After 15 years of working with companies and sometimes governments, helping them to manage the sustainability and the issues that affect sustainable development, I still oftentimes find it a fuzzy concept. So I really appreciate it when something comes along that helps even me to put a real image to the issues.
This time, that image has come from (for me) a surprising place. Not too long ago Newsweek released a special issue that looks at some of the places that could disappear or be radically changed as global warming exerts a growing influence on the world in which we live (100 Places to Remember Before They Disappear; Newsweek Special Issue, Spring 2010).
While I would have liked to see a stronger link between global warming and the descriptions that accompany each picture/location, the magazine is a great illustration of why environmental sustainability and sustainable human development is needed.
"To read this book is to be reminded that, like the tea bushes, human beings also occupy a narrow ecological niche .... the distribution of human settlements around the globe is crucially dependent on specific patterns of rainfall, sunlight, temperature and wind, all of which will be affected by global warming. Mountain glaciers may seem like a remote concern to most city dwellers, but if you live downstream from them - in Southern California, say - it matters a great deal how and when they form and melt."
And unlike many pictorial statements of whats at stake, Newsweek demonstrates that it is not just natural ecosystems that are at risk. With photos of many of the worlds most populous or beautiful urban settings, they make the point that global warming poses risks to the places we have constructed and live in - indeed to civilisation itself.
"This book isn't about atmospheric chemistry or carbon emissions; its about people, the places they inhabit and the places they have made, and a heart-tugging evocation of what we may lose if global warming proceeds apace ... this book is a reminder of what's at stake if we are complacent in the face of a rapidly changing climate."
And the photos illustrate some beautiful locations ...........
The Maldives Paris, France Ontong Java Atoll, Solomon Is.
Newsweek is to be commended for publishing such a high profile look at just what is at risk as a result of the current official paralysis regarding efforts to reduce emissions and other carbon releases to the atmosphere.
[Well I'm slow, but I get there eventually. I still appreciate Newsweek's effort at publishing the 100 Places ... issue but it seems that its based on a project by a Danish media group Co-Life developed for and presented at the Copenhagen COP meeting last fall. The main website for the initiative, including a place to by the books and posters, is here: 100 Places to Remember Before They Disappear.]