Caring About Far Away Places

My stories make it obvious that I love places that require a difficult journey to visit. Greenland. Bhutan. Antarctica. Tierra del Fuego. A small village in Nigeria. A lake in the Mountains of Guatemala. If it’s hard to get to from where I am, I love to write about it.

No place is more remote to a Texan that the island nation of Kiribati. This south pacific country of 100,000 people is made up of 33 low-lying coral atolls with a total land area of about 300 square miles. More spectacularly, it is the only nation on earth to set inside of all four hemispheres, and it covers a million square miles on the globe.

The map is from a wonderful website about Kiribati, which I referred to frequently when I was writing y1. Visit JANE’S KIRIBATI HOME PAGE to enjoy this bit of Micronesia.

Someday I hope to visit this place that I spent so much time learning about but I understand that I better not take too long. As the melting icecaps raise global sea level, the low lying atolls of Kiribati are becoming submerged. Leaders of this country have been planning a national exodus for years, seeking asylum for their descendants once the nation is completely under water.

In the meantime, Kiribati and it’s nearby neighbors are doing their best to raise awareness of the drastic effects climate change is having on this part of the world. The well known 2015 Paris Climate Agreement grew out of years of work, shepherded along at yearly United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change. The yearly gathering for 2017 will be hosted by Kiribati’s Melanesian neighbor, Fiji.

In spite of my own country’s lack of recent leadership regarding climate change, I will be cheering on the representatives of Polynesian, Micronesia and Melanesia as they take the world the stage.

As I watch with dismay as the United States turns more towards nationalist politics, I’ve been trying to discern where my own fascination with all the rest of the world began. I have this theory that music is a powerful tool for introducing ideas, and I remembered hearing a particular song as a child. I didn’t think I could find it, but luckily the song title is part of the lyrics and, like almost everything else, there it is on YouTube. Very old fashioned, although the beautiful voice of Sam Cooke brings a magic that transcends the decades.

Imagine yourself on an island in the South Pacific and enjoy!

(For more thoughts on Far Away Places see Those Far Away Places Could Be Next Door, Leaving a Light Footprint in a Far Away PlaceAs Far Away Places Edge Closer and The Courage to Embrace Those Far Away Places.)

Saving the chance to save the world

approvedTwenty or so minutes ago the final draft of the climate change agreement reached in Paris was adopted by the envoys from 195 nations. The news was greeted with a standing ovation. Delegates cheered and hugged each other, happy to have achieved more than any of the previous such conferences that have been held over the past two decades.

Predictably, not everyone else cheered. Protesters in the streets of Paris claimed that the agreement didn’t go far enough, and many global environmental organizations echoed the sentiment. Concern was expressed that the burden of achieving the goals was not fairly distributed. Meanwhile, those who deny climate change even exists began complaining almost immediately about the financial implications. In the U.S., conservative politicians were quick to promise to fight U.S. compliance.

It’s a scary, cantankerous world out there. I am personally amazed that 195 nations could come together and agree on lunch plans, much less agree to commit to keeping the rise in the planets temperature to less than two degrees Celsius. I believe that this is an amazingly hopeful moment for us as a species.

Word has it that one of the major reasons negotiators were able to reach a deal at all was that this time around much of the work was done in advance. Quiet armies of researches and politicians began laying the groundwork for this a year ago, after COP20 in Lima Peru. I happen to know one of these researches, and have followed his journey over the last year as he and many of his colleagues have each played their small roles in making history as they worked hard behind the scenes to bring science and policy together in a positive way.

My own interest in climate change grew when I wrote the book y1, and learned about the effects of rising sea level on the island nations I was writing about. With a background in geology I understand quite well how the earth shifts over time. I also understand the difference between the natural and slow moving processes of the earth, and the unpredictably dangerous rapid changes introduced by the human race. Because of this, I pledged ten percent of my proceeds from y1 to the World Resources Institute, a group fighting to secure a sustainable future for our species. I was pleased to read that Jennifer Morgan, of the World Resources Institute commented that if the Paris Agreement was adopted “then countries [will] have united around a historic agreement that marks a turning point in the climate crisis.”

bolder3So congratulations to the delegates, politicians, and many concerned humans who worked so hard to make the adoption of this agreement happen. Have they collectively saved the world? I don’t think anyone believes that. My favorite quote is from Bill McKibben, the co-founder of the environmentalist group He said of the agreement “This didn’t save the planet, but it may have saved the chance of saving the planet.”

Times being what they are, I’m happy with that.

(Thanks to Growing Bolder for the quote above.)