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Monday, November 16, 2009

We have the technology now we need the will.

An excerpt from my film, Climate in Action - on climate change and increasing poverty, aired in Times Square on Oct 24. The same day that I began my Stanford study of Sustainability in Business. I was left feeling that even here at my beloved Stanford we are looking through the wrong lens. Corporate green is not our savior. Shell and BP are still driven by profit and committing crimes daily against humanity. Walmarts new face is green...halloween green. The Wallmart corporate strategy gives them full control of their supply chain from seed to shelf and as the 20th largest economy in the world known to not provide a living wage and healthcare this does not seem like a good solution. Corporations are mining the green movement as the mono-crop of money on their bottom line has if you will been ravaged. So now that my unsustainable program in sustainability is over I can focus on what I saw in Kenya and why the motto keeps ringing in my ears, Use less, Live MORE. According to if everyone lived the lifestyle of an American we would need five planets. In 2005 we used the equivalent of 9 hectares of land per person, Kenyan's used less than one.

The drought in Kenya affects millions of people and animals. This disaster is due to climate change. The safe upper limit of 350 ppm carbon equivalent in the atmosphere has been passed. Currently at 387 ppm, whole populations are marginalized and dislocated. We can not shop our way out of this by making greener garbage; we need to create a restorative economy that puts a price tag on the ecosystem's currency—carbon. We have created a disastrous system of externalities that are bankrupting health care, habitat, species, and populations around the world. Cap-and-trade, although imperfect, begins to invite corporations into carbon reductions and technology shifts while the price is still relatively affordable. Some may go bankrupt, and that's the price of doing business inappropriately. As some go out of business, new business with appropriate technology are created. It's a shift or evolution if you will.

What I saw and how it relates to America's shopping habits. Animals where dying right in front of me in Amboseli National Park and the Mara. Elephants, zebra, and wildabeest populations have been desimated. Maasai tribes have abandoned Bomas as over 80% of their cattle are dead from drought. Women walk miles for water. Dying cows and goats are thrown in trucks one on top of the other, with men hitching rides on top of all that suffering hoping to sell them for something at the market. A market that now smells like death. A cow dropped in front of me one evening on my way to camp, I asked for someone to relieve it from its suffering to no avail. When I passed in the morning dogs were tearing at its carcass. I am thankful the well was installed at the school were we are filming up the hill as I know if it hadn't, this would have been the fate of many of these children. It literally has not rained here since I was here in December, 2007. This was my experience 1000 times over in ten days and, no, I still can not accept it.

Crops have failed throughout the country and starvation looms for thousands in the northern and eastern regions. Those who flee to the cities to find support most often end up in slums, displaced and without access to resources, scavenging garbage in swamps that where once rivers, damns and lakes. I photographed over 20 dry river beds.

We did not have water in Nairobi, electricity was intermittent. The water delivered was brown and contaminated. The smell of death still lingers in my memory and the sadness of leaving children covered in flies and filth behind will haunt me forever.

The cost of fossil fuel must begin to account for species and habitat loss, water degradation, climate change, drought and healthcare costs. Externalizing the costs of industrialization we have crossed ethical boundaries. A clean energy economy can restore abundance and prosperity to populations and habitats.

We need to place a cost on carbon that reflects the increasing value of removing it from the atmosphere. Carbon is the earth's currency and not placing a value on it will continue to destroy the foundations of all life. Millions of animals and people are waiting for policy and industry to embrace solutions in hand. We have the technology, now we need the will.

Climate policy must include clean development mechanisms to aid those who have already been deeply affected by climate change. As the snows on Kilimanjaro disappear, so does hope for those who live at her feet and depend on her for the life force...water.

With Kilimanjaro in the distance, I was filming an orphaned baby elephant searching for food. It found only a small mouthful of dry grass so dusty she expended more calories trying to shake the dust off than the handful of grass would afford her. As she stumbled not to fall from weakness, I turned off the camera and cried. I knew she would not make it until morning. What have we done, what have we lost for such poison comfort? How could it be that we can not embrace this change with more exuberance to preserve life beyond our own. When we left camp in morning her carcass laid there, the scavengers where too full to be interested.

My trip to Kenya was the result of one of those weird synchronistic "Esalen moments" . I was studying Permaculture at Esalen and Bill McKibben was teaching a writing course. I had just received emails from Maasai friends who were rationing water to babies. Bill walked by my window and heard me crying. He had asked us all to create an action the night before for After reading the email and talking to Bill about it, It was obvious what I had to do. I have been trying to describe the relationship of famine and poverty to climate change for several years. I was at Esalen as I thought Permaculture might be come a sustainable carbon offset that could reduce famine. this circuitous adventure has often left me feeling like a lonely warrior who no one really wants to hear. Now I realize my voice is no less than 100 million strong. I just happen to be the one who can afford the camera, the plane ticket, the time. It is a great honor and a great responsibility to dignify those who have been stripped of voice and resources…children born into a world of suffering.

I need help. I need more people with minds, opinions, resources, initiative to help me inspire corporate and political change. Back from a worldwind tour of Kenya I have only managed a few quick edits for in Paris. If you believe in clarifying this message in time for Copenhagen and have time, skill, or a bit of dosh, I have the footage to tell the story of Climate In Action.

Use less, Live MORE
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