President Obama: save your summer home from rising sea levels

by David Pomerantz

August 28, 2009

When I think of the victims of global warming, my mind leaps to Pacific Island nations: places that are disappearing off the maps as rising seas swallow people’s homes and cultures. One of our ships, the Esperanza, was collecting some of those Pacific Island stories last month. But it was an island in the Atlantic Ocean that played host to the most recent action in our global warming campaign.

Right now, President Obama is vacationing with his family on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, a summer tourist destination off the coast of Massachusetts.

While the Vineyard isn’t disappearing quite as rapidly as the places the Esperanza has visited lately, it faces dire consequences if we continue burning the oil and coal responsible for global warming.

Just a few feet of sea level rise will wreak havoc on the island’s tourism industry, not to mention the few thousand residents who call the place home year-round.

So when we found out that the president – the one person with the most power to save this and every other island around the world from global warming – was visiting, we knew we had to send him a message.

Yesterday, a dozen Greenpeace volunteers from Massachusetts stepped off the ferry on to the Vineyard, armed with several thousand copies of a spoof newspaper we produced: “The Martha’s Vineyard Future Times.”

stop global warming

At a glance, the paper looked like the popular Martha’s Vineyard Times newspaper, but our edition was dated to August 27th, 2020. On the front page, it told the story of what Martha’s Vineyard could look like if President Obama embraces the clean energy revolution we need. Majestic wind turbines off the shore spin cheap, clean energy into the Vineyard’s homes and businesses. The local economy is buoyed by green jobs. People around the world honor the president for his political courage for standing up to special interests.

On the back page, we see the grim consequences of inaction. Hurricanes barrel toward the Vineyard. Local governments hurry to prepare evacuation plans. Of course, we couldn’t avoid a dig or two at the posh tourists who summer at the island, with ads for sandbags and evacuation boats from Gucci and DKNY.

When tourists and residents received the newspapers from our activists, quizzical looks often gave way to a laugh or a “thank you” for helping to spread the word. Ashley and Emily, two teens who grew up on the island, said that of course they were worried about climate change. If sea levels rise, “we’re basically screwed,” they told us.

stop global warming

To drive the point about sea level rise home, we had one more trick up our sleeves: an underwater protest. We created a pair of hands that mysteriously emerged from the water at the island’s main harbor, holding a sign imploring the president to “Stop Global Warming – Or We’re All Sunk!”

Our underwater protestor drew laughs and smiles, and hopefully provoked some thought about what sea level rise will mean for Martha’s Vineyard and islands all around the world.

stop global warming

I genuinely hope the president had a restful week on the Vineyard – I also hope he took a moment or two to consider what global warming will mean for his new summer home, and for the billions of people around the world who will suffer if the United States does not lead at the U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen that are now 100 days away.

President Obama’s press secretary said yesterday that he has loved his time on the Vineyard, and that he will be back to vacation there again. If he wants to have that opportunity, he needs to go back to D.C., listen to the world’s best climate scientists, and take the courageous steps we need to stop global warming.

David Pomerantz

By David Pomerantz

David Pomerantz is a former Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace USA, based in San Francisco. He helps lead Greenpeace's campaign for an economy powered by 100% renewable energy.

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