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Photo: Jason Margolis/PRI’s The World 
The Refuge Coffee Shop in Clarkston, Georgia, a town that has been welcoming to refugees, with a mayor who recognizes root causes of mass migration and aims to do his part.

More and more people are recognizing that the mass migrations we’re seeing today — and the wars that seem to be the main cause — are tied to climate change.

Here is a story about a small city in Georgia, home to many immigrants, that has put two and two together and is determined to be part of the solution.

Writes Jason Margolis at Public Radio International’s show The World, “Clarkston, Georgia, is often referred to as the Ellis Island of the South. Some 60 languages are spoken in this city of 13,000 just outside of Atlanta, and perhaps half the population is foreign born. Many are refugees.

“Felix Hategekimana is a refugee from Rwanda, a soft-spoken man who doesn’t talk much about his backstory, except to say that he fled violence back home: ‘We have political issues and security [issues].’

“But Hategekimana says there’s more to the troubles in Rwanda. Droughts and floods have plagued his country in recent years, and that’s led to more people migrating.

“ ‘Some people lose life in the disaster of the rain,’ Hategekimana said. ‘Some people lose life, others lose their homes and they lose their property, like their farms where they plant their vegetables.’

“You hear a lot of stories like this from refugees in Clarkston. Legally, there’s no such thing as a ‘climate change refugee.’ Refugee status is only awarded based on a well-founded fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group — not because your home got wiped out by a flood, or your crops were destroyed by a drought.

“But Clarkston’s mayor, Ted Terry, says the impacts of more extreme weather are woven throughout the lives of many new residents here. …

“Climate scientists agree that storms are becoming more severe, and the trend is only going to continue. Case in point, the Category 4 cyclone that struck southern Africa recently has left at least 600,000 people displaced. The immediate needs there — food, clean drinking water and shelter — are stark. After that, a big question: rebuild or relocate?

“It’s a dilemma that many people across the globe are facing, which will inevitably lead to more people on the move. But the world still hasn’t agreed on what to do with so-called climate refugees. Take a place like Syria.

“ ‘It becomes more drier, I think,’ said Malk Alarmash, a Syrian refugee now living in Clarkston. … But Alarmash can’t say that a lack of rainfall led people to flee Syria.

“ ‘I don’t know. I don’t have any information about that, like climate change,’ Alarmash said.

“An inability to pin the seeds of conflict on climatic shifts isn’t unusual; the relationship between climate change and forced migration is immensely complicated. … A drought can destroy people’s food supplies and livelihoods. That can lead to internal migration, inflame tensions and maybe even contribute to conflict and a refugee crisis. But all of this can unfold over years. …

“ ‘The climate is the last thing in their mind. They know it’s all related, but they just say, “This is from God,” ‘ said Omar Shekhey, a Clarkston resident who is originally from Somalia. …  ‘It goes together — the civil war, the war and the climate, you cannot separate them.’ …

“Shekhey says most Somali refugees aren’t connecting the dots to climate change. But as global temperatures continue to rise, Mayor Terry, who also works with the Sierra Club, believes that those dots will become clearer, even in the US.

“ ‘We’re looking at a future, I think, if we don’t take steps to reverse global warming, we’re looking at potentially hundreds of millions of people around the world, including you know, in America, Louisiana. Their coastline is disappearing,’ Terry said. ‘And so, at some point, there has to be some sort of recognition and define what it means to be a climate refugee.’ …

“Clarkston’s mayor [wants] to address the root of the problem, starting in his own community. It’s one reason Clarkston is committing to 100 percent renewable energy — instead of fossil fuels — by midcentury.

“ ‘In some way, we’re trying to alleviate future calamities. We just have to do our part; we have to consider ourselves part of the global community.’ ”

More at PRI, here.

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Photo: KerryCan/Etsy
Online markets like Etsy and Amazon currently rely on fossil fuels for deliveries, which is why Etsy is leading the way in addressing climate effects.

I’m happy to see that more individuals and organizations are taking action against the climate crisis. In this story it’s Etsy, the site where many people sell handcrafts. (I hope you have checked out blogger KerryCan’s gorgeous vintage linens there.)

As Emily Dreyfuss wrote in February at Wired magazine, the online market favored by “indie makers” is working toward a carbon neutral future.

“Tomorrow, all the carbon emissions spewed into the atmosphere from US ecommerce deliveries — some 55,000 metric tons of CO2, by one estimate, from trucks and planes shipping packages across the country — will be neutralized.

“It’s all thanks to Etsy, the global online market for indie makers, which is picking up the tab on high-quality carbon offsets for itself as well as its competitors on Thursday. Etsy’s largesse ends after tomorrow, but it will continue to offset its own carbon footprint going forward, becoming the first ecommerce company to completely offset all its emissions generated from shipping.

“Etsy estimates that doing so will cost less than a penny per package — less than $1 million for the year. The company made more than $200 million in just the last quarter of 2018. The price of covering the industry’s emissions for one day won’t even reach six figures.

“ ‘It’s a pretty trivial cost,’ says Etsy CEO Josh Silverman, who joined the company in 2017 and has been credited with turning around its fortunes. Before he joined, the company’s sales seemed poised to be gobbled up by Amazon. Though Amazon has only continued to dominate — accounting for almost 50 percent of total online sales last year, by one estimate — Etsy has regained its foothold on the craft market. …

“Silverman sees tackling sustainability as core to his stewardship of the brand. Ecommerce has come under scrutiny for its environmental consequences, but Silverman believes Etsy sellers and customers are eager to minimize their harm to the planet. …

“If every ecommerce company offset its emissions, it would make a difference. Transportation is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency — more than electricity or industry. …

“If Amazon wanted to offset its shipping emissions now, some back-of-the-envelope math using available numbers suggests how much it might cost. The company says it shipped over 5 billion items using Amazon Prime in 2017. Amazon Prime, with its free two-day delivery, has been accused of having a larger environmental impact, since the expedited time frame can make bundling items in the same package or delivery vehicle less practical. If each of those items was shipped separately, and if I borrow from Etsy’s calculation that it costs less than a penny per package to offset emissions, then it would cost Amazon less than $50 million to offset the emissions of Amazon Prime shipments in a year … less than 5 percent of Amazon’s reported $11.2 billion profit from 2018. …

“While experts agree that carbon offsets are the best option for an organization wanting to take immediate action, they caution that it’s a stopgap measure and not a solution to climate change. ‘Offsets are sort of second best because, essentially, what it does is allow you to continue emitting, and what we have to actually do is stop emitting,’ says Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center, the leading climate change think tank in the US. …

“Etsy knows this. According to Mozen and Silverman, the company’s goal is to eventually cut down on actual emissions. … Today it becomes the first ecommerce company to offer its customers the promise that packages delivered from Etsy are not hurting Earth. It’s a pretty good start.”

Until Amazon gets serious about its impact on the climate, maybe you’d rather find what you’re looking for at Etsy. Read more at Wired, here.

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