Editor’s Note: March 15 was a day of global action against climate change. On that day, Dr. Chip Fletcher – a scientist at the University of Hawai‘i: Manoa studying the impacts of climate change in the state – addressed a crowd at the State Capitol. His remarks to those gathered for the Youth Climate Strike are posted below with his permission.
By Dr. Chip Fletcher
Here in Hawai‘i we are led by elected officials who get that climate change is a massive threat to our economy, to the ocean, to the watersheds, to our fellow creatures, and to human communities across the planet. These same officials also understand that this is a time of incredible opportunity.
Led by our governor, our mayors, and county councils, and by the senators and representatives who serve us in this building and in Washington D.C., we are traveling toward a prosperous future. Because of them, Hawai‘i will be powered by 100-percent renewable energy, and be carbon neutral in 25 years. And because of the dedicated men and women in agencies and offices, NGOs, and community groups, we are well on the way to achieving our renewable energy goals.
But you know, I have been working on this for a long time and there is much more we still need to do. Hawai‘i has enormous social disparity. This disparity will grow as the world warms. Underserved communities with large numbers of Native Hawaiians have been pushed aside as the shadows of colonialist thinking continue to use our land and water unsustainably. We will not thrive in a world of global warming until we learn to wrap our mitigation and adaptation efforts around meaningful restoration of an indigenous view of the world. A view that sees Earth as no different than a family member that we love, that needs our support, that needs renewal and rest… not extraction, pollution, and depletion. A view that honors the native heritage of this place.
We will not become whole until we recognize that human rights and social justice must go hand in hand with decarbonization and adapting to the inevitable impacts of global warming.
All of you guys in school today, know that you are so lucky. You will live to see today’s vision of tomorrow come true.
Let’s time travel. Let’s put ourselves into the future and imagine day-to-day reality as it can and will be. Seventy percent of you are going to be thriving in urban neighborhoods that run on sunlight, wind power, and running water. Honolulu will be a data-driven, smart city. An “internet of things” will be made of connected devices and appliances that are hyper-efficient, run on clean energy, and have myriad options for storing and accessing electricity. You will live in a world of digitally-informed sustainability.
The battery system in your apartment will talk to your neighbors washing machine and your other neighbors cell phone. Together they will figure out where to store and when to use energy that comes from wind mills, running water, and solar panels located in every neighborhood and in energy farms around the city. Electricity will be generated, stored, and shared in resilient micro-grids, and your buildings will be the central hub of a data-sharing, data-analysis nervous system.
You’ll share new modes of mobility, communication, and energy in a new economy that is built on sharing. In fact, the sharing economy is already underway. The sharing economy is a new industrial revolution that has been unleashed by the internet.
In the sharing economy, energy use is more efficient. There is less waste, less consumption, less destruction of the environment. You are a key part of the sharing economy. You already share your original art and music, your writings and opinions. Many of you host podcasts and events.
And you share these with your networks for almost no cost other than the upfront expense of your phone and computer, and your monthly internet bill.
Vertical organic gardens, growing in your own buildings and relying on captured rainwater, will provide much of your food. Connected greenways will run right through this urban corridor and function as parks, flood control, and farms focused on lo‘i kalo.
Many of the suburbs will revert back to forests that catch rainwater and recharge the aquifers.
The days of car-clogged roads will be long gone. You will walk or bike to work in air that has never been so clear… and quiet. The sound of engines will never be heard again. Electric buses will arrive at every street corner within minutes. Roads will become shady, tree-lined urban forests for walking, sitting, and enjoying the people in your neighborhood.
Beaches will be wild environments with wide dune fields connected to forest hiking trails. Hawai‘i will be mosquito-free. The forests made entirely of native plants and animals. Globally, the human population will stabilize and begin a long gentle decline into the next century.
Most importantly, the entire world will be decarbonized and the work of removing carbon dioxide from the air will be gaining momentum. Global warming will stop at 2 degrees Celsius.
All this will have happened for one reason: because you are courageous. Today is the beginning of realizing a new tomorrow. You are here because you have decided to own your future. Because of your action, I have hope for the future of my children and grandchildren. I donʻt want Earth to heat up by 5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. With your help, we won’t let that happen.
I am committed – I hope you are committed too!
Image 1 courtesy Wikimedia/Intothewoods7
Image 2 courtesy Organizing for Action