The coming wave of immigration: Climate change refugees

Rising sea levels will flood Bangladesh–and its impoverished population. It’s already happening, creating a new class of climate change refugees:

Masud, 19, lives in Korail, Dhaka’s largest slum. Its roughly 70,000 residents dwell in the shadow of the affluent Gulshan neighbourhood, with its mansions, restaurants and western-style shopping centres.

Masud, her husband Mohammed, and their year-old daughter Karima share a one-room shanty that can be crossed in two strides. It is made of corrugated steel sheets held up by wooden poles. A bed takes up a large portion of the room and a battered TV sits in one corner. In another corner are Masud’s dishes. The kitchen, a cramped space with a couple of shelves, is in the back, about a metre from a toilet shared by two dozen other families.

It is not just the smell. Every monsoon, when the slum is overrun with rainwater, cholera and malaria outbreaks are common. Masud has to cook while standing in puddles of muck; nearby, excrement gets stuck in the overflowing drains. She says she almost gags.

“I don’t want to live like this … who wants to?” says Masud, a pretty woman with big eyes and a sad smile. But after her husband’s family farm and home in Barisal, in southern Bangladesh, were inhaled by a powerful cyclone in 2008, they had no choice.

She is a climate change refugee.

Climate change is expected to trigger a migration like no other.

Experts expect about 250 million people worldwide to move by 2050. Of those, 20 million to 30 million climate change refugees are expected to be in Bangladesh, likely the largest number from one place.

As extreme weather, floods and drought force them to flee their homes, most will head to the capital.
Dhaka is the fastest-growing megacity in the world; its population is about 17 million, up from 12 million in 2005 and six million in 1990. By 2025, the UN says the city will be home to more than 20 million people.

Fast-growing urban areas like Dhaka will bear the brunt of climate change-related disasters, particularly because so many of them are located in coastal zones. Dhaka, on the banks of the Buriganga River in the low-lying Ganges Delta, is prone to flooding during monsoons.
As much as 40 per cent of Dhaka’s population — almost seven million — lives in tiny hovels in slums, beside railway tracks, along riverbanks and even on swampy lowlands in the shadow of glittering hotels.

The International Organization for Migration says about 70 per cent of these slum dwellers have come to Dhaka because of climate-change adversity.

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Scenes from Forward on Climate Rally

Keystone XL Pipeline: The fuse to a carbon bomb

Trans Canada Keystone Oil Pipeline
Photo by Shannon Ramos

What’s so important about the Keystone XL Pipeline? Why is it being called the fuse to a carbon bomb?

The key to Keystone XL is that it could transport almost exactly the amount of carbon needed to put us beyond the point of no return–when man-made climate change becomes irreversible.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is the conduit for the tar sands oil produced in the northwest regions of Canada. Fully harvested, the tar sands–besides having 12% higher carbon dioxide emissions than other sources of petroleum–would produce about one trillion metric tons of emissions.

Putting one trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere would produce a 2-degree Celsius increase in average global temperatures.

This just so happens to be the tipping point:

Two degrees [Celsius] is the maximum acceptable figure adopted by the European Union as a manageable level of warming, based on IPCC findings, beyond which it becomes unlikely that serious negative effects can be avoided.

The decision to develop tar sands and construct the Keystone XL Pipeline is a conscious decision to put ourselves beyond the tipping point. The oil from Canadian tar sands is a carbon bomb, and the Keystone XL Pipeline is the fuse. If the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline goes forward, we’ve knowingly lit the fuse.

 

Jill Stein at Forward on Climate Rally: Keystone XL is part of Obama’s “all-of-the-above” strategy

Jill Stein at the Forward on Climate Rally (Photo by @FracSandBoom)
Jill Stein at the Forward on Climate Rally (Photo by @FracSandBoom)

At the Forward on Climate Rally, Keith Wrightson interviews Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

She’s certain that Pres. Obama will allow the Keystone XL to go forward. “It’s writing on the wall,” she said. “It’s part of his all-of-the-above strategy.”

She urges people concerned about climate to exercise civil disobedience not only “in the streets,” but in the voting booth as well, quoting Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

Stein and her running mate Cheri Honkala committed civil disobedience at Hofstra University in October, when they tried to enter the site of the second presidential debate. They were handcuffed for eight hours.

Later in October Stein was again arrested while attempting to resupply protesters in Texas camping out in trees to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.

Post-election, Stein still seems determined. “It’s important that we lay down the agenda–let’s have political change instead of climate change.”

The Green Party has a “Green Deal,” which she says will address the “climate emergency and economic emergency [for] people, peace and climate.”

The plan includes rolling back military spending to year 2000 levels and halting the Wall Street bailouts, instead “baling out communities and homeowners.”

Life as War

THERE IS NO NATURE, THERE IS ONLY TECHNOLOGY

Many are familiar with the seminal 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi, or “Life Out of Balance.” Fewer know that it is the first of the Qatsi trilogy, visual tone poems all accompanied by Philip Glass’ minimalist but powerful music. Naqoyqatsi, “Life as War,” followed Powaqqatsi, “Life as Transformation,” to round out the exploration of human beings, nature and technology:

Naqoyqatsi is a Hopi word (more correctly written naqö̀yqatsi) meaning “life as war”. In the film’s closing credits, Naqoyqatsi is also translated as “civilized violence” and “a life of killing each other”. While Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi examine modern life in industrial countries and the conflict between encroaching industrialization and traditional ways of life, using slow motion and time-lapse footage of cities and natural landscapes, about eighty percent of Naqoyqatsi uses archive footage and stock images manipulated and processed digitally on non-linear editing (non-sequential) workstations and intercut with specially-produced computer generated imagery to demonstrate society’s transition from a natural environment to a technology-based one.

Technology is not in itself evil, nor do I think the film implies that. But divorced from nature, it becomes soulless. When our perception about ourselves is that we are not part of nature, we lose our integral connection to nature and thus to our souls. Somehow, in isolating ourselves from the natural environment, we have decided that we are something apart from it, above it even.

We are constantly making choices as a society about technology and our course into the future. To say that the “market” best determines our fate is not only irresponsible, it’s just inaccurate. We opened Pandora’s box with nuclear weapons and drone warfare. Life as war. We declared war on the planet as well–every energy policy our governments implement is a choice whether to make war or to make peace.

messagefromearthThe Keystone XL Pipeline is yet another Pandora’s box, one which might tip the balance toward irrevocable warming of the planet. We must make a conscious decision yes or no. We can’t leave it up to the energy industry to bully us into it.

It’s a horrifying vision, life without nature. It’s one reason why so many steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that global warming is happening–it’s just too overwhelming. It simply can’t be true that we’re headed toward such a nightmare future. The people rising up against Keystone XL and the fossil fuel economy are courageous in their refusal to look away. They refuse to accept “Life Out of Balance” or “Life as War.” Let us make this era Powaqqatsi, Life as Transformation–and move toward Life in Balance.

Forward on Climate: Activists to draw line in the sand on climate issues

People have been pouring into Washington, DC for what is expected to be the largest ever rally in the U.S. drawing attention to the issue of climate change.

The weather is blustery out there for activists–highs in the mid-30’s with winds gusting up to 40 mph.

The last mass protest around climate change was four years ago, just after Barack Obama was sworn in the first time. 12,000 people, mostly college students, came to Washington, DC for a three-day action:

Organizers called a grassroots lobbying drive on Monday “the biggest lobbying day on climate and energy” in the country’s history as they enlisted some 4,000 students to visit nearly every congressional office. And later that day, in what activists dubbed “the largest mass civil disobedience on climate” in the U.S., some 2,500 people blockaded the gates of the Capitol Power Plant, which burns coal to provide heat to the senators’ and representatives’ offices, a symbol of the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

At least 20,000 participants are expected today.

This time a high priority will be to persuade Pres. Obama to block Keystone XL, the export pipeline which has been called “the fuse to North America’s biggest carbon bomb.”

Cool Revolution will be making updates throughout the day here and on Twitter (@cool_revolution). DC Media Group will be providing full coverage of the event–go to dcmediagroup.info for all livestream feeds, twitter streams and photos, as well as the Facebook page.

UPDATE 3:30pm: As the march heads from the White House back to the Monument, organizers put crowd count at 50,000.

UPDATE 5:00pm: Huffington Post estimates the crowd at 40,000.

“Resurgence of grassroot activism” inspires Sierra Club leaders to adopt civil disobedience tactics

Michael Brune of Sierra Club and Bill McKibben of 350.org prepare for arrest

For the first time in its 120-year history, the environmental group Sierra Club engaged in a civil disobedience action.

Allison Chin, President of the Sierra Club Board of Directors, and Executive Director Michael Brune lined up in front of the White House to be arrested for obstruction along with 46 others activists. Many of them were also leaders of fellow environmental advocacy organizations, such as Rainforest Action Network, Earthworks, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace and 350.org.

“We have joined the ranks of visionaries of the past and present to engage in civil disobedience, knowing that the issue at hand is so critical, it compels the strongest defensible action,” said Brune.

And he believes that it has been successful. “We’re on the cusp of a clean energy revolution in the U.S.,” he said. “We have a movement of people who are fighting for clean energy, and they’re winning.”

More from interview with Michael Brune:

On global warming denial:

I think what’s behind it is fear. We have built an economy that is based on fossil fuels, and people don’t know what the world can look like when we move off of those fuels. People who deny climate change obviously haven’t looked at the science, they haven’t had a candid, honest, thoughtful conversation with someone who has studied this issue, and they fear for what a transition will mean for their lives.

So what we say to them is that the clean energy solutions that we’ve been talking are being put into place right now. Iowa gets almost 25% of its power just from wind. South Dakota the same. California will soon get 30% of its power from solar and wind.

We’re just getting started. We’ve quintupled the amount of solar energy that’s being produced in the us in just the last four years. Wind energy has doubled in the last four years. We know in our generation we’re going to build an economy based on power that’s clean and renewable, and it will put more people to work. It will increase our quality of life at the same time.

Is global warming at the point of no return?

No, I don’t think so. I think that we are on the cusp of a clean energy revolution in the United States. We’re seeing a resurgence of grassroots activism that’s stopped a 175 coal plants from being built, that is exposing the dangers of fracking, that has slowed mountain-top removal in Appalachia, that’s secured the retirement of 137 existing coal-fired power plants. So we have a movement of people who are fighting for clean energy, they’re winning, and we’re building momentum.

On President Obama’s State of the Union address:

I thought that they [his remarks] were largely pretty good. To have a president speak forcefully and candidly about the science behind climate change and connecting the extreme weather events that we saw with the opportunity for action is a powerful thing. And what we really need to see of course is for the President to follow up his Inauguration speech and the State of the Union last night with strong action to stop arctic drilling, to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline, to stop mountain-top removal,
and to invest in solar and wind with all of his might and ambition instead.