist for NBC-6 Miami.

John is most certainly one of my climate heroes and frequently helps educate his viewers about what is undeniable to those of us who call South Florida home; our climate is warming and the ocean that’s all around us is rising.

So on this, a weekend of the King Tides, I am honored to share John’s entire speech as a guest blog with you and believe its message is befitting to anyone concerned about our planet’s future and whether places like South Florida will even have one.   

Pale Blue Dot

It’s been 40 years since NASA’s Voyager launched on a mission to encounter and study the giant planets of our solar system, and then head out into interstellar space. On board Voyager is the famed Golden Record with salutations from Earthlings to the universe, international music and images of life on Earth. I’m very fortunate to have attended a “Voyager at 40” celebratory panel at Cornell University – home of the Golden Record and one of its creators, famed but now deceased astronomer, author and TV host Carl Sagan. As I sat at Bailey Hall two weeks ago listening to Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan, I found inspiration for my address to you tonight. Ms. Druyan said that if Carl Sagan were alive today, he’d would still be working, searching, and seeking answers to the one question that was dearest to his heart: “Whether or not we are going to get our act together as a species and protect the life on this world.”

pale blue dot

Perhaps nothing embodies the urgency of what us humans, as the dominant species on the planet, need to do to save Earth than Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot, written after Voyager’s cameras were turned around to look back on Earth from 4 billion miles away. It’s the image you’re seeing [above]. Please, listen, and be inspired by this excerpt of Sagan’s words:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.” – end quote

But what a challenge that is – making our stand on Earth! That’s why when the Paris Agreement – with all its virtues and flaws – was signed almost 2 years ago, it was celebrated as a monumental achievement! Previous post-Kyoto attempts to reach a global agreement on limiting greenhouse gas emissions had failed, including quite infamously in Copenhagen. One of the biggest flaws cited for the Paris Accord is that the agreement is non-binding. And we have the United States to blame for that, as negotiators at the 21st Conference of Parties or COP21 knew that America would never ratify a binding agreement given the present-day make up of the U.S. Congress. But with carbon dioxide concentrations near 400 parts per million (a value not seen on Earth in 800 thousand years, well above the pre-industrial level of 280 PPM, plus surging at the fastest pace ever evidenced) and the accelerating, palpable changes in climate and weather patterns already occurring around the globe, delegates in Paris knew how urgent the task at hand was. The goal of Paris is to keep the total, call it, unnatural warming to 2 degrees Celsius, or even a degree and a half if possible.

There are some positive signs: nearly 20 countries had their greenhouse gas emissions peak 20 years ago – including Germany, Norway and Russia. Others like the U.K., France and the first Latin American country to do so – Costa Rica – reached peak-carbon in the year 2000 or earlier. Even the U.S. and Canada got there in 2007! In total, about a quarter of the countries around the globe have seen their emissions peak, representing 36 percent of current global emissions. Another 8 countries representing 23 percent of emissions have commitments to peak in the next decade, including Japan and China. If all this happens, global emissions would stay relatively flat through 2100 and the world would STILL warm around 3 degrees C. So we’re not there yet, despite Paris, which is under attack from the administration in Washington – among other things they’re attacking. To have a good chance of avoiding 2C of warming, global emissions need to peak sometime in the next few years and decline rapidly thereafter. THAT is the global, urgent challenge when it comes to mitigating the injection of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, in this country, standing up for Mother Earth calls for us to be more involved than we’ve ever been! The ability for ALL, not just humans, but the other species that share our space, to breathe unpolluted air and drink or swim in uncontaminated water is under attack. The American public, who struggles with the most elemental science and geography questions, has been duped into believing that no consensus exists regarding global warming, thanks to a decades-long, deliberate, and persistent misinformation campaign by Big Oil, other special interests, and their satellite “think tanks” such as the Heartland Institute, which just this year mailed out hundreds of thousands of packets with misleading literature to American teachers, including a book titled “Why Scientists Disagree on Global Warming”. While there’s been some progress in recent years, thanks in good part to the extreme weather events we’re all witnessing, a significant percentage of Americans still think that funding research or solutions to the climate change problem is a worthless waste of taxpayer money, or that heading down that path will lead to a lower standard of living.

Sadly, my adopted industry – broadcast media and journalism – has been complicit to these special interests, perhaps unknowingly so, but complicit nonetheless, by providing a platform on equal footing for the so-called skeptics – which are better described as science deniers. You see, journalists are trained to present both sides to every news story. They seek to present balanced news (I’ll leave the word FAIR out of this discussion for now). And while that’s the essence of journalism – it simply does not apply when it comes to science! The scientific method leads to unequivocal answers. You observe, you experiment, and you either prove or disprove a hypothesis.

There are no two sides to the gravity story, to the general relativity story, or to the story that smoking cigarettes causes cancer.

There’s no second side to the story of global warming, which as you know has been described by the IPCC as “unequivocal”. The IPCC has also concluded that the human influence on the climate system is “clear”, and that recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on the human and natural systems.

But to this day, I have newsroom managers telling me that if I don’t seek an “alternate viewpoint” to a climate-change related TV report, then it will not air.

This journalistic problem has been well documented, and it has a name: it’s called false balance. Journalists, in their zeal to be fair, presenting each side of a debate as equally credible, even when the factual evidence is stacked heavily on one side. This false equivalency issue has cost us dearly in this country, as American voters have failed to understand the urgency of the climate change challenge.

Climate change falls quite low on the rankings of things voters worry about, and therefore politicians are rarely being judged on their positions regarding global warming.

That’s where CLEO comes in. We are the only non-profit organization in Miami solely dedicated to climate change education, engagement and advocacy. I got hooked on CLEO when I attended one of their training sessions at the University of Miami years ago, and I understood that a grass-roots effort such as this is what we need, not just in Miami but all around the country! We can build climate literacy by educating communities and their leaders on the science of climate change from the bottom up! Once educated on the science, individuals, communities, voters, can embrace the urgency to Act on Climate!

It’s been 21 years since Carl Sagan died, and I believe we have yet to answer his challenge for us to “make our stand” on Earth, or FOR Earth.

What will YOU do?

If we continue down this path and our climate continues to destabilize, and our seas continue to rise, will you be able to tell your grandchildren and great-grandchildren that you tried with all your might to change the course of humankind, from the bottom up!

The times we live in today can generously be described as “challenging”.

To me, this is a time, like no other, to be courageous, and to act!

Thank you John for helping educate countless people about our climate crisis, your service to the CLEO Institute and for allowing me to share your thoughts, and Dr. Sagan’s, in today’s Guest Blog here at The Sink or Swim Project. To learn more about John Morales, please visit https://www.nbcmiami.com/on-air/about-us/John-Morales.html and to learn more about The CLEO Institute, please visit https://www.cleoinstitute.org.

Hurricanes & Solar Power: Myths Versus Reality

Making landfall as nearly a Category 5 storm, Hurricane Irma devastated much of the Lower Florida Keys including the island (No Name Key) where my family’s home is located. When we returned to our home a few days after the storm had passed, one of our first tasks was to go up on the roof to check the solar panels.  As I reached the top of the ladder I instantly saw that they were undamaged and looked exactly like they had just a few days earlier, before the storm.

But as I stood there on our roof I had a bird’s eye view of the island and could see debris and devastation in every direction as far as I could see.

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To the West, where commercial fishermen keep their lobster and crab boats docked in the water, those gigantic vessels now sat up on land, tossed into the trees by Irma’s storm surge as if they were toys.

To the North and South and, well, in every direction that I looked, there was (and still is) debris from people’s homes and lives.

And yet there in front of me our roof was seemingly untouched and our solar panels glistened as if Irma had never happened.

And when we turned our solar system on after climbing back down off of the roof, guess what? The system worked perfectly and, despite the fact that Hurricane Irma caused nearly seven million people in Florida to lose their power, our home on No Name had her’s. The bright sunlight powered our home and filled our bank of batteries up for use at night and although we were not able to net solar meter by connecting to the power grid because its poles and wires were nearly all broken by Irma, our solar system brought a bit of brightness (and normalcy) to us more than typically would be the case.

As I publicly advocated the solar power mandate that went into effect last month at the City of South Miami (click here to read more about that law), one of the concerns residents and others who spoke out against the idea often expressed was that adding solar panels to one’s roof would either weaken the roof’s ability to withstand a hurricane or that the panels themselves would blow off during a storm. Both assertions are myths and, in fact, the opposite is true.

My experience with Irma shows that a properly installed solar system will not only survive a direct hit from a catastrophic hurricane but actually helps secure the very roof that such panels typically sit upon. As our society continues to discuss how our citizens receive power in the future and how we can transition to sustainable solutions such as rooftop solar, it is my hope that some good lessons can come from Irma and teach everyone that:

A) Solar panels are built to withstand and survive these monster storms, even one as devastating as Irma, they will not blow off your roof, 

B) Properly installed solar panels have the added benefit of helping protect your roof from a hurricane because the hardware used to attach them helps strengthen the roof by securing it to the trusses below,

C) A solar power system in your home can often provide you with power well before your local utility can after a hurricane hits (FP&L provided our Miami home with power 11 days after Irma and Keys Energy returned power to No Name 14 days later – a remarkable accomplishment Keys Energy should be commended for given the devastation in that region).

So the next time someone tells you that solar panels can’t survive a hurricane’s winds or that having them on your roof makes the roof more vulnerable, please tell them about my home on No Name Key and let them know that those are myths. The reality is, thankfully, that solar panels are built and installed to keep working even when the utility grid and local power company can’t.

PS: Speaking of No Name Key, my family was fortunate as compared to others in our area. If you’ve not read my recent comments and blog about my No Name Key neighbor Bob Eaken and how Irma destroyed his long-time home I hope you will read it by visiting here and that you will consider both donating to his rebuilding effort and share his story with your friends. I know he would appreciate any help you can offer. Thanks for your consideration during his time of need.

Damage Versus Devastation: “Hurricane Irma Left My 82 Year Old Neighbor Homeless. You Can Help.”

Between her winds and the flooding from her storm surge Hurricane Irma did a lot of damage here in Miami but what happened in the lower Florida Keys is the difference between damage and devastation. That’s especially true between Mile Markers 10 and 40, an area spanning places like Cudjoe, Summerland, Ramrod, the Torches, Big Pine and No Name Key, where the devastation has cost many people their homes, businesses, treasured possessions hopes and dreams.

The Old Wooden Bridge Marina building, for example, that long sat on the edge of the bridge to No Name Key has simply disappeared. It’s gone. The land it sat on is empty today of everything but rocks and gravel not because of some post-storm clean-up but because Irma made it disappear. There was a two story building, bait tank, fuel tank and much more here but this is it looks like today after Irma’s visit.

IMG_5583Irma made a lot of things on and around No Name Key disappear or left them so horrifically destroyed that they will need to be completely replaced and rebuilt which  brings me to the reason for today’s blog.

Bruce Turkel is one of the world’s leading experts on business and branding but I know him as a long time neighbor and friend here on No Name Key. Bruce is a renowned public speaker and writes a popular blog (https://turkeltalks.com/) and today he shared the story of another neighbor of ours, 82 year old retired firefighter Bob Eaken, that I want to share with you.

Mr. Eaken has lived on No Name longer than anyone.

In fact, he helped develop the place by digging (dredging) the island’s canal system, as well as building several of the homes on No Name. He has lived on No Name for decades, raised his family there and has a long history of helping others on the island but today he very much needs us to help him because his home looks like this as a result of Hurricane Irma:

Bob Eaken House IMG_2885 Bob Eaken

So with the devastation that engulfs our region of the Lower Keys in mind, I am pleased to publish this guest blog from Bruce and hope that you will both consider making a donation and sharing Mr. Eaken’s story on your own social media so that we can quickly rebuild his home and life here on No Name Key.

 

Turkel Brands

Constructive Commentary on Building Brand Value

Hurricane Irma left my 82-year old

neighbor homeless. You can help.

 

My wife and I have a house on No Name Key in the Florida Keys. We live in a very small neighborhood of about eight houses, surrounded by acres of state and federal wildlife preserve land.

No Name Key is at MM 32, directly east of Big Pine Key. You might recognize that name. It was Ground Zero when Hurricane Irma made landfall and destroyed our community. No Name Key used to be a paradise. Now it looks like war zone. The extent of the destruction is hard to believe.

Help Bob Eaken Rebuild

Our good neighbor Bob Eaken lived at the end of our island. His home was perched on an incredible expanse of open bay and a view of the water and the small islands that dot the horizon. But that was before Hurricane Irma blew off Bob’s roof and his entire top floor. The possessions that Bob accumulated over 82 years are now spread in a giant debris field that fans out over a half mile into the “protected” mangroves behind what’s left of his house. Bob has nowhere to sleep, nowhere to live, and doesn’t even have a stairway to get up to the first floor that’s precariously perched on concrete stilts 12 feet above the wreckage-strewn ground.

Let’s Help Bob Eaken Rebuild

Imagine an 82-year old man climbing a ladder to even get into what little remains of his home. Funny thing is Bob knows all about ladders — he’s a retired firefighter who dedicated his life to saving others in danger.

Luckily Bob evacuated to Miami to weather the storm with us. When we were permitted back on the island and returned with him last Sunday, we gathered up his entire life (or what’s left of it) into five soggy garbage bags.

Why Bob’s story is so interesting is that he single handedly built our “Island’s End” community over 30 years ago. Bob was a Ft. Lauderdale firefighter at the time and would drive down on weekends to carve his dream out of the mangroves. Bob dredged the canal, cleared the roads, and built four or five of the houses in the neighborhood. Up until this disaster, Bob was still hoping on and off his boat, scampering up and down his stairs (now gone), and doing maintenance on his own house as well as all of his neighbors’ homes. You and I should be lucky enough to be in the shape Bob’s in when we’re his age.

Now Bob is hoping for some FEMA money and a trailer so he has a place to live while he tries to rebuild his home from the sad and soggy wreck it is post-Irma. But I’m convinced that Bob is the kind of guy that everyone will want to help. Besides FEMA, firefighter organizations, and a generous public would want to help Bob too if they just knew his story. I’m also convinced that Bob’s story is a great tale of American ingenuity, a can-do attitude, and the indomitable spirit that can inspire so many of us. Telling Bob’s story and rebuilding his house will go a long way to help ease some of the pain people are feeling.

Estimates are that it will take between $100,000 and $200,000 to rebuild Bob’s home. We already have a contractor who is working at below cost and scores of neighbors who are providing the labor to clear the wreckage from Bob’s life. Now we need money for supplies, heavy equipment, and skilled craftspeople. Our plan is to have use the funds you donate to reimburse the tradespeople and to pay for the materials we purchase to repair Bob’s home.

We’ve set up a Go Fund Me. At the time this article was published, we’ve raised $7,200 to help Bob. But we need more. If you’d like to help, please direct your browser HERE to see the site and donate. You can also help by sharing this story everywhere you can. Text and email it to your friends, post it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or anywhere else people can find it. Let your friends and family know that if they want to help a real person instead of simply donating to a nameless, faceless charity, this is a great opportunity to make a real difference.

Bob’s story really illustrates the damage the storm did to our lives and our psyches. I believe your generoisty will go a long way to helping a very deserving neighbor rebuild his home AND his life.

I hope you do, too. Please click HERE to help Bob rebuild.

Thank you.

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