Earth Day is coming, on April 22, but it is water that I’m thinking about. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Kiribati, water was all around, providing food and inspiration for the Pacific way of life.
Now that same water is consuming the country. Rising sea levels caused by melting ice caps are literally wiping out this country that stands only 7 feet above sea level at its highest point on the map. Flooding has become common, ruining crops and contaminating drinking water. The Kiribati government has bought an island in neighboring Fiji to relocate its population within this generation. This will be the first country lost to climate change.
In Kiribati, effects are dramatic. But water, or the lack of it, also is wreaking havoc here in West Virginia. Fifty-year floods now happen every few years — three times for my CSA farmers here in the Eastern Panhandle. The story is becoming floods in the spring and drought for the summer.
We need not one solution but many to tackle this global crisis. Long-term solutions, such as behavior change and carbon sequestration technologies, are important but are expensive and slow to develop. We also urgently need market-based solutions, such as carbon pricing, that returns the dividends to those most affected. The United States needs to pass carbon pricing legislation this year.
On Earth Day, let’s help our neighbors, those here in West Virginia and those in Kiribati, because a rising tide floods everybody.