Will We Care About the Earth in May?

This Bactrian camel lives in the Miami zoo. Only 800 live in the wild still.
This Bactrian camel lives in the Miami zoo. Only 800 live in the wild still.

Every spring we go through a litany of environmental cause days. Last Friday was World Water Day, Saturday marked Earth Hour, Monday, April 22 will be the Grand Daddy, Earth Day, and finally Arbor Day is April 26.

All of these days and others are important, educating youth and adults alike about the need to become more environmentally conscious. But one has to wonder, will we care about the Earth in May?
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Not Shying Away from Our Great Crisis

Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy by EUMETSAT

2012 brought the United States two more storms of the century, the famed Derecho that hit my area and of course, Hurricane Sandy. Each year, it becomes clearer we’ve created an environmental crisis that continues to threaten the human species.

The impact of climate change has become so obvious, BusinessWeek published a cover story after Sandy that declared, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”

Each year increases in heat, 2012 becoming the hottest on record.

Oceans remain embattled. More species are extinct. There is more CO2 in the air than ever before.

Businesses still need to move from pure ROI models to sustainable long term visions that embrace long term community health. We as people need to awaken to our wonton consumerism.

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Oahu: A Reminder of the Beauty We Fight For


I’m in Oahu to speak at the NextLevel conference, my second Hawai’ian island trip in all (I visited the Big Island in 2001). When one lands in Honolulu, the first place you go to is your hotel, usually in Waikiki. While it’s certainly beautiful with scenic island decor, you feel enveloped by tourism and civilization… The high rises remind you that this is Hawaii’s most populated island, and the 11th largest metro area in the United States.

Waimanalo Bay IV

But only a half hour drive in any direction, and you find yourself surrounded by gorgeous natural beauty. It’s a jaw dropping stark reminder that our cement and steel worlds are built at the expense of such beauty.

Nu'uanu Valley 2

Like all lands, Oahu and the other Hawai’ian islands suffer from environmental damage (see Environment Hawai’i). While Hawai’i has come along way, new issues like plastic bottle ridden beaches continue to threaten the islands. Mass tourism also endangers the ecological wonders.

Waimea Bay

Being here reminds me of why I blog here every week. Why I continue to be active for the environment. We have so much to fight for, so much to preserve. If only we would all take a little more responsibility, and take little steps every day to positively impact our environment. But until mass conscious approaches to the environment occur throughout our society, I’ll continue my efforts.

Sandy Beach

Full Oahu photo set is here.

Geoff Livingston is a regular contributor to the Live Earth blog.

The Ecological Crisis Creates More Homeless People

Church in the Mirror
I saw this homeless man in Montreal, Canada last summer. He was enjoying the shade!

The invisible face of the homeless comes from many places, job losses and economic hardship to mental issues and alcohol/drug addiction. But there’s a new cause rising, that of climate change.

According to the International Organization for Migration, 20 million people were made homeless last year as a result of sudden-onset environmental disasters. From more frequent and stronger hurricanes to rising sea levels, even the most secure people are threatened. In the next 40 years, this number could rise to a total of one billion people.

Just today an astounding 3.1 percent of the world (again the IOM) is in a migratory state. The extent of homelessness just shocks me.

How can we continue to justify our excessive use of resources, from food and materials to energy and fuel while turning a blind eye to homelessness? Further, isn’t worse knowing that this consumption — which causes climate change — is actually worsening the problem? The interconnectedness of our societal problems amazes me.

Mark Horvath talks about the invisible faces of the homeless, the people we consciously pass on the streets without helping. We don’t want the difficulty of trying to change their plights… It would simply be easier to tune them out, mindlessly engaged in our iPhones or daily difficulties. That’s a shame because they are real people.

I’ve had various brushes with homelessness in my life. When I lost a job in the dot com bubble on ’99, I ended up moving back to DC with the shirt on my back and the computer in the trunk. I lived in a friends basement for two months until found a job. I was lucky the situation didn’t devolve causing me to live on the street, but it was through the grace of friends and family that I made it. Believe me, I was afraid for the worst.

Great Smile!

More recently, I’ve had the great fortune of doing some work and fundraising for DC Central Kitchen. The Kitchen does a wonderful job providing training and opportunities for the city’s homeless. Working for a day with these people you see how wonderful they are, their smiles and their new found lives. It reminds me that no matter what there remains hope.

I’ve also cooked for the homeless at Miriam’s Kitchen. And that my friends was so sad. It was early in the morning, and you can feel the anger and the hurt of the homeless as they waited outside for their food. Pain penetrated the air.

Writing this as I wait out yet another major snow storm — an unprecedented third major storm for one winter (hello, climate change) — I have to wonder how the city’s citizens, the ones who are forced to live on the street will do. And then there are those who may become homeless because of this ongoing winter crisis. Isn’t it time to stop and really pay attention to this problem?

Geoff Livingston is a regular contributor to the Live Earth blog.

Avatar Brings the Environmental Message to the Masses

The run-away smash hit Avatar has changed the paradigms of special effects and 3D filmmaking. James Cameron’s script, while not critically acclaimed, has also achieved another notable achievement: Delivering a strong environmental message to the masses.

Cameron admitted in a Filmcast Interview that one of his primary goals was to push the climate change cause:

…if a film is successful and becomes a part of the zeitgeist, and there’s a feeling its good to believe this way, and its good to have a sense of responsibility, than people will still rail against it, but maybe it does create a little bit of movement. Our culture evolves through all of its various influences. And major films, major TV shows, celebrities, whatever.. If you hear it enough times, it does start to generate an interest.

Kudos to Cameron for doing his part to raise the issue. With more of us beating the drum, societal responses will hasten, and we can rise to meet the challenge of climate change.

I’m not going to play spoiler, but if you have an opportunity to catch Avatar, do so. And bring that friend who says, “Yeah, it’s an issue, but…”

Geoff Livingston is a regular contributor to the Live Earth blog.

Copenhagen: Empty Gestures or Real Action?

Walking Uphill

The UN Copenhagen Conference to negotiate a new global environment treaty begins today. And my mind wonders north and east across the entirety of the Atlantic Ocean. I imagine these political types gathering, making great statements and pronouncing real hope. However, as CNN reported this weekend, the gathering is unlikely to yield a new world pact.

While every person in attendance at Copenhagen will surely admit the severe nature of the environmental crisis, few will be empowered to act. That includes Obama. Politically speaking, economic prosperity and “defense” still outweigh eco-initiatives in most every country. Individually, we have not brought enough pressure to bear on our governments to cause movement.

I recently saw Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh speak about Copenhagen, and he had an interesting perspective. From the politician’s point of view, it would take great courage to take strong measures. It would mean acting against the general will of the people. For while we are aware of the problem, people don’t want to stop consuming. In the U.S.A. we consume well beyond our needs, while throughout the world in developing countries like India, Brazil and China, people strive to match our consumption.

The environmental problem remains second to our individual welfare. Instead, economic prosperity and national defense – protecting our well being – comes first. The environment is a weak cousin we choose to pay attention to when its convenient for us.

We have not awaken to the terrible impact our consumption is having on the world. With 6.8 billion people consuming as Americans do, we need five earths to match our current consumption… Imagine how much we will need in 30 years when there are 9.2 billion of us?

Yet, these things need not be disparate. Imagine if we invested more in green technologies and transitioned to sustainable, renewable energy sources. Just ¼ of our defense monies reallocated in this fashion would make a huge impact on carbon emissions. In the U.S. consider all of the actions we are currently engaged in… What would make a better contribution to world peace, sustained action in Iraq or investment in next generation renewable energy technologies?

What if we reviewed our Western eating habits and moved towards more mindful consumption of our land resources, reducing carbon producing industrial poultry and beef centers and ate more vegetarian? I’m not suggesting abstinence, just moderation. Do we really need to eat meat at every meal?

Yes, to act in such a fashion at Copenhagen would be courageous. Perhaps, its simply too much to hope for… At least until we as individuals across the globe wake up to the severity of this issue and start making changes within our own lives.

Today, I am leaving Buenos Aires for El Calafate in Patagonia. There I will begin a two-week ecotour. Every time I am out in nature, I see beautiful things that just astound me. And increasingly, I see the signs of climate change on our most precious resources making the trips somewhat bittersweet.

When I return, the Copenhagen conference will have ended. I will be curious to see how things turned out, and what lies next for the environmental movement. I will never be a George Washington Hayduke, preferring nonviolent action and pressures. May the politicians negotiating our environmental future have the courage and the heart to act before we realize how much general public and personal apathy has hurt our collective future.