2010: The year nature struck back?

Will 2010 be remembered as the year when nature struck back? We’ve witnessed the devastating Earthquake in Haiti, the toxic oil gusher in the Gulf, and now, historic floods in Pakistan that have killed over 1,000 people and displaced millions more.

And those are just the international headlines. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find the stories about record heat in Russia, hurricanes slamming Mexico, or raging infernos in southern California.

Yet, despite the horrors – and they truly have been horrors, just take a moment to watch this week’s video footage of entire towns wiped off the map in Pakistan – it’s likely that when our collective memory looks back on 2010 we’ll remember protagonists like Obama, LeBron, and Gaga, not Mother Earth.

Our rapidly degrading planet, and the human suffering that accompanies its decline, is a storyline that the mainstream media just can’t quite seem to grasp.

Let’s take the current crisis. As the flood waters in Pakistan recede, will the media dig into the causes of these floods with the same gusto with which they’ve tracked terrorists, imams, and leaks?

Doubtful. The coverage I’ve seen over the past few days has made no mention of climate change and its role in intensifying monsoons like the one now devastating the Himalayas. Of course, the destruction of human homes should take the headlines, but the narrative of how we’re wrecking humanity’s home should be in the articles.

Just as war correspondents connect a car bomb to a conflict, we need reporters who can connect a crisis to the climate.

But isn’t it impossible to connect local weather events to climate change, though? Sure, just like it’s impossible to say that a suicide bomber is strapping on dynamite because of US foreign policy – couldn’t it be the death of a father, the peer pressure of radical friends, the promise of heaven?

In a time of war, we look at an isolated incident as part of a larger pattern of violence. In the era of global warming, it’s time to start seeing isolated floods, droughts, and fires as part of the larger violence we’re inflicting on our increasingly fragile planet.

Only when we see our problems as interconnected can we start to create the innovative solutions necessary to solve them.

There are already great efforts to tackle two challenges with one loan, or take on two problems with one home. Take the Barefoot College in India, which trains women to build and maintain solar panels for their communities, helping solve pollution and poverty. Or Architecture for Humanity, who are helping rebuild Haiti to build stronger and more resilient so it can face a future that guarantees more natural challenges ahead.

At the campaign I work with, 350.org, we’re trying to provide a platform for citizens across the planet to get involved in these innovative solutions. On October 10, we’re collaborating with hundreds of other organizations to host the 10/10/10 Global Work Party, when thousands of communities will get to work on solutions to the climate crisis.

There are already over 1,000 events planned around the world, many of them in the developing world, some in countries like Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan, which, as the headlines will tell you, are embroiled in conflicts.

Why would citizens in these countries take the time to care about climate change? Just ask Sayeed Masoud, a graduate student who after organizing an event with 350.org in Kabul last year told Public Radio International:

“As you know, that our country faces many challenges, most of which need no explanation to you. But there is one crisis that looms large without much attention here in Afghanistan. This is, I think, that this is the greatest or the worse crisis, disaster, that humanity has ever faced. We will be the leaders.

We will be those who will be impacted by the effects of climate change, and this is we who have to take the action and create awareness, draw the attention of the world, that youth, wherever, everywhere we’re all united in one voice that we want the world leaders and the world powers to accept our demands and go with 350.”

With your help, on 10/10/10 we’ll send a message to our politicians and the media: we’re working on the solutions to our interconnected problems, what about you?

4 Responses to “2010: The year nature struck back?”

  1. 1 Tod B Aug 4th, 2010 at 2:43 am

    “Just as war correspondents connect a car bomb to a conflict, we need reporters who can connect a crisis to the climate.”


    …and editors who have the guts to encourage reporters to connect the dots.

    …and publishers who care as much about real, world changing news as profits.

  2. 2 Anna Haynes Aug 4th, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Strange bedfellows: itsgettinghotinhere.org shares a server with co2insanity.com
    (they’re on a wordpress.com server, sharing space with ~75 others)

  3. 3 Craig Altemose Aug 9th, 2010 at 12:13 pm


    Thanks so much for sharing this. I’ve been having some similar thoughts (and feeling very frustrated), as Moscow chokes with the fumes of forest fires. Moscow? Forest fires? Seriously? And not a word, not a single word about what’s causing it from the media.

    Some days are hard. Keep on fighting the good fight my friend.

  4. 4 Deborah Aug 18th, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    How much harder we all need to work and to all the people who read articles like this..pass them on and share the wear (or care). Poor old Mother Earth, I was driving home along a quiet, country road yesterday and drope up to a car with an L plate sign in the back window, the driver was creeping along doing the right thing at 80km’s an hour then suddenly wound down the window and threw from it, the remains of all of the packaging from the kentucky fried chicken she had just eaten – into the middle of the road. I pulled next to them and slowed as I was passing so I could give them my harshest look of contempt (they didn’t even notice me!). The driver was a teenage girl and an older man, possibly her father, was in the passenger seat. They were laughing together as they drove along this quiet country road.

    It struck me as a pretty powerful, albeit microcosmic metaphor in the vast scheme of this crisis…

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About Jamie

Jamie is the co-coordinator of 350.org, an international global warming campaign. A recent college graduate, he lives in San Francisco, CA. In 2007, he co-organized Step It Up, a campaign that pulled together over 2,000 climate rallies across the United States to push for strong climate action at the federal level. He's also an early member of the youth climate movement, leading one of Energy Action's first campaigns in 2005: Road to Detroit, a nationwide veggie-oil bus tour to promote sustainable transportation. He's traveled to Montreal and Bali to lobby the UN with youth, but he's a strong believer that change happens in the streets not in meetings. Jamie received the Morris K. Udall award in 2007 and has been recognized by the mighty state of Vermont for his work on climate change. You can also find him blogging at Campus Progress' "Pushback," Changents.com, and 350.org.

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