I had a bit of a roller coaster of emotions this week; on Tuesday I spoke at an event at the Port of Seattle (not for Happy Eco News, but for my day job). The trouble is, I am pretty much a terrible public speaker. In a one-on-one situation I have no problem; I can work the room like nobody’s business, but more than 20 people? I am petrified.
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, a democrat with a long history of environmental stewardship, invited eleven companies to participate in the Maritime Blue Accelerator program, mine was one of the eleven. How could I say no? I could not think of any graceful way to decline, and so that is how on the evening of Tuesday, January 21, 2020, I found myself up on stage in front of about 250 policy makers, port administrators and leaders of industry. Yes, it was scary and yes, I was shaky, but I did it and in some small way, felt like a page has turned. Now don’t get me wrong; I am not going out of my way looking for speaking spots, but now I’ve done it and I didn’t actually die, maybe next time won’t be so bad.
But the truth is, I didn’t put myself through that for my own personal gain, or that of my company, I did it because I truly believe we all need to feel a little discomfort right now. We all need to feel a little pain if we are going to make the world a better place. Get too used to comfort and then you become complacent. Then those who would benefit from your inaction have the upper hand. A wise person once told me “Humans only fear one thing; discomfort”. The older I get the more I believe this to be true.
If the build-up to the presentation on Tuesday was the low point of the roller coaster, the high came from realizing how truly awesome the other companies were. From industrial waste soil remediation to plastic fishing net recycling, all of them are in some way focussed on making the world a better place – and they are doing it for profit. They are building businesses, employing people, paying taxes and buying goods and services along the way.
It flies in the face of the notion that the only way to have a prosperous economy is to destroy the environment with carbon intense, extractive, resource-based business. It simply is not true, and we all know better. A majority of citizens understand the benefits of switching to low carbon economies and want the shift to occur now, before it is too late. The shift is happening, and it is happening despite the insane arguments and tactics put forth by existing politicians and their backers who continue to profit from these continued delays.
I have been listening to a new podcast for the last few weeks. I really can’t seem to get enough of it. In the car, on the bus or at the gym, I have been binge listening to Outrage and Optimism, the podcast of former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres. The interviews with David Attenborough, Ellie Goulding, Jane Goodall, Governor Jay Inslee, Greta Thunberg, and Bill McKibben are available online or wherever you find your favourite podcasts.
Her father, José Figueres Ferrer, was President of Costa Rica three times starting in 1948 and is credited as the person who made the country what it is today. Under his rule, the military was abolished, women and Afro-Costa Ricans were granted the right to vote, and education was guaranteed for all. Today, Costa Rica is stable and democratic with a high literacy rate and universal health care for all residents, citizens or not. More than 60 years later there is still no need for a military. The World Health Organization (WHO) frequently places Costa Rica in the top country rankings in the world for long life expectancy.
So, coming from a family history such as it is, it is no wonder that Ms. Figueres would find a high level in service to her country and later to the world. After an unproductive COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, the success of COP25 in Paris was in large part attributed directly to the efforts of Christiana Figueres in her role with the UN.
I was at COP25 in Paris that December of 2015, speaking to a much smaller group about the decarbonization of the marine industry. At the time, I had no idea of the efforts being put forth by her and the other dedicated people who made such a difference. Even now, not many people are aware of those efforts, or how close it was to failure, but the legacy of their effort will live on. It is no small item to note that when a person of her stature speaks, people listen. On this week’s podcast she said something that I feel is extremely important: She predicted that those carbon peddling politicians, companies and the people who direct them will soon be held liable for their actions. To knowingly act against the best interest of the planet should be, and soon will be, considered a crime. Ms. Figueres predicted that those individuals and organizations who are actively and knowingly working against the health of the planet will soon be held liable for crimes against humanity.
I highly recommend her podcast. It pays respect to the idea that we ought to be and maybe need to be outraged at the crimes against the natural world by those who profit from its destruction, but at the same time it offers hope and optimism by giving people insight into the positive things that are occurring. If I were to create a Happy Eco News podcast, I would aspire to some day be at this level (and maybe some day I will).
It is encouraging to know that there are many very dedicated people tirelessly working toward fixing the mistakes of the past. They are working every day and night at grassroots levels all the way up to regulatory levels. They are working to enact the change that will turn this ship around and get us heading toward a green future. For their work and just for knowing they exist, I am very grateful.
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