Going to Extremes for Climate Change

When I was little, one on my favorite pool games was playing ‘tea party’ under water. My friends and I would blow out all our air and sink to the bottom of the pool for a brief moment, bobbing cross-legged and pretending to sip tea at an imaginary table as our cheeks puffed out like blowfish.

Thumbnail image for tom_underwater.jpgI really wish I had a picture of me as a little kid playing underwater to better depict our tea parties. But since I don’t, here’s one of my friend Tom, taken when we went snorkeling in Malta, spring 2008. Not exactly sipping tea, but close enough.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who has a love of underwater assemblies. The Maldives government recently held a cabinet meeting underwater (no really, snorkels and all!) to promote awareness of climate change, in anticipation of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Sweden next month. This island nation off the coast of India is pretty tiny (it’s less than twice the size of Washington, DC), but it has been making news in recent years due to its geographic significance: It’s the flattest country in the world! This bit of trivia may not seem important, but folks are worried that rising sea levels could soon wipe the low-lying Maldives off the map for good. President Mohammed Nasheed wants the world to take notice, so he and his cabinet members donned SCUBA suits, set up tables, grabbed a camera crew, and submerged 20 feet–all in the name of mitigating global climate change. Crazy? Perhaps. Blog-inspiring? Definitely!

Thumbnail image for bookerundersea_1509075c.jpgThe Maldives isn’t the only country pulling stunts for the sake of climate change awareness. For another story of unique cabinet meetings, we go from the world’s flattest country to one of the world’s highest. The Nepalese government will hold an extraordinary cabinet meeting later this month at the base camp of Mount Everest. Situated at 17,700 feet in the Himalaya, Base Camp is higher than the tallest peak in the Rocky Mountains! According to a New York Times article, Scientists worry about melting glaciers and the effects of flooding on local populations. The Nepalese cabinet will brave bitter wind chills, blowing wind, and other uncomfortable conditions at their lofty meeting. I think I’d rather meet underwater.

With all these instances of exotic meeting locations to highlight the impact of climate change, why isn’t the United States doing the same? Here are some suggestions of places President Obama and his cabinet can meet to get their geo-awareness kicked into high gear!

Thumbnail image for deathvalley.jpg1. Death Valley, California: It’s hot, it’s dry; it’s downright uncomfortable. Maybe a few hours in the desert will alert people to the possibility that more areas of the US will be like this someday if we don’t act quickly!

2. Point Barrow, Alaska: It’s the northernmost point in the U.S., and home to a Global Atmosphere Watch monitoring station, which collects data on Earth’s atmosphere. Using trends in the data, scientists develop assessments used in environmental policy-making.

3. Glacier National Park, Montana: This is one of America’s most beautiful places, and it’s in trouble. Grinnell Glacier, perhaps the park’s most famous ice mass, is predicted to disappear within the next 20 years!

Thumbnail image for glacier.jpg

Photos by Walter Meayers Edwards (Death Valley) and James P. Blair (Glacier National Park)

–Maggie for My Wonderful World

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