Friday, August 12, 2016

Transformative Travel -- from Encore Magazine

Photographer:  Melissa Zeithammel

Travel can change you, and writing about your travels can help you to see the world with new eyes and new possibilities. It was a belief in this transformative power of travel that led Sonya Bernard-Hollins to form a club allowing girls from Kalamazoo to Ann Arbor to travel and write about their travels.

The Merze Tate Explorers club — the Merze Tate Travel Writers Club until last year — was inspired by an 80-year-old photo of Merze Tate, says Bernard-Hollins.

Bernard-Hollins had been a reporter for the Kalamazoo Gazette when she first learned of Tate in 2003 while researching African-American firsts of Western Michigan University. Tate, a professor, scholar and expert on U.S. diplomacy, was the first black woman to receive a bachelor's degree from Western State Teachers College — now WMU — in 1927. During her career, Tate explored the world, learned five languages and worked as a writer and photographer for the U.S. State Department.

Bernard-Hollins found a “gold mine” of information about Tate in WMU's archives, including a photo “which never left me,” she says. The photo was of a travel club for students that Tate created in 1928 when she was a history teacher at Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis. The club’s intent was to teach students more about U.S. history by traveling to places like Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Niagara Falls.

“This was during the Depression years of 1928, and Indianapolis was the heart of the Ku Klux Klan,” says Bernard-Hollins. “Many of the parents of the children in the club were servants and chauffeurs, a future they expected for their own children. While the parents wanted more for their children, Tate's efforts of taking African-American students on educational excursions met with critical questions from the media. However, Tate's vision was to expose young people to the world so that they could go beyond the expectations of their time.”

Inspired by Tate and thinking “a travel club for girls would be fun,” Bernard-Hollins created the Merze Tate Travel Writers Club in 2008. The club’s purpose was to provide girls with an opportunity to travel, discover women who had made an impact on their communities and write about their experiences.

Bernard-Hollins received a $2,000 grant from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation to create the program.

The Merze Tate Travel Writers Club began with 12 girls, who had to apply, be interviewed and demonstrate their writing skills. Members met two Saturdays each month during the school year, and their first trips included visits to Detroit to see the Motown Museum, Wayne State University and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and to Tuskegee, Alabama, to see the Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum. There, they met original Tuskegee airmen and a woman who stuffed parachutes for the airmen.

In the second year of the club, more than 50 girls participated. In its third year, club members created a documentary on Tate’s life, The World Through the Lens of Merze Tate. It debuted at the Grand Rapids Public Museum during Black History Month in 2012.

“We always have the girls' mothers for chaperones on the trips, and many of them had never been to the places we were going,” says Bernard-Hollins. “As we went through the years and families saw how excited the girls were, more and more volunteers came forth, including the girls' fathers and aunts.”

Bernard-Hollins also emphasizes career and leadership development to the girls. Members meet local professional women from various occupations to help them think about future careers. One of these women was Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran, the former president of Kalamazoo College.

“Dr. Wilson-Oyelaran was seated in the boardroom when the girls arrived, but none of them had a clue as to who she was,” says Bernard-Hollins. “When she was introduced as the president, they all perked up. That showed me that exposing them to influential people can make a huge difference for them.”

Eight of the original 12 club members went to college, says Bernard-Hollins. One of those young women, Tori Zackery, 19, is a sophomore at Michigan State University studying photojournalism. In 2015, Zackery received a $2,000 study-abroad scholarship to visit Berlin, Munich and Paris, and she credits the travel club as her inspiration.

“I didn't realize at the time how valuable it would become to be able to look beyond the surface of a place I've lived my entire life and report on its history and secrets,” says Zackery. “Those skills separate tourists from travelers,
 and they became extremely useful during my time in Europe.”

In 2013, Bernard-Hollins established a week-long residential Travel Writers Academy on the campus of Kalamazoo College. It allows girls in grades 4-12 to experience college life and interact with women from various career fields and with world travel experiences. The academy participants then write about their experiences and publish them in the organization’s annual Girls Can! magazine, which is unveiled during Art Hop in September.

In 2015, the organization became a nonprofit and changed its name to Merze Tate Explorers. In addition to girls from Kalamazoo, it now has members from Ann Arbor, Albion, Battle Creek, Richland and Portage.

Merze Tate traveled around the world twice, and now the Merze Tate Explorers club helps facilitate international travel opportunities for its members as well. In 2015, Claire Khabeiry and Natasha Mahonie, who were both 15 at the time and members since 2009, went to France for 30 days. The Greg Jennings Foundation covered half of their travel expenses, while The Faces of America program provided additional funding. Fundraisers and the girls’ families paid the rest.

Bernard-Hollins admits she didn't have a complete plan when she decided to start the Merze Tate Explorers but says there has been a consistent philosophy behind its success.

“We eliminate all excuses not to dream big.”

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Other End of the Pipeline

This article was published in Resilience on May 31, 2016

For over 500 years native peoples in the Americas have fought for their homes against people from far away lands. Now, in Alberta, Canada, they are fighting for their homes against a gooey, black substance that sits underground: the oil sands.

The Athabasca oil sands are large deposits of bitumen or extremely heavy crude oil, located in northeastern Alberta near the 1971-81 boomtown of Fort McMurray. They consist of a mixture of crude bitumen (a semi-solid rock-like form of crude oil), silica sand, clay minerals and water—what some people consider to be “the bottom of the barrel.”

The Athabasca deposit, the largest known reservoir of crude bitumen in the world, covers an area about 54,000 square miles (about the size of the state of Florida), which is characterized by boreal forest and muskeg (peat bogs). The International Energy Agency estimates economically recoverable reserves to be 178 billion barrels or 10 percent of the 1.7 trillion barrels of bitumen in-place. These reserves are the third largest reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia and the Orinoco Belt in Venezuela.

Oil produced from bitumen sands is often referred to as “unconventional oil” or “crude bitumen,” to distinguish it from liquid hydrocarbons produced from traditional oil wells, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Crude bitumen is a thick, sticky form of crude oil, so heavy that it will not flow unless heated or diluted with lighter hydrocarbons such as light crude oil or natural-gas condensate. At room temperature, it is much like cold molasses.

The indigenous people of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation live in this region, which is the size of Switzerland, and 65 miles northeast of Edmonton, Alberta. Because of the Canadian Treaty of 1876, they have enjoyed legal rights to hunt, fish and trap in their territory, as their ancestors had done for generations. The pristine forests have provided the native people with their homes, food and medicines. However, the oil sands industries in Alberta are displacing the people through deforestation and pollution of the air, land and water.

Crystal Lameman
Crystal Lameman, 34, who serves as the Beaver Creek Cree Nation's coordinator of intergovernmental affairs and industry relations as well as manager of communications, spoke recently to an audience of over 400 people at the Aquinas College Performing Arts Center in Grand Rapids. Her visit was sponsored by the Wege Foundation  of Grand Rapids.

“The Canadian government has failed in its duty to consult us,” said Lameman. “It has leased out land to every major oil company. There is an urgent need for the government to recognize the land rights of indigenous people who developed their own laws and practices thousands of years ago.”

On May 14, 2008, the Beaver Lake Cree released their Kétuskéno Declaration asserting their role as caretakers of their traditional territories and started a legal action to: a) enforce recognition of their Constitutionally protected rights to hunt, trap and fish, and b) protect the ecological integrity of their territories.

Canada's 1982 Constitution also provides for First Nation's Rights, said Lameman, which the nation is using as grounds for a legal challenge against the Canadian government.

“They made their law. The companies come to our land without our consent. We have treaty rights. We can't be economic hostages in a game of roulette where someone always loses. For us, it's our next seven generations who lose.”

The Beaver Lake Cree Nation is suffering from significant changes on its land like major migrations of wildlife, which in turn affect the nation's food supply, said Lameman. Many animals are contaminated. Caribou are dying or diseased and less than 300 are still alive. Dear meat is green. Traces of arsenic in moose are 450 times higher than normal. Fish and waterfowl are high in mercury and often found with tumors. The people who eat this game are getting cancer and dying. Others just get sick, like Lameman's son who has nosebleeds and her niece who has asthma attacks. The young feel hopeless about the future. One year, there were five suicides in Lameman's band of 1200.

“The old people remember when they could drink pure water from the rivers and lakes, but now that water is disappearing or it's polluted from these extreme resource extractions,” she said. “As a woman raised by my aunties, uncles, grandma and old people, I learned to be responsible to the water because it was considered a gift, and we had the responsibility to protect it. We carry life in water. It connects all of us. I also have the understanding that Mother Earth is our grocery store as it provides all the things we need to survive.”

In addition to the oil wells, which take up one hectare (2.47 acres) of habitat loss, are the processing plants or SAGDs (Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage), which is an enhanced oil recovery technology for producing this heavy crude oil and bitumen. It is an advanced form of steam stimulation in which a pair of horizontal wells is drilled into the oil reservoir, one a few meters above the other. High pressure steam is continuously injected into the upper wellbore to heat the oil and reduce its viscosity, thus causing the heated oil to drain into the lower wellbore where it is pumped out. The SAGD plants occupy 400,000 hectares or nearly one million acres of deforested land.

“SAGD leaves a larger environmental footprint than open-pit mining because it also requires technical support roads and infrastructure,” said Lameman. “It is impossible for wildlife to live in this kind of environment.”

Deforestation has occurred throughout these lands and that includes making additional space for natural gas extraction, including fracking. Taking natural gas requires the use of dangerous chemicals and heat injection passing through a series of pipes.

Then Lameman showed the audience a map of the network of pipes with little black dots indicating places where there were spills. The map was nearly covered with black dots.

“In Michigan [whose gasoline comes from the oil sands] it is believed that this oil should pass through thicker pipes,” said Lameman. “In Alberta, we have a new kind of pipe that allows the oil to flow through, however, eventually these pipes will leak.”

Nevertheless, so far it does not appear that the protection of either the environment or the Beaver Lake Cree Nation's treaty rights will get in the way of economics.

The oil sands are a lucrative investment in energy production. They provide about 170 billion barrels of oil, or about 13 percent of total global oil reserves, according to Alberta’s Oil Sands, a government website. Nearly 2 million barrels of crude were produced every day in 2011, and the energy sector (oil and gas mining) accounted for over 22 percent of Alberta's GDP in 2012. As of July 2013, there were 114 active oil sands projects in Alberta. Of these, six were producing mining projects (three more are under application); the remaining projects used various in-situ recovery methods.

The benefits of the oil sands to Albertans is unmistakable. In 2012, approximately 121,500 people were employed. Royalties from the oil sands were $3.56 billion in 2012-13, which helps fund many public services. According to the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI), Alberta can expect $350 billion in royalties and $122 billion in provincial and municipal tax revenue over the next 25 years.

The oil sands also affect the jobs of 112,500 people across Canada outside the province of Alberta, which is expected to grow to more than 500,000 jobs over the next 25 years in six broad sectors: professional services, oilfield services, manufacturing, wholesale trade, financial services and transportation.

Alberta's economy has vastly improved with exports of goods rising about 50 percent from 2002 to 2012 to $95 billion, which includes almost $68 billion in energy exports. Alberta businesses also have the lowest tax regime in Canada where they do not pay general sales taxes, capital taxes or payroll taxes. The general corporate tax rate is 10 percent, and the small business tax rate is three percent. Alberta also has the lowest gasoline tax among the provinces.

About 10 percent of the oil sands workforce is comprised of indigenous peoples. In 2011, the value of contracts between oil sands companies and indigenous companies was over $1 billion.

However, as lucrative an economic venture the oil sands are for Canada, the Beaver Lake Cree Nation is left out and suffering social, environmental and spiritual damage. As a result, in 2008, the Nation launched Treaty Rights litigation against the Canadian government, claiming that the 19,000+ fossil fuel projects in their territory violate their treaty rights and threaten to destroy their way of life by polluting and fragmenting the land and water that have sustained them for centuries.

“This is about the air that we breathe and the water that we drink,” said Lameman. “No matter your race, color or creed, this challenge is about you. The government fought hard to have our case thrown out of court because the legal precedents weigh heavily against them. Now, with a judgment that this will go to trial, the government hopes we'll be defeated either by the cost of the litigation or by the time it takes to gather the necessary resources to get this case in front of the judge before the health of our land is irreversible.”

Lameman also referred to Article 32 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which was meant to determine and develop strategies for the use of native people's lands. It was adopted on Thursday, September 13, 2007, by a majority of 144 states in favor and 4 votes against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States).

As a General Assembly Declaration, it is not a legally binding instrument under international law, cites a UN press release, but it does “represent the dynamic development of international legal norms, and it reflects the commitment of the UN's member states to move in certain directions.” The UN describes UNDRIP as setting “an important standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples that will undoubtedly be a significant tool toward eliminating human rights violations against the planet's 370 million indigenous peoples and assisting them in combatting discrimination and marginalization.”

UNDRIP codifies “indigenous historical grievances, contemporary challenges and socio-economic, political and cultural aspirations,” and it is a “culmination of generations-long efforts by indigenous organizations to get international attention, to secure recognition for their aspirations, and to generate support for their political agendas.” Ken Coates, Canada research chair and faculty member at the University of Saskatchewan, argues that UNDRIP resonates powerfully with indigenous peoples, while national governments have not yet fully understood its impact.

Lameman's talk was sponsored by the Wege Foundation. Founded in 1967 by Peter M. Wege, son of Peter Martin Wege, who started what is now Steelcase, Inc. The Wege Foundation focuses on funding good works that enhance the lives of the people and preserves the health of the environment in West Michigan. The Wege Foundation's Five Pillars, or areas of interest include: education, environment, arts and culture, health care and human services.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Student's Award-winning Film Captures Peer's Never-Give-up Spirit

Western Michigan University -- College of Arts and Sciences 

| WMU News

Photo of Tirrea Billings and Johnson Simon.
Tirrea Billings and Johnson Simon
Tirrea Billings elevates stories on film. Johnson Simon does wonderful things to canvas with paint.

Their two passions converge in Billings' documentary "Painting Dreams: The Story of Johnson Simon."

Recently recognized with a national award no other WMU student filmmaker has achieved, the film showcases Simon's quest to overcome, through his craft, the challenges of cerebral palsy. At the same time, it showcases Billings' talent for storytelling.

As a youth, cruelly and frequently teased because of his condition and treated in school as though he had an intellectual impairment, Simon concluded that life wasn’t worth living—until he discovered his artistic talent.

"That kept me positive all the time. That really changed me," he explains in Billings' film. "Art is what makes me, me."

The film captures Simon layering canvas with paint in studio at WMU, at times using to artistic advantage the spasticity of his hands and fingers caused by cerebral palsy.

Billings recognized the beauty and inspiration of Simon's life experiences after the two met at a student organization's Bible study. A storyteller in multiple mediums, she initially wrote about her peer for an English class assignment, but knew she also wanted to capture him on film.

"'Painting Dreams' is about an inspirational, kind-hearted, motivated individual who does not look at his cerebral palsy as a setback, but rather as a reason to be even more motivated in pursing his dreams," says Billings, a senior from Saginaw, Michigan, who is studying film, video and media studies at WMU.

"Simon continues to break the stereotypes of college students with disabilities, and is living testimony that nothing is impossible. And, most importantly, he illustrates what it means to never, never give up," she says.

Finding the beauty in truth

Billings enjoys creating documentary films because she's moved by the real-life experiences of others and the beauty of their truth.

"Films are like visual books," she says. "I want to share those visions and those stories with the world. There is so much beauty in truth, and I want to capture that beauty in my documentaries."

Photo of Johnson Simon and Tirrea Billings.

 In February, her hard work earned special recognition. "Painting Dreams" received an honorable mention in the Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts. 

The competitive festival is open to individual BEA faculty and student members, and it witnessed more than 1,500 entries this year. Prizes were awarded in April during BEA's annual convention and festival in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"I never imagined getting a national award so early in my career," Billings says. "The BEA film competition is extremely competitive, and I am honored to be the first to receive an award in WMU history! Not only is this validation that I am definitely pursing a career that I was meant for, but it also gives me the motivation to keep advancing my skills in documentary filmmaking."

Dr. Jennifer A. Machiorlatti, professor of communication and Billings' mentor, says that by pursuing documentary filmmaking, the undergraduate is on a path not many students choose.

"It's a very specialized profession that certainly doesn't have the income potential of broadcast or fiction feature films," Machiorlatti says. "But documentary educates, informs, uplifts and gets people involved with their communities. These films change lives, and Tirrea is already well on her way to becoming a talented storyteller and community activist."

After receiving her diploma from WMU next December, Billings plans to seek a graduate degree in documentary filmmaking and journalism from DePaul University in Chicago.

Meanwhile, Simon also plans on attending graduate school where he will study to be an art professor or an art therapist with an emphasis in painting.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Changing of the Guard at Kalamazoo College

President Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran (2005-16) with President Jorge Gonzalez (2016- )

Here is an article I wrote for Encore Magazine--June 2016 issue. 

It was indeed a privilege to write about the outgoing and incoming presidents of Kalamazoo College. Click on the links to each article.

"I have great faith this spirit will continue" 
Dr. Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran

Kismet brings new leader to Kalamazoo College
Dr. Jorge Gonzalez

Friday, April 22, 2016

EARTH DAY EXCLUSIVE -- Paris Climate Change Agreement: The World’s Greatest Diplomatic Success


This borrowed headline in The Guardian best sums up the hope for a change to a more sustainable world thanks to the Paris agreement of December 12, 2015.  A consensus among the world’s 195 nations was an earth-shattering acknowledgement that we all need to do something—and fast.

Some WMU professors feel much the same way.

“This is a sea change,” said David Karowe, professor of biological sciences who specializes in global change ecology.

“It is the first time this variety and quantity of countries agreed that humans must slow down climate change. If they follow through on their agreement, it will be the best two weeks for the planet in the history of the planet.”

The agreement was voluntary and even China and the United States signed on to reduce CO2 emissions after many years of resistance. It has taken a long time for governments to catch up with the science and to act on their understanding, said Karowe.

“As a citizen familiar with the science of climate change, I have never seen as big of a disconnect between the strength of scientific evidence and the public’s understanding—except for evolution,” he said.

Even so, Karowe bemoaned that one major American political party still denies climate change.
Dr. David Karowe

“They say that the science is not convincing,” said Karowe, “even though 97.5 percent of scientists agree that the climate has noticeably changed over the last century and that the rate of change is faster than anything we’ve ever seen.”

Climate scientists have used many different models to calculate the trajectory of current warming trends and although they differ on how many degrees of warming there will be—some as high as 5-6C or 9-11F—they all agree that we will have more heat waves, droughts in the American Southwest and Great Plains as well as the Mediterranean and Central America.

“If, however, the nations of the world institute the Paris agreements, we will increase global warming by only 2C (3.6F) in 2100,” said Karowe. “If we don’t, we’ll face a 4-5C hike, which translates to 7-9F.”

Eight-five percent of America’s energy is produced by fossil fuels, he said, but the future is solar and wind, whose technology is now available to us. The switch to renewables is a matter of weaning ourselves off the oil and coal, which happen to be the most profitable industries in the world’s history. For example, in just the first decade of this century, these energy producers made $1 trillion, according to Think Progress.

“Climate change is really a scientific issue but it has been made into a political issue,” said Karowe. “It encourages politicians to deny the science. They are putting their personal interests ahead of their constituents, their country and their planet. We need to elect people who put the common good ahead of their personal interests.”

Scientists are not typically political activists, but they must start to connect their research to this issue that has become political, said Karowe. Fortunately, more and more of them are realizing they have an obligation to confront the “misinformation campaign” waged by the fossil fuel industry—like a group of WMU professors who decided to take the message of climate change to the campus and into the community.

The Climate Change Working Group, originally founded by Karowe, Dr. Ron Kramer of sociology and Dr. Paul Clements of political science, has increased opportunities for students, faculty and staff to learn about climate change on campus. Many new courses are being designed and several guest lecturers have been invited to campus. The climate change minor was instituted last fall. Karowe designed a new course titled Climate Change Biology, which teaches the basic science behind climate change and the consequences and solutions for the health of humans and ecosystems.

“WMU is one of the greenest campuses in the country,” said Karowe. “It plans to be carbon neutral by 2065. President Dunn has been a phenomenal leader for this, and the Office of Sustainability won a national award. WMU students and faculty should be very proud of the university’s record.”

The Working Group is also collaborating with several off-campus groups to educate citizens, and have given many public presentations to the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce, Phi Beta Kappa, Nature Center, Kalamazoo Wild Ones, Michigan Botanical Society and dozens of other civic and environmental groups. They have also run training workshops for middle and high school teachers and education and outreach coordinators in the local faith community. 

The Working Group has created its own webpage through the WMU Center for the Humanities, which lists various activities, a speakers bureau, resources and members from disciplines across the curriculum. 

Other efforts off-campus are taking place.

The Working Group, under the leadership of Denise Keele (Political Science and Environmental and Sustainability Studies), has organized a community reading and discussion at the Kalamazoo Public Library on Thursday, March 31 on the book by George Marshall's titled Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change.  The book explores why most of us recognize that climate change is real, and yet we do nothing to stop it..

WMU and the inter-faith community came together in 2014 to create Hope for Creation, a series of presentations about climate change and how people of faith might take meaningful action in Kalamazoo. In February, Hope for Creation presented a weekly series of conversations with area clergy to reflect on climate change and religious teachings.

“I’m more optimistic than I’ve been in a decade—probably longer,” said Karowe about the Paris agreements. “It was an incredible feat of diplomacy with John Kerry leading the way for the U.S. and China to agree on emissions reductions before the Paris conference started. It’s the first time either country agreed to cut emissions.”

Karowe also thinks Pope Francis has played an important role in advocating for the Paris agreement. Prior to the talks in Paris, the Pope said that those who are causing and benefitting from climate change (developed countries) are not the same ones who will suffer the most (poor and developing countries) and that, as a result, minimizing climate change is a moral imperative.

“It’s another reason to love this Pope,” said Karowe. “He is not concerned about the political consequences of his position but instead focuses on the ethical consequences of doing nothing about climate change.”

The more voices that join in to do something about climate change, the more likely humanity will do the right thing, said Karowe. If nothing is done, however, the prognosis for the Earth is dire.

Scientific studies have predicted that, with no action to slow climate change, by the end of the century there will be a 200-fold increase in the frequency of heat wave in 12 Midwestern cities. Chicago, for example, in 1995 lost 700 people due to extreme heat. With a 4o C rise in temperature, it is predicted that Chicago will experience 27 similar heat waves per decade. That translates to almost three heat waves per summer for Chicago and two per summer for Detroit. According to the study, implementing the Paris Agreement to keep warming to a 2o C could prevent almost 300,000 deaths heat related in 12 Midwestern cities.

Generating electricity by burning coal causes 20,000 heart attacks and 13,000 deaths in America each year, and the Monroe Power Plant in Monroe, Michigan, is consistently rated as the deadliest coal fired power plant in the United States. It was up and running in 1974, and it is the second largest plant in the United States after Plant Bowen near Cartersville, Georgia.

In January 2009, the Institute for Southern Studies ranked the 100 top polluting U.S. electric utility facilities in the United States in terms of coal combustion waste (CCW) stored in surface impoundments and the Monroe Power Plant ranked number 5 on the list, with 4,110,859 pounds (1,864,654 kg) of coal combustion waste in 2006, based on EPA data. The J.H. Freeman Plant on Lake Michigan is another high polluter and Kalamazoo is downwind from that plant.

“We should absolutely stop burning coal ASAP,” said Karowe, “and instead manufacture wind turbines in states that mine coal so that those people have work.”

However, Karowe admits that part of the problem of marshaling action to fight climate change is the difficulty of quantifying its costs, like the expense of storm damage or coastal flooding, , which is predicted to create 6 million climate change refugees per year by the middle of the century.

“Look at the disruption in the world with 1 million Syrian refugees!” he said.

Climate change could lead to water wars between India and Pakistan—both of which have nuclear bombs. Water from the Indus River flows through northern India before reaching Pakistan, where it provides 80% of the water used for irrigation . What cost would we be willing to incur to prevent war between them, asks Karowe?

Perhaps, suggests Karowe, we could more clearly see the benefits of emissions reductions if we had an ethical discussion on the value of human life, or the value of lost wages or the value of species extinction. (The Paris Agreement could save 10 to 30 percent of species on the planet.)

Meanwhile, scientists have calculated that sea level rises would affect 28,800 square miles of land on the East Coast of the United States, home today to 12.3 million people. In 2013, Ceres, a coalition of investors, companies and public interest groups dedicated to sustainable business practices, published Inaction on Climate Change: The Cost to Taxpayers. In 2014, Governing magazine reported on how cities are facing climate change. And, the State of Florida has estimated that it will spend $300 billion per year to avoid infrastructure damage and hindrances to its tourist industry due to climate change.

“When people talk about the cost of minimizing climate change, they should also talk about the benefits of doing something,” said Karowe. “They should talk about the advantages of a 2o C rather than 4o C rise in temperatures, for example.”

However, to make progress as a nation, Karowe warned that it will be necessary to remove the confusion the fossil fuel industry has largely perpetrated and to let climate policy become a voting issue so that leaders will be elected by whether or not they support policies based on sound science.

“About 20,000 people benefit enormously from continued use of fossil fuels, said Karowe. “They are CEOs from the industry and large shareholders. And, they are willing to sacrifice the welfare of 7 billion people on earth in order to make their short-term profits.”

Karowe believes the world will end up with solar and wind generating its energy. In the near future, we will shift many of our activities to electricity, including transportation.

“We can already produce wind and solar energy at 40 times more than we all currently use,” said Karowe. “Paris is the first real signal that the world is ready to try to minimize the damage it has done. But it has to be implemented by all the nations to work. Americans, too, need to tell their elected representatives that the most ethical and least expensive option for us is to implement the Paris agreement.”