Most people who participated in the Global Conference On Miami had nothing but positive feedback for us, especially at the local level. Jess says that this is a good sign since people will complain about anything and everything at a major event. The one complaint that I heard consistently, though, was that we may have focused too much on Miami.
There’s probably some truth to that. We focused on Miami because a lot of the organizers were from Miami. And honestly it’s the first major U.S. city to go completely underwater because of global warming, which is a big deal. People around the world were talking about Miami, so why not turn that into a conversation about global warming? Climate activists have been doing that for decades. It just happened to be a U.S. city this time. And because Miami was the conversation starter, we named this big global warming conference after Miami. But it was about so much more than just Miami.
Now that we’ve had this big conference, I should at least mention what’s going on in other places around the world. Other people have better information and opinions on this than I do, but here are a few things I know.
First, there are all of the places going underwater. It turns out that there are a lot of major cities on or near the water — New York, Tokyo, London, Hong Kong, Washington D.C., plenty of other places I don’t even think about until I read an article about them. Some of these big cities are the most powerful economic and political centers in the world. But even with all of their money and power, they can’t stop the ocean and the rain. And when they take a hit, so does the rest of the world.
Some of these cities and countries didn’t take global warming seriously at first. They made a lot of money from fossil fuels and they knew it would take at least a few decades, maybe even a century or two, for sea level rise to actually claim the whole city. But they’re finding out that it’s not just about the sea level. It’s also about the flooding, the storm surges, the sewers, the leaky roofs, the power lines, all of the little details that go along with the flooding. New York and Tokyo are perfect examples of this in my mind. They’ve both done these tremendous projects in the last ten or fifteen years to protect their coasts from the rising tides. Things would be so much worse if they hadn’t worked on these incredible systems of storm walls, berms, dikes, levees, improved sewers, and so on. But even with the ocean held at arm’s length, they still get more flooding than they used to. The ocean hasn’t claimed them, but they’re slipping into a downward spiral. A big storm hits, they get hopelessly flooded for a while, they drain the water eventually, and then before you know it, the next storm hits. Unless you put an umbrella over the whole city, there’s not much you can do about that.
And then there are the droughts! ¡Dios mío! I complained about chocolate a while ago, but in an emergency, I can live without chocolate. What I can’t live without is food. Do you remember when California used to grow so much produce that they could ship it around the world? Now they can barely supply produce to other states. Food costs about three or four times more than it did when I was a kid, especially fresh produce that’s out of season. Some of that is the economy making everything more expensive, but some of it is just the food being more scarce. In a lot of places, more people are buying local food now because of the price, even if they don’t care about the environment or the local economy. It’s just cheaper to grow veggies in a local field or greenhouse than to fight with millions of other Americans for some tomatoes and grapes from California. But then what do you do if your local farmers have a drought too?
Honestly, I know the most about what’s going on here in the U.S., not what’s going on in other countries. You hear about the big things, like the Maldives and Bangladesh going underwater, or the wars in the Middle East and Eastern Europe and Africa because of droughts and famines and fighting over fossil fuels and water, or the super typhoon that just hit the Philippines and may leave Manila in a worse situation than Miami. I could try to explain it all in more detail, but you can just do a search and look at the current news and the projections for the future.
If you’re going to look at it all at once, though, you may want to have a few mojitos and a shoulder to cry on.
Anyway, one of the main reasons I wanted to talk about this today is to say that I’m always interested in hearing more about how people in other parts of the world are coping with global warming. People from around the world have been so kind to reach out to the Miami refugees and ask them what they can do to help. I want to do the same thing and help people in Manila, and the Maldives, and Bangladesh, and anyplace else where people are suffering from global warming. Global warming is hardest on people who are already poor, already refugees, already struggling to find food and shelter and a better life. What happened in Miami pales in comparison. And that’s saying a lot since I watched my entire city go underwater! We live in strange times. Now more than ever, we need to come together to help each other.
Please feel free to post comments about what’s going on where you are. I will do my best to reply and see if there’s anything I can do to help. In the meantime, the struggle continues to figure out what we can do to help Miami and reduce our country’s contributions to global warming.