Creating a better future
Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be selected to become a part of The Climate Project (TCP) and be trained by Al Gore to become an official Climate Project Presenter. The core of The Climate Project is to build a global force of trained presenters to help educate people about the urgency and solvability of the climate crisis at a grassroots level. To date close to 3,000 of us have been trained and we have already delivered the presentation to over 7.3 million people and 1 in 70 Australians have already seen it. The good news is that TCP presenters have already begun to make a difference and that Al Gore has personally had calls and messages from world leaders, politicians and business leaders saying that they have seen a TCP presentation and that it has influenced their decision to think more about the environment.
The training involved three days in Jakarta joining over 300 other selected individuals from Asia. I must say that the training was fantastic and first class but for me the real learning experience and impact of Climate Change came from me meeting three unique and very different individuals at the conference.
The first person I met was Dr Henry Pollack who is the author of a book “A World Without Ice”a member on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and a professor at the University of Michigan for over 40 years. I must say it was not your usual introduction to a well-respected scientist as you would expect. I was at dinner with all the Australian contingent and I happen to sit next to this man who did look like a professor and strike up a conversation thinking he was a fellow presenter here in Jakarta for the training. He is one of the most unassuming and humble person I have ever met. It wasn’t until we had debated what was worth ordering on the menu that I realised who he was and that it was recommended that I read his book before coming to Jakarta!
Henry went on to tell me that throughout his study and decades of research he devised a formula that could determine the atmospheric temperature of buried rocks when they we on the surface hundreds of years ago. He saw my puzzled look and thankfully went on to explain, “You know when you place a rock by the fire and when that fire goes out that rock retains some of its heat long after the fire goes out?” Thankfully I was following him in this conversation so far and I nodded. Henry continued, “Well I kind of developed a way of determining out the individual heat signature of rocks so I could find out what the surface temperature was like when that rock was on the surface.” Now I have absolutely no idea how someone would go about figuring all that out or even where to start.
It was then that it really hit home and I had my first of many real reflection points. Some of the scientists telling us this information are truly amazing and intelligent people and we should be listening to them and taking more notice of what they are telling us.
I really like his quote when he delivered the science update to the group explaining why he loves working with ice. “Ice asks no questions, presents no arguments, reads no newspapers, listens to no debates. It is not burdened by ideology and carries no political baggage as it changes from a solid to liquid. It just melts”
The second person I meet was a young Fijian guy called Ku Mon. We got on really well as he enjoys a beer and is a big All Black rugby fan. We got talking and we swapped stories about what brought us here. He went on to say he was enjoying his life and was working in the Kiribati Islands when he saw a pregnant woman drink salty water from a well. Now this well had supplied fresh drinking water to the village since people had been there and had sustained life on that Island for generations. For the first time due to the sea level rising this pregnant woman was forced to drink salty water. I could tell that this had a huge impact on him and recalling the sorry was pretty hard for him. So he said “I have to do something! My home is sinking”.
So this leads on to my second reflection point. We are seeing climate change refugees in our own back yard. For some people climate change is more real and is directly affecting their own existence.
The third and final person I met was of course Al Gore himself. I have seen a number of people speak including Prime Ministers, CEO’s and Sporting Legends. I must say that seeing Al Gore in full flight talking about a topic that he is no doubt passionate about was an experience I will not forget. Even with a room full of 300 other presenters and press I felt that the whole time he was talking directly to me which is a great skill that I will hopefully be able to master one day.
When Al Gore went on to explain that graph. The one that goes back 800,000 years showing the earth’s history in terms of Co2 concentrations and Temperature which is the result of all the work that Dr Henry Pollack and his colleagues have done over the decades. When we get to the point of the last 50 years and you see the dramatic spike in atmospheric Co2 concentrations which up over 400 parts per million (PPM) and on track in the next 35 years to top over 530 you literally heard a gasp in the audience. Now most of us have already seen Inconvenient Truth and seen that graph before but there is something different about having someone live in front of you explain what it is really telling you and when that someone is Al Gore I had a lump in my throat and had mixed emotions ranging from hopelessness, anger, despair to sheer determination to fix it.
So my final point is our history tells us that we are already way outside our comfort zone in terms of Co2 concentrations and that a business as usual approach may have consequences that we just cannot predict.
It was a pretty intense three days that covered many issues and included PR, public speaking training and also a session run by the Obama camp trainers on how to develop your own story and the power of a simple narrative. Since coming back to Sydney I have delivered a number of presentations to my own team, sustainability consultants (very intimidating!) industry bodies and even on a harbour cruise. I usually start by telling the audience a bit about the Climate Project but also about the three people I met and my three personal reasons why we need to do something.
1: We should be listening more to the scientists
2: We are already seeing Climate Change refugees
3: Our history shows we are already out of our comfort zone in terms of Co2 levels.
I then finish with my own very personal fourth reason why doing nothing about climate change in not an option. Last year I become a Dad for the first time and I am a father to a beautiful 1 year old girl.(You can see my previous blog post about it here) When she is my age in 35 years will she be dealing with a home that has over 530PPM in the atmosphere? What will that world look like? It is because of this forth reason why I went to Jakarta, it is why I am writing this blog and why everyone needs to see a Climate Change Presentation and understand the issue for themselves.
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