King Tide in Pacifica, California. A sneak peek of the photos Jamie Jones of Jamie Jones Photography took for Drowning Islands this morning of the King Tide overtaking the sea wall in Pacifica.
Please note that I have moved my blog posts to Huffington Post’s Green section. Please “follow” or subscribe there at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brook-meakins/. Feel free to email at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, comments, concerns, etc.
Also, please visit http://www.drowningislands.com for pictures, articles, and more!
For those people and countries that face sea water inundation in the coming years, Orsos Island and similar island designs could pose as an interesting strategy and possible solution. While costly, radical, and still a far cry from their natural habitat, this article in today’s gizmag.com provides an interesting perspective (and great photos) of what floating island homes may look like in the years to come.
“Floating islands are environmentally friendly and leave a zero footprint after its lifespan, and opens opportunities where there is a scarcity of land,” Jasper Mulder, General Manager of Dutch Docklands Maldives told Gizmag. “They are the answer to urban limitations and climate change. It secures a safe and sustainable future where conventional building methods fail.”
See full story here: http://www.gizmag.com/orsos-floating-island-superyacht/22771/
As we already know, the mega-emitting United States is not immune to the impacts of climate change. But usually when we think of beach erosion, we think of coral atolls poking out of the middle of vast oceans, sparsely populated and rarely mentioned. Yet, as the New York Times points out in its recent story entitled “Hawaii’s Beaches Are in Retreat, and Way of Life May Follow,” beach erosion is also a problem in the United States. The full story is copied below, and available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/15/science/hawaiis-beaches-are-in-retreat-and-way-of-life-may-follow.html?_r=1.
Most beaches on the state’s three largest islands are eroding, and the erosion is likely to accelerate as sea levels rise, the United States Geological Survey is reporting.
Though average erosion rates are relatively low — perhaps a few inches per year — they range up to several feet per year and are highly variable from island to island and within each island, agency scientists say. The report says that over the last century, about 9 percent of the sandy coast on the islands of Hawaii, Oahu and Maui has vanished. That’s almost 14 miles of beach.
The findings have important implications for public safety, the state’s multibillion-dollar tourism economy and the way of life Hawaiians treasure, said Charles H. Fletcher, who led the work for the agency.
“This is a serious problem,” said Dr. Fletcher, a geologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Sea level does not rise uniformly around the world, and so far, Dr. Fletcher and other geologists said in interviews, Hawaii has escaped some of the rise that has occurred elsewhere as earth’s climate warms. But that situation is unlikely to continue, the report says.
Hawaii’s geological history also leaves it unusually vulnerable. The islands formed, one by one, as a tectonic plate carrying them moved to the northwest over a “hot spot,” where a plume of molten lava pushes through the seafloor. Over the millenniums, this material cools, accumulates and eventually rises above the waves. (Loihi, an underwater — for now — mountain southeast of the island of Hawaii, is the latest to undergo this process.)
But once the slow plate movement carries an island away from the hot spot, its volcanic material begins to compress, causing the island to start to sink, worsening its erosion prospects.
The new analysis, “National Assessment of Shoreline Change: Historical Shoreline Change in the Hawaiian Islands,” is the latest in a series of reports the geological survey has produced for the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, California and some of Alaska. Over all, their findings are similar: “They all show net erosion to varying degrees,” said Asbury H. Sallenger Jr., a coastal scientist for the agency who leads the work.
He said the studies aimed to establish a baseline from which scientists could “really assess what sea level rise actually does in the future to our coasts.”
S. Jeffress Williams, another scientist with the agency, said researchers had over the years produced a number of studies of Hawaii’s shorelines, using various methods of data collection and analysis. “Many were well done, but it is sort of mixing apples and oranges,” he said, referring to the need to adopt standard study methods. The new work aims to allow researchers to compare data from states around the country.
And though it seems self-evident that erosion must be tied to rising seas, “you have to document it,” Mr. Williams said. “Sea level rise is only one of the driving forces that control what happens at the shoreline.” For example, he said, on a beach that receives a steady influx of sand, “you can have marginal erosion or stable or even accreting shorelines.”
But that is not ordinarily the case in Hawaii, where the typical response to erosion has been to protect buildings with sea walls and other coastal armor. “It’s the default management tool,” Dr. Fletcher said. But in Hawaii, as nearly everywhere else this kind of armor has been tried, it results in the degradation or even loss of the beach, as rising water eventually meets the wall, drowning the beach.
He suggested planners in Hawaii look to American Samoa, where, he said, “it’s hard to find a single beach. It has been one sea wall after another.”
But the most common alternative approach, replenishing beaches with pumped-in sand, is difficult in Hawaii, where good-quality sand can cost 10 times as much as it does on the East Coast, Mr. Williams said.
Dr. Fletcher said he believes the answer lies in encouraging people to move buildings and other infrastructure away from the shoreline, a strategy coastal scientists call retreat. “If we want beaches we have to retreat from the ocean,” he said. But, he added. “It’s easy to say retreat; it’s much harder to implement it.”
Dr. Sallenger said he hoped the work in Hawaii and elsewhere would help policy makers.
“We don’t define what rules and laws are written about coasts and exactly how they are managed,” he said, “but this is information that can be factored into that process.”
We have finished day five on our Spicy Green and Sustainable film project in Grenada. I have loved the experience of delving into this country and being exposed to its climate and weather related vulnerabilities and triumphs. These people are strong, brave, courageous, and incredibly industrious.
The island is made up of incredible beaches, of course, but also towering mountains- quite a bit higher in elevation than islands I typically find myself in. That being said, even though they are not “drowning,” climate impacts abound. Notice the dead trees in the pictures, the engulfed sea barriers, and the hurricane ravaged buildings.
Our videographer Jamie Jones has been up to some incredible work (and I have seen the clips!)- we have interviewed over twenty NGOs, government officials, and policy makers so far. Today, our footage of “real” Grenadians started, which has already been an incredibly rewarding experience. More pictures to come over the next nine days!
I wrote this piece for the Huffington Post this past weekend in honor of Earth Week- I’ll repost the incredible articles written by friends and colleagues in drowning islands around the world this week as well. The full link follows the story.
Last year during a trip to the Marshall Islands, I met a man named Henry Romeu, an American coast guard who was on a mission in the Pacific Ocean. He monitored various pacific islands and their surrounding waters, monitoring fishing zone boundaries and reacting to various emergencies as they arose. As you can imagine, Mr. Romeu had interesting stories to tell, but it was one exacting comment about the power of the sea that stuck with me. With seriousness in his eyes he said “there is nothing immune to the ocean. Nothing.” These words were uttered just inches from the water’s edge, on an island in a country that hovers just above sea level. During my time there, residents recounted stories of flooding during particularly bad king tide storms where they fled to the tallest point on the island — a small bridge that takes just moments to walk across. They flock there because the Mr. Romeu was correct: nothing is immune to the ocean.
The vast majority of scientists agree that as the earth heats up, which is hastened by our consumption of fossil fuels and other human activities, warming waters and melting ice will raise sea levels and kill off protective coral reefs. The impacts of climate change are felt the world over, but some of the very least immune people on the planet are those that live in the coral atoll nations of the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Maldives. These coral atolls lie only a few feet above the sea, rendering them acutely vulnerable to intensifying storm surges, spoiled or depleted fresh water reserves, food security stresses, ocean acidification, water-level rise, and the other disastrous impacts of climate change. Other countries around the world, including low-lying coastal or riverside communities in the Arctic, Caribbean, Pacific and in Bangladesh, face similar dire circumstances. Each of these communities face similar impossible questions: how do we cope with the intensifying impacts of flooding and erosion? Who pays for the increasing weather-related disasters? Where do we move if we are left with no choice but to leave our homes? Why does climate change deal its toughest blows to those that contribute to it the least?
The expert community has few answers for these novel questions. At a 2011 conference entitled “Threatened Island Nations: Legal Implications of Rising Seas and a Changing Climate” held at Columbia Law School, researchers and academics addressed these novel issues. They discussed where islanders would move, whether or not they would lose statehood status after relocation and the political turmoil that would surely follow when these Diasporas scattered around the globe. At the end of the conference, co-sponsoring representatives from the markedly vulnerable Republic of the Marshall Islands gave a rather alarming, heartfelt and sincere speech of clarification. In essence, the speech went like this: I am sorry if you have misunderstood, but we have not given up yet. We are staying on our islands and will fight for our home until the bitter end.
We have watched in horror and offered support to those that have suffered in recent tsunamis, tornadoes, earthquakes and floods. These are appropriate human responses to events that humans ostensibly have done nothing to bring about. Yet we seem to care very little for those around the globe that are threatened with what some call the “slow moving tsunami,” despite the fact that our action and inaction tragically hasten the submersion of land mass, societies and culture. I have had the incredible good fortune to walk among many of these people on their drowning islands, and I am continually struck by their lack of blame and their sense of hope. They do not point fingers at Westerners, asking why we continue emitting while we have been told that we are warming the earth and hastening sea level rise. They do not talk of relocation funds or lawsuits. Instead, they simply want to share their stories and the appreciation they have for the land they inherited. They gently remind me that this is not just an island problem, but a global issue, as nothing is immune to the ocean.
Tomorrow morning marks the beginning of a two week eco project in Grenada – a simultaneous greening of a historic plantation inn and the filming of a documentary which highlights Grenada’s tremendous accomplishments on the world stage of leadership in sustainability and climate activism. My team (of volunteers- are they amazing or what?!) consists of Jamie Jones (Photographer and Videographer), Aimee Gerot (Team Assistant and Liaison), Andy Meakins (Architectural Design and Planning), and Kody Jones (Construction Captain and Problem Solver). We are enthusiastic to participate in a project that is rooted in Grenada success and Grenadian talent- our lineup is packed with movers and shakers, including organic farmers, women small business owners, inspired politicians, and leaders in sustainability, just to name a few. I will post regularly – if you know of something in Grenada that we should know about, chime in!
(Note- this post will be located under the “special projects” tab)
I have never been to Saipan or walked on the beaches of the American Memorial Park, but this picture caught my attention this week (and apparently the attention of National Geographic). The shot is taken in, ironically named, American Park in Saipan, and the location is clearly losing topsoil, nutrients, and the ability to support plant life due to wave action. The photo is beautiful but sad, and reminds me of other locations I have seen around the world where trees give way over time to the sea. The photo of Saipan belongs to Mamang Sorbetero.
Link to short feature: http://news.yahoo.com/photos/national-geographic-your-shot-slideshow/national-geographic-your-shot-photo-1334189822.html
“The Island President” Film Opens, despite former Maldivian President and Climate Activist’s Fall From Power
As the film “The Island President” opens this week in New York, former President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed has been featured in various news outlets, talking not only about what he refers to as a coup, which ousted him from his presidency of the tiny island nation in the Indian ocean, but also about his life’s work as a climate advocate and a spokesperson for drowning islands.
Find the transcript of a recent Democracy Now interview with former President Nasheed below (link to story: http://www.democracynow.org/2012/3/29/ousted_maldives_president_mohamed_nasheed_on):
“JUAN GONZALEZ: The tiny Indian Ocean state of Maldives remains in a state of political turmoil seven weeks after the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, was ousted in what he has described as a coup at gunpoint.
In 2008, Mohamed Nasheed beat the longtime ruler of Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, in the country’s first free and open election. Prior to the vote, Nasheed was a longtime pro-democracy activist who was jailed for six years. At the time, he was described as the “Mandela of the Maldives.” Nasheed now insists the February 7th coup was led by supporters of the former dictator.
The coup became news across the globe in part because Nasheed has become an internationally recognized leader on climate issues, as he urged the world to do more to save small island states from rising sea waters.
AMY GOODMAN: Ousted Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed once held a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the threat of global warming to the Maldives. He also pledged to make the Maldives the first carbon neutral country and installed solar panels on the roof of his presidential residence.
President Nasheed’s rise to power and climate activism is the focus of a new documentary called The Island President. It’s just opened at the Film Forum here in New York. This is an excerpt.
MOHAMED NASHEED: If we can’t stop the seas rising, if you allow for a 2-degree rise in temperature, you are actually agreeing to kill us. I have an objective, which is to save the nation. I know it’s a huge task. I’ve been arrested 12 times. I’ve been tortured twice. I spent 18 months in solitary.
We won our battle for democracy in the Maldives. A year later, there are those who tell us that solving climate change is impossible. Well, I am here to tell you that we refuse to give up hope.
AMY GOODMAN: Mohamed Nasheed, the ousted president of the Maldives, joining us here in studio in New York. Also with us, Jon Shenk, the director of this new documentary called The Island President.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! President Nasheed, I last saw you at the U.N. summit on climate change. That is where you’ve become famous around the world. But talk about what happened, the date, the time, and what took place in your country, in the Maldives, that led you—your forced departure from the presidency.
MOHAMED NASHEED: Thank you very much, and good morning.
As you know, in 2008, we had our first multi-party elections. I was fortunate to be elected then, and we were able to beat President Gayoom, who has been in power for the last 30 years then. It’s—one of the things that we are now coming to understand is it’s easy to beat a dictator, but it’s not so much easy to get rid of a dictatorship. The networks, the intricacies, the institutions, and everything that the dictatorship has established remains, even after the elections.
On the February 6th—on the February 7th, rather—on the 6th, on the night of the 6th, I asked the military to restrain 200 riot police who were rebelling. These 200 riot police has been—they were established in 2005, specifically to disrupt the peaceful demonstrations of the Maldivian Democratic Party at the time. When we came into government, we, in a sense, fired them, or rather, we stopped using them, and we had them scattered across the islands and in other islands, as well, because we had no use to use so much force. But unknowing to me, they were—the opposition, or rather, the dictatorship and the elements connected to it were talking to these people.
And on the 7th, they staged a rebellion. And they were sitting on the—they were sitting—they were protesting on the Republican Square. And I asked the military to restrain them. I asked them at 11:00 in the evening that day. By 5:00 in the morning the next day, the military was—the military still hadn’t done that. So I went to the military headquarters. And then, there, I found that sections of the military had also joined with the rebellion, and they were refusing to restrain the police. Then, around early that morning, about 9:00 in the morning, the generals started asking me to resign, and they told me that if I did not resign, they would resort to using arms. They would use arms on me, and they would also use arms on the people. Then, I had no choice, really, because sections of the military who were in the headquarters were with the rebellious police, and also I saw more than a hundred other soldiers coming from the other barracks in Malé and also another hundred soldiers coming from another barracks near Malé. And so, at the end of the day, it was about 500 soldiers and policemen against about a hundred or so soldiers who were loyal to the government and to the constitution.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And the reaction of the—of others in your government, and the one who then assumed the presidency?
MOHAMED NASHEED: Well, the vice president assumed the presidency, but the vice president had been, we understand now, talking to them throughout the month before that, and they had these understandings that after my forced resignation, the vice president would take over, and then to seemingly make it look like a usual resignation and for him to take over.
But after I was forced to resign and after the announcement of my resignation, again, I was incommunicado for more than 24 hours. I was only able to get in touch with the British high commissioner roundabout evening that night. Then again, it was not me. It was my secretary. The British high commissioner rang my secretary and wanted to speak to me. I told my secretary that I’m surrounded by the police in my—in the presidential residence. They were really sacking the residence and going through every—all of my personal belongings and so on. So I said, “I can’t speak.” That was the only telephone conversation or only message that I was able to bring to the outside. Otherwise, I had—I was there in the presidential residence.
But then, later that night, I still had some loyal soldiers who were there. So with their help, I was able to slip out from the president’s residence and go to my family home. As soon as I went home, I almost fell, because I hadn’t slept for two nights by then, by this time, and I’d been very, very abused and pushed around and bruised. So I slept that night. The next morning, I spoke to our party members, and we decided that we should go out on the streets and tell the people that this is not on, and here is a coup in every sense, and we would want to—we would want reinstatement, and we would want investigations into the coup.
AMY GOODMAN: At this time, I wanted to play what the Obama administration was saying in the midst of this coup, with the coup in the Maldives. Within a day of your ouster, the State Department here in the United States defended the ouster and confirmed the new leadership had been in contact with the Obama administration. This is State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, who was questioned in February about the U.S. stance and diplomat Robert Blake’s visit.
REPORTER: Are you going to withhold—I mean, are you taking any position on the suggestions that it might have been a military coup? Are you going to investigate that? Is Blake going to check that out? Or do you think that that’s not a sort of a reasonable suggestion here?
VICTORIA NULAND: Well, obviously, we are talking to all parties. That’s why we’re sending our folks down. But that is not the information that we have at the moment. But Assistant Secretary Blake will have a chance to be there and talk to everybody on Saturday. But in the interim, we are urging calm, we’re urging dialogue, we’re urging the—President Waheed, as you know, has committed to forming a national unity government, and we think that will also be an important signal to political factions across the Maldives.
REPORTER: Does that mean that a determination on whether this was an unconstitutional change in power is going to wait until after Blake’s visit?
VICTORIA NULAND: Well, our view, as of yesterday—and I don’t think that that has changed; obviously we’ll collect more information going forward—was that this was handled constitutionally.
AMY GOODMAN: So that was Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokesperson, saying that the coup was constitutional already, talking about the new president, who was the Vice President Waheed. President Nasheed, what is your response?
MOHAMED NASHEED: Well, it was really shocking and deeply disturbing that the United States government so instantly recognized the former dictatorship coming back again. We were hoping that they would look into the facts and understand what was happening on the ground. And we would still hope that they look into it and urge the dictator, or urge Dr. Waheed, the former vice president, to resign and, therefore, to allow for fresh elections in the Maldives. We have to have democracy back on track in the Maldives. It’s very young. It’s a very young democracy. We only were able to have our first multi-party elections in 2008. And it was only three years down the line, and suddenly there was a very well-planned coup, and Dr. Waheed has been installed as a facade, and Gayoom is back. We were shocked that the United States acted so swiftly in recognizing the new regime.
Especially disturbing was, all throughout our last three years, we worked very closely with American ideals, with democracy. We wanted to have better relations with Israel. We wanted to have a more moderate Islamic country in the Maldives. And we’ve been fighting for all the civil liberties and all the human rights, fundamental rights of the people. And therefore, it’s deeply, deeply disturbing that your government has not been able to understand what was happening in the Maldives.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, what’s even more disturbing is that we’ve seen this script so many times now in recent years, whether it’s in Haiti with President Aristide or in Honduras with Manuel Zelaya Salaya or with Chávez in Venezuela. The U.S. government seems always to jump in immediately, as the coup is occurring, to support the coup plotters rather than the legally elected officials. And so, on the one hand, I understand your shock, but on the other hand, it’s amazing how it keeps happening, and no one seems to say anything about it here in this country. But I’d like to ask Jon Shenk—you had unparalleled access to President Nasheed’s administration, in terms of being able to chronicle or document what it is that he was trying to do. And if you could talk about the film and how you managed to get that access?
JON SHENK: Yeah, well, The Island President, as far as I know, is just a—is a unique documentary. It’s really the first-ever documentary that gets a kind of no-holds-barred access to a sitting head of state. And, you know, now, sitting, you know, weeks after this coup occurred in the Maldives, I have to think back of—you know, on the film as really an example and proof of President Nasheed’s penchant and desire to have transparency in government. And, you know, the Maldives had a dictatorship for 30 years, and the type of press that would come out of that dictatorship was highly controlled by a state-run television. You know, that was the only station in the country with programming that was, you know, sort of only blessed by the president himself. And then, as soon as Nasheed stepped into office, there’s instantly several independent television stations. The state-run media was privatized and made independent. And, you know, this film is really just an example of what can happen when there truly is a commitment to transparency. And the camera went to places that, you know, cameras have not gone before, not only to his strategy meetings and behind-the-scenes sessions, but also to bilateral meetings in the international climate debate, which is just, you know, fascinating and highly dramatic.
AMY GOODMAN: The film is playing—played at the Film Forum last night, going national around the country. Is it there this weekend at the Film Forum?
JON SHENK: Yeah, it started at the Film Forum last night. We had sold-out crowds. And it’s opening in San Francisco tomorrow and L.A. next week, Washington, D.C., etc.
AMY GOODMAN: President Nasheed, in this part of the conversation, we’re going to continue it and post it online at democracynow.org. Your final comments about the importance of climate change and why you think it is that you were ousted?
MOHAMED NASHEED: Climate change is a real issue, and it is happening now. It’s not something in the future. If you—from Jon’s film, you would be able to see how precarious and how vulnerable the Maldives is. Any imbalance to nature will have very, very huge impacts on the low-lying Maldive islands—and not just simply the Maldive islands, but also all coastal regions around the world. I think about a third of the population of the world lives on coastal areas. And they will be seriously challenged if we are unable to do something about climate change in the next few years. We feel that we have to advocate, that we have to try and get the message across that there has to be better understanding and international agreement on reducing carbon emission.
AMY GOODMAN: President Mohamed Nasheed, Jon Shenk, I want to thank you for being with us. We will continue our conversation and post it online at democracynow.org. On tomorrow’s show, we’ll play the legendary poet, essayist, feminist, Adrienne Rich. We’ll post her words online at democracynow.org.”