I recently read, Start with Why, by Simon Sinek, a great read looking at what really drives a brand/cause to be successful. The message encouraged me to apply this theme to WAN.
In 1963, 250,000 people flocked to Washington DC to listen to Martin Luther King Jr. share “his dream” and vision for the United States. Long before Twitter and Facebook calls to rise up and gather, the massive crowd was spurred on by a group’s volition that shared a deep concern for change. During this period of time, racial prejudice was rampant throughout the country, indoctrinated in some of the country’s laws. Many felt that surmounting the challenge of racial discrimination was a lost cause before MLK Jr.’s vision and, more importantly, his followers who shared in that vision of a better life for all people. This was the WHY behind the movement’s success.
Fast forward to 2017 and it becomes apparent that many citizens who are deeply concerned about the state of the planet have lost hope and believe that reversing the ongoing damage to the planet’s natural habitats is near impossible. Some have even declared certain natural ecosystems, such as the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia dead. I would argue that this grim outlook ignores what can be done and the hope that still remains to solving some of the planet’s gravest challenges.
As is general scientific consensus, carbon emissions today compared to pre-industrial revolution periods are almost double. Science has also confirmed that because of this substantial increase in carbon in the atmosphere, ocean surface temperatures are rising, on average. Yes, intense warming has spiked in the past, signifying that the trend is not always linear; however what is clear is that 21st century has already become and is expected to be the warmest century on record. What does this mean for our oceans and what can be done about it?
The answer to both of these questions goes well beyond the scope of this piece. However what is clear is that natural ecosystems in the ocean, including the Great Barrier Reef, are suffering because of the gradual rise in ocean temperatures. This bleaching, as it is called, stress the reef, killing natural symbiotic algae that provide 90% of the ecosystems food. Without this, reefs die. According to the ISRS, between 33% and 50% of global reefs have been killed in recent decades. Research has shown that this effect not only directly impacts the diversity and livelihood of marine life, but also roughly 500 million people (8% of global population) who depend on the food, tourism, and protection that global reefs provide (roughly USD 30bn each year). Not only do warmer temperatures make life difficult within the ecosystem but also the absorption of carbon into the oceans acidifies the water, which deteriorates the sensory systems of marine life, reproduction, calcification, and metabolism of life in the ocean. Trash dumped or trickled into the ocean only exacerbate this problem. Simply put: this is unsustainable!
Now to the second part of the question: what can be done? Grass roots movements over time have brought the climate change debate to the global stage. Today, supranational institutions such as the UN and now following the Paris Climate Change summit, 194 signatories (e.g. countries) have supported shifting the negative trend in carbon output in attempt to help reverse the negative externalities from economic and industrial growth on the planet. Unfortunately, within the political realm there is still a huge debate over the science, despite the Scientific’s community overwhelming consensus. Moreover, this political hurdle is primarily an American one, particularly as much of the world looks to the Unities States for creative ways to solve climate change issues. This brings me to the crux of this blog: it is not WHAT can be done nor what is or is not being done that matter in this debate. What matters is the WHY. When people relate to the WHY behind a cause such as the millions who shared in MLK’s vision in 1963, change is inevitable. We are already starting to see it (see my next blog on a Republican’s response to carbon emissions, finally).
WAN is a true believer in change. Through our trash cleanups and awareness campaigns, we have become a part of the global WHY behind a better planet for everyone. Our work should not stop after a cleanup either. Even if you believe that climate change and its effects are still up for debate and that man cannot be the sole provocateur, the problem has revealed a far-reaching, global impact that requires an insurance policy. If you cannot help us during a pickup in Miami, find ways to limit your footprint on the planet by eating more naturally prepared and grown foods, recycling, using less plastic, and driving less. There are numerous ways you can positively influence this global debate. So, next time someone questions your concern about the planet’s welfare, don’t justify with the WHAT but share the WHY: in this case, a better more inclusive global ecosystem for current and future generations – simply put, a better life.