This week I watched a film called 'Invisible'. It's about the toxins that were found in the breast milk of Inuit mothers. The milk was collected in an effort to obtain a 'control' sample, but was soon found to contain more toxins, chemicals, endocrine disrupting substances than found elsewhere on Earth. The experimenters assumed that the people of arctic would be free from the toxins found at lower latitudes because they were removed in space from where the chemicals were being emitted into the atmosphere, the water, the soil, the food. Instead, the Arctic is where these chemicals go to die. They travel thousands of miles, carried through the air, into the lungs of the people, in the furniture they have in their houses, in their clothes, in the food that's imported, and it's concentrated and nicely preserved in the country food that they catch. Yes, the perfect place for collecting these man-made chemicals is in the fat of seals and whales that the Inuit catch as part of their cultural traditions.
This story was simply one of many like it that I've heard over the past few weeks. As I watched, I wondered how it is that we're not simply outraged, how are we not up in arms, protesting, screaming, overthrowing companies, displaying that we are simply fed up with and we're sick and dying from the way things are being handled. And then after the film, one guy responded that it was a good film, but what are we supposed to do with that information? It's not like we can do anything about it, so we should just do our best to be happy.
I simply cannot accept that there is nothing that we can do about it.
I finally sat down and read the full text of a speech the Maldive's President Mohamed Nasheed delivered at the first Climate Vulnerabile Forum. 'As a person I cannot accept this,' he says. That's how I feel. He, as president of one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, is talking about the need for a real, science-based and binding treaty on climate change. Just as many of the conversations I've had over the past couple of weeks have talked about the need to move away from talking about climate change as if it were the sole issue to talking about sustainability, safety, not doing damage, and a more holistic approach. As one of the books I checked out this week clearly points out in its title 'Climate Change, Ozone Depeltion and Air Pollution', there's more than one point for concern, and it doesn't stop there. It includes water pollution, soil degradation and pollution, toxins, chemicals, pesticides, biodiversity loss (plant and animal), deforestation, war, poverty, hunger, genocide, peak oil . . . the list feels endless at times.
It's all of these issues and more that I think of when I read President Nasheed's statement. And I want to stand up and cheer as I read it. 'We will not die quietly,' he says. 'I refuse to believe that it is too late, and that we cannot do any better.'
The world is in need of more leaders like him. I wish President Obama were as courageous and outspoken. I wish the US were leading the way, not just shining a light into the dark, but constructing the tunnel and harvesting renewable energy to power the lights in it. For now, I just have to hope that the sentiment of Mr. Nasheed's statement and his voice is reverberating throughout the world, inviting people to join in, to partake a survival pact, to do what's best for the planet and work together to solve the problems we face.
'I believe in humanity.
I believe in human ingenuity.
I believe that with the right frame of mind, we can solve this crisis.
In the Maldives, we want to focus less on our plight; and more on our potential.
We want to do what is best for the planet.'
His full speech can be found here: http://www.climatevulnerableforum.gov.mv/?p=94#more-94