K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Sep 06 2010

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The last environmentalist

In October of 2009, I was invited to attend the Governors’ Conference on Climate Change, the Road to Copenhagen in Los Angeles. This was the final gathering of the troops, so to speak, before the Conference on Climate Change at Copenhagen in December of that same year.

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The event was attended by the governors of other states, UN delegates, international media, scientists and engineers, as well as non-profit organizations and corporate leaders, all of whom were on the same page regarding Climate Change. All those attending were there for one purpose: to find solutions to a problem of global proportions.

I left the conference re-born with a new vigor, as well as a new commitment towards the future. No matter what the talking heads on TV may say, it was clear that Climate Change is real and that a clear path on both a local and global level had been defined. Also clear was the fact that, through our individual, as well as collective actions, we could make a difference.

About two weeks before the conference in Copenhagen was to begin, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that climate change is a real threat to the planet and all life forms and that it was being driven by human activity. A simple statement—with global implications and coming from a U.S. government agency as a statement of fact—could alter the vote of global delegates attending the conference.

And then like a pack of rabid dogs, the attacks on the agency and its proclamation began from all sides, first with outright challenges to the findings as “bogus” and “pseudo-science.” Following that, the real war began with the leaking of private communications among various scientists about undisclosed errors in the 2007 IPCC Assessment Report. The final blow came in the form of select leaked e-mails from the Hadley Climatic Research Unit at Britain’s University of East Anglia. This “smoking gun” appeared to vindicate climate change skeptics by suggesting scientists were deleting information that contradicted climate change.

This media “blitzkrieg” completely derailed the conference, forcing complete delegations to back down or not vote at all, and the majority of the conference was left to defend the data and the reputations of thought-leaders and leading scientists. The fallout was devastating: The Kyoto Accord failed to pass, and scientists, educators and environmental leaders were fired or quit under a cloud of shame. This coordinated action, by persons unknown, countered the “Gore effect” and set the movement back almost 30 years.

Now, not nearly a year later, the EPA has announced that the allegations made against its original findings were not substantial enough to outweigh the evidence it had amassed through the decades that clearly indicated: greenhouses gases have risen to unprecedented levels; the accumulation of these gases is warming the planet; and climate change is visible through shrinking Arctic ice, rising oceans and rising temperatures. It also restated that the rate of climate change is increasing and that greenhouse gases are the driving force behind this increase. It is a sad commentary on our society that not one word about these new and reaffirmed findings made the evening news.

So now what? Like a bad call at a ball game, where the winning runner was later determined “out” after reviewing the tape, the game is over and the score is in the books to be forever debated. It is easy to call “foul,” but the crowd has moved on and gone home. We now need to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and regroup and rethink our next move.

It has become clear to me we must rethink the whole concept of environmental activism. As a species, we have had a direct impact on the planet since we first climbed down out of the trees and then turned around and burned them for warmth. It has taken generations upon generations to accomplish the damage we have done to our home. Today, there are few, if any, locations on the planet that have avoided the effects of man. We need to take an even larger global view than ever before. As someone once said, “One man’s endangered species is another man’s dinner.”

There are two types of environmentalists—those who wish to live in harmony and balance with nature and those who wish to dominate and control nature. I believe and fear that, as there are certain aspects of climate change beyond our control, in many ways, “the train has left the station.” It is no longer about control or change: It is now about survival of the species.

The new environmentalist must bridge the ground between the two schools of thoughts—one of control versus harmony and man over nature—to seek new paths to a more sustainable, eco-centric and bio-diverse world.

Evolution is at hand, and as it has been throughout the history of our movement, there are those who hunt, those who prepare and those who just eat. Where will you fit in?

Kevin Henry

This entry was posted on Monday, September 6th, 2010 at 11:19 PM and is filed under Green, Inspiration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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