Posts Tagged ‘global warming’

Earth Overshoot Day – We’re Way Ahead of Schedule

burned charred fallen tree with wooded backdropMost often, in life, it is beneficial to be ahead of schedule for things–better than the alternative, being late. Well, when it comes to annually using up our world’s resources, the earlybird doesn’t get the worm…the earlybird probably only gets hungry, and thirsty, and hot, very hot.

Earth Overshoot Day should be sometime in early October, for many years, while not great, it happened right around now, but this year, 2014, it happened on August 19. Yikes!

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year. The Global Footprint Network measures humanity’s demand for, and supply of, natural resources and ecological services, and at some point on the calendar, we get to the point where we are in a deficit compared to what can be provided, so we are technically drawing down resources and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We owe the world, and that tipping point date gets earlier every year. In banking terms, we are drawing down the earth’s principal rather than responsibly living off the interest.

Ecological overshoot is a non-sustainable way of life and possible for only a limited period of time before we degrade the system so far that we end up with water shortages, desertification, soil erosion, reduced cropland activity, overgrazing, rapid species extinction, collapse of fisheries, and increased carbon concentration…sound familiar?

Our global overshoot has nearly doubled since 1961. According to Global Footprint Network, we are now living large, literally, as it would take 1.5 Earths to actually support our current consumption, and predictions state we would require two entire planets to support our usage trends by mid-century. Only 14% of our world lives in counties with more biocapacity than usage footprint, including Australia, Canada, Finland, Chile, and Brazil. The United States is squarely in the not-so-happy redzone, using more natural resources than we can possibly provide.

Check out this interactive FOOTPRINT CALCULATOR to discover how much land area it takes to support your own lifestyle, discover your biggest areas of resource consumption, and learn what you can do to tread more lightly on the earth.

W.E.D. Raise Your Voice Not the Sea Level

WED_2014_EN_LNow that summer has unofficially kicked off with Memorial Day, there’s another red-letter day to heed before we get to the Fourth of July. The warm weather canon of holidays now includes World Environment Day on June 5, and it is a big ol’ green ol’ deal. Earmarked by the United Nations as  a day to raise awareness of and action for the ecosystem, it has grown to be celebrated in over 100 nations.

In that good bumper-sticker-as-a-roadmap-for-life vein, this World Environment Day (W.E.D.), consider ways to “Think Globally. Act Locally.” The theme this year is all about islands–2014 is the “Year of the Small Island Developing States.” It is particularly poignant as a theme, since if the planet’s sea levels rise, just a bit, islands begin to be overcome by rising tides. The Maldives, for instance, are the most vulnerable nation, since many of that archipelago’s multi-island land masses are mere feet above sea level. Small islands are the canary in the coal mine for the rest of us–it isn’t a huge step from low-lying islands being swamped to our coastal cities flooding.

How will you make your voice heard for the environment this year? You can create and register an event in your community or look for people near you that are already planning action days: clean up campaigns, food waste reduction initiatives, walk-to-work days, plastic bans, art exhibits, tree-planting drives, concerts, dance recitals, recycling drives, social media campaigns, and different contests  — every action counts. Check out the website (, you might be surprised at how many of your neighbors care as much as you do. Even celebrities are in on it. UNEP GOODWILL AMBASSADORS Giselle Bündchen, Don Cheadle, Ian Somerhalder, and Yaya Touré are leading big action challenges. So jump in, the water’s fine…so far…

350 is the Magic Number

Photo:, Vilandai, India school children

Photo:, Vilandai, India school children

As we find ourselves in December with record breaking warmth throughout much of the nation, following harrowing storms on both coasts (with more on the way for the Pacific Northwest), more than a few folks have been wondering: “WTF with the weather?!”

Climate crisis is no longer passably deniable no matter how far you’ve got your head shoved in the sand—sure, if you are in the habit of dismissing science elsewhere in your belief system, you might well be able to convince yourself that there is no global warming–but for the REST of us…we gotta do something. is a global grassroots campaign to get us motivated and into action about the climate. The number 350 is the target that scientists warn we must bring our greenhouse gasses DOWN to, to assure our safety and longevity. Our number is currently 392 parts per million of CO2–so we’ve got some work to do. 350 is organizing via a grand scheme, trying to motivate communities everywhere, all at once. They do massive worldwide actions, with thousands of events in hundreds of countries occurring simultaneously. Getting back to 350 will take some pretty grand actions, empowering sustainable energy resources is just the beginning, as are new paradigm plans regarding planting instead of clear-cutting, reducing waste, protecting biodiversity and habitats zones, and more. It will require a global treaty, and making this simple to understand and easy to remember number part of the planet-wide discussion is a meaningful step. We needn’t remember a lot of science, but we do need to hold leaders’ feet to the fire about 350.


Not too hard to embed in the old brain pan, is it? Speak of it, call it out, activate around it. 350–we can get there, but only together.


Adirondack Youth Climate Summit

In light of the storm beating the East Coast has endured and the subsequently renewed worldwide conversations about climate change, it is a particularly charged, and vital, time for the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit (November 14 and 15). This annual conference forges partnerships between The Wild Center, the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE), and international scholar and experts on the environment. A consortium of high school students from 28 high schools and colleges in the New York and Adirondack regions, the summit has a history of inspiring young participants to return to their home communities and undertake such projects as creating school gardens to provide food for their cafeterias, creating and expanding recycling and composting programs, updating energy saving equipment at their schools, doing energy audits and carbon offset studies for their schools, and engaging in deep discovery conversations about sustainability in their communities.

It is an energizing weekend of breaking barriers and finding new ways to think about, and take action for, the environment, leading to inspiration for a generation that will steward the planet in a way that we can hope and dream will be more responsible than what we have done for them thus far.

Polar Express

I’ve got a thing about polar bears…not the animated googly ones on Coca-Cola holiday commercials, but the real deal. I know they may have a different thing for me if we were ever to meet (like seeing a big, neon, EAT AT JOE’S sign and arrow over my head), but I find them stunning and mysterious…and their plight is devastating. polar

Hurtigruten, an expedition cruising and sailing company, voyages with their clients to some of the most remote destinations in the world like Antarctica (top of my own, personal bucket list), Greenland, and through the Arctic Circle. They’ve just announced a new “Climate Pilgrimage” expedition that takes you to the front lines of climate change research in the Arctic.


The cruise company prioritizes education and exploration and passengers are immersed in culture, geography, history, botany, and wildlife on all of their trips, and this 11-day excursion has a volunteer component as well. You’ll venture to Northern Norway and the Arctic island of Spitsbergen on the state-of-the-art, polar-ready MS Fram, and you’ll visit research stations, track wildlife, participate in field studies, and meet with top researchers. The May 29, 2010 departure is priced from $4,823 to $9,516 per person, double.

The trip description: The first two days are spent in Norway’s Tromso, visiting the Polar Environmental Centre, where climate scientists discuss the task at hand and the status of the research being done.  A stop in Europe’s northernmost cities, Honningsvag, includes a visit to the North Cape Plateau, and a stop at Gjesvaerstappan – a unique bird cliff where the Norwegian Polar Institute has done research on a host of seabirds including puffins, gannets, auks and guillemots.

The remainder of the trip is spent exploring the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen where polar bears, Svalbard reindeer, Arctic foxes, whales, walruses, and ringed and harp seals and dozens of other animals and migratory birds still roam the stunning landscapes of their natural habitat — a natural classroom to learn about and see the effects of climate changes.  On Bjornoya (Bear Island), participants observe the changes to bird habits at one of the largest concentrations of seabirds in the Northern Hemisphere.  Research in Hornsund, Spitsbergen’s most southern fjord, includes polar bears and the feeding grounds of auks, while in Bellsund, guests learn about the phenomenon call surging glaciers.  Ny Alesund has been the jump off point for several historic attempts to reach the North pole – Amundsen, Ellsworth and Nobile are some examples of explorers.  Guests will explore a large glacier front and possibly enjoy an Arctic beer at one of the world’s northernmost pubs.

The warming of the Arctic now allows vessels to cross the 80th parallel – something not possible less than 20 years ago.  Walruses, whales and polar bears rule this region and the MS Fram will treat guests to a close look at the marginal ice-zone and its large yearly variations.  The final two days are spent exploring Isfjorden, Spitsbergen’s largest fjord system, observing giant bird cliffs, and visits to the University Centre of Svalbard and Svalbard Museum in Spitsbergen’s capital town of Longyearben.

Want to meet me there?


More Ice? (Please)

The World Wildlife Fund has released a new study that points to the evidence that Arctic melting, which will likely change weather patterns and cause coastal flooding, is worse than previously estimated. Warming in the Arctic impacts the ecosystem around the planet, with a sharp increase of greenhouse gases and shifts in weather. Arctic Sea ice is melting more quickly than we thought.

“This is not about the Arctic, it’s what the Arctic means to the rest of the world and this study paints a truly sobering picture of the future if it continues to warm and melt,” said Dr. Martin Sommerkorn, “Warming in the Arctic will have negative consequences not just for polar bears, but for people across America and throughout the world. Simply put, if we do not keep the Arctic cold enough, people across the world will suffer the effects.”

It’s a pretty vicious circle. The study analysis says: “The Arctic’s frozen soils and wetlands store twice as much carbon as is held in the atmosphere, as warming trends continue, soils will increasingly thaw and release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere as, at a significantly faster pace than previously predicted. Levels of atmospheric methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas, have been increasing rapidly for the past two years, and many believe the increase is driven by the thawing Arctic.”

Sea levels will also likely rise at an alarming rate…I’m traveling to the Maldives later this year, one of the most threatened regions that will be underwater with just slight rises (much of the entire land mass of the island nation is less than 7 feet above sea level). That’s pretty damned freaky. Coastal flooding which will affect more than 25% of the world’s population, is now believed to be almost twice as much as was estimated in 2007. That’s only 2 years in which the prediction has grown twice as bleak.