iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Matt Petersen

GET UPDATES FROM Matt Petersen

Take the I AM Challenge to Fight Climate Change and Sea Level Rise

Posted: 09/21/11 06:26 PM ET

Take the I AM Challenge, and Take Responsibility for a Green Corner of the World

Among other challenges, global warming is causing our sea levels to rise and putting our coastal cities -- and billions of people -- at risk across the globe.

We know first-hand about the threats of sea level rise at Global Green, where we have offices in New Orleans, Santa Monica, and New York -- cities at risk from sea level rise. These cities and inhabitants are threatened, but our entire economy also stands to take a blow, as ports and other infrastructure face potential losses in the trillions that will impact national and global commerce.

The recent impact and concern over storm surge with Hurricane Irene pointed out the vulnerabilities to the Northeast, in particular New York. But more threats come from corporate and industrial lobbying, as evidenced by President Obama's recent action to overturn EPA's ruling on smog, and the EPA's delay of issuing rules to limit greenhouse emissions from power plants.

2011-09-21-huffpost_matt_mark_i_am300x400.jpg

To help raise awareness about sea level rise, and share the potential of a green economy, Global Green asked some friends in entertainment, music, and sports to help us by filming a public service announcement (Mark Ruffalo, pictured, is among those who appear in the PSA.) The message is simple: If we act, we can protect our nation and create a green economy. The first step is demanding that our leaders invest in a green jobs, to support a clean and green economy that can sustain us for decades to come. We can begin by urging President Obama to fulfill the promises he made when he took office, and commit to creating the green economy we need to help us collectively reduce greenhouse gases and help guarantee a safe and healthy future for all Americans.

We are also calling for a full accounting of the economic and human impact of sea level rise, here in the U.S. and around the world. We need to bring the world's cities -- and nations -- together to assess the challenge, and come together to act. Why? This is a global crisis: More than 600 million people across the globe live in coastal regions that are less than 10 meters above sea level. The U.S. alone has more than 12,000 miles of coastline, with more than half of all Americans living in and around coastal cities and towns. Among the world's 10 most at-risk cities are Miami, New York, and New Orleans.

Scientists concur that NYC was lucky to be spared; Irene passed without the worst predictions of storm surge inundating lower Manhattan, which could have taken out Wall Street and flooded mass transit. But what about next time? Other communities on the East Coast were not so lucky and now face a tough road to recovery as they deal with loss of life and irreparable damages to homes and businesses. This is a harsh reminder of how vulnerable our coastal cities are when facing storms of this such magnitude -- and how climate change has impacted these regions. For every foot of sea level rise, we can expect about 100 feet of coastal flooding. The situation is grave, but we are not powerless.

A sustainable future can be ours only if we take responsibility -- and that responsibility is to preserve this planet for future generations. We need strong government action, and we also need to take individual and community actions to green our neighborhoods, our schools, and our cities. (And I am not just talking about changing our light bulbs -- even though small acts like this remain important.) We can act by reclaiming our role as citizens -- not only as consumers -- and take responsibility for a little corners of our world. Because we know that local action can have a global impact; indeed, cities are responsible for 70% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Using the one-step-at-a-time metaphor, we can work together to reduce greenhouse gases and help minimize future damage.

Join us: declare yourself a citizen entrepreneur and fight with us against sea level rise. In working to green your corner of the world, enlist your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Pick a project, small or large. Challenge your neighborhood association, school board, or city to take steps to fight climate change. We'll be working together to create a green economy and connecting with others in taking responsibility for this grave threat to our communities and our nation. Recent and coming campaigns by Al Gore and Climate Reality Project, and Bill McKibben and 350.org all reinforce this call to arms of citizen entrepreneurs.

I would venture to say that each of us loves where we live -- whether or not we are in the cities across the U.S. and globe facing the direct threat of sea level rise. If we do not live in these cities, we have loved ones and fellow citizens that do, and we can stand together. Stand and declare: I AM Los Angeles. I AM New York. I AM Boston. I AM Mumbai. I AM Tokyo. Or I AM New Orleans. While the well-known individuals in our PSA may help get your attention, the true hero is you, each citizen that takes action. Join us, and start with responding to the I AM Challenge on the Global Green site. Begin by uploading your I AM photo with your favorite city at risk or hometown. Declare the commitment you will make to green your corner of the world. And share your progress with us. We will be fighting climate change, but it's more than that -- we will be creating better neighborhoods, schools, and cities, and moving toward a brighter future sustained by a green economy.

 

Follow Matt Petersen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mathew_petersen