Climate Change is Already Killing a Whole Country

U.S. federal government at Wikimedia Commons, public domain.)It’s hard for me to be shocked anymore by a news report, feature article or scientific study on climate change. I get it already: it’s upon us and accelerating faster than even the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says. But Belfast Telegraph reporter Johann Hari’s recent account of global warming in Bangladesh hit me like nothing else I’ve read in the recent past.

The sheer enormity of the tragedy already unfolding for so many people (Bangladesh has a population of more than 150 million) is mind-boggling. Hari describes whole villages losing their agricultural livelihoods, their health and — sometimes — their childrens’ lives as rising sea levels cause saltwater to seep underground below once-fertile rice paddies. He visits island communities whose older residents now point to treetops jutting out from the sea when asked where their homes once stood. And, chillingly, he meets with a new and growing generation of jihadists — unusual until recently in Bangladesh — who are seeking out scapegoats as their futures visibly wither away.

The only promising note in Hari’s travelogue comes from his encounter with Abul Hasanat Mohammed Rezwan, whom he dubs “Bangadesh’s Noah.” An architect by training, Rezwan has given up designing structures that, as he says, “will be under water soon anyway.” Instead, he now leads a charity called Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha (“self-reliance”) that builds floating homes, schools and hospitals that can survive his country’s future.

Imagine that: the concept behind the Kevin Costner movie once widely panned by critics might end up the only solution for a nation of 150 million.

If you’ve found yourself growing numb — or worse yet, hopeless and complacent — with the ongoing developments of climate change, you owe it to the future — your family’s, your world’s — to read Hari’s article in its entirety. And see then if you don’t agree with the latest comments from climate scientist James Hansen, who today is calling on Congress to put the Big Oil CEOs on trial for “high crimes against humanity and nature.”

If what’s already happened to the residents of communities like Munshigonj, Moheshkhali and Charkashem Island don’t qualify as such high crimes, it’s hard to imagine what would.

About the Author

Shirley Siluk Gregory, a transplanted Chicagoan now living in Northwest Florida, represents the progressive half of Green Options’ Red, Green and Blue segment. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Geological Sciences from Northwestern University but graduated in 1984, just when the market for geologists was flatter than the Florida landscape. Just as well, though: she had little interest in spending her life either in a laboratory or, heaven forbid, an oil field. So, of course, she went into journalism.

After extremely low-paying but fun and educational stints at several suburban Chicago weeklies and dailies, Shirley and her then-boyfriend/now-husband Scott found themselves displaced by a media buyout and spending the next several years working as freelancers. Among their credits: The Chicago Tribune, a publication for the manufactured-housing industry, and Web Hosting Magazine, a now-defunct publication that came and went with the dotcom era.

Shirley’s always been concerned about nature and conservation (and an avid pack-rat, as her family can attest to), but became even more rabidly interested in the environment primarily due to two factors: the growing signs that global warming was real and threatening, and the birth of her son, Noah, in 2003. Suddenly, the prospect of a world that might not be quite as habitable in 40 or 50 years took on a whole new, and personal, meaning.

Living where she lives now also helped light the fire of Shirley’s environmental awareness: her hometown was severely damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and beaten up again by Hurricane Dennis in 2005. That, and the fact that she and her family were vacationing in New Orleans until the day before Katrina — and spent 12 hours driving home for a trip that normally takes 3 — has made Shirley deeply appreciate how fragile our lifestyles are, and how dependent they are on sound management of natural resources and sustainable living practices. That’s why she’s become a passionate reader and writer about all things green and sustainable.

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  • Correction: 10 Billion animals are led to slaughter in the U.S. every year and this does not count fish.

  • Factory Farming is even still far worse to the atmosphere, the ozone, and our environment than all automobiles put together. The sheer volume of methane produce in the U.S. alone by the 10 million animals led to slaughter dwarfs even driving those gosh darn SUV’s. Green and vegan are the ways to go.