Eco-journalist presents at Whatcom

By: Lynette Martinez

In a recent presentation on how people are capitalizing on climate change, environmentalist McKenzie Funk said engineers in Israel use a salinization machine to convert sea water into clean drinking water. Photo courtesy of Mckenzie Funk.
In a recent presentation on how people are capitalizing on climate change, environmentalist McKenzie Funk said engineers in Israel use a salinization machine to convert sea water into clean drinking water. Photo courtesy of Mckenzie Funk.

McKenzie Funk, environmental journalist and author of the book “Windfall,” gave a presentation at Whatcom Community College May 7 and discussed how people are adapting to and capitalizing on climate change.

“When I got back from the Arctic, it wasn’t, ‘Is climate change real,’ or ‘Does climate change exist?’ Climate change is very much real and very much exists,” said Funk.

The event, called “How the World is Preparing to Warm (and some are preparing to get rich in the process) started at 5:30 p.m. in Heiner Theater and was hosted by Whatcom’s Sustainability Club.

Sustainability Club Advisor Courtenay Chadwell-Gatz saw Funk speak last fall at Village Books in Fairhaven and thought his presentation would benefit Whatcom students, she said.

“A few club members recently talked with some students wh o still don’t believe climate change exists,” she added, which was part of the reason she invited him to speak on campus.

Chadwell-Gatz also said that her co-advisor for the club, Debra Lancaster, was recently “accused by a student for ‘pushing her agenda’ down his throat,” during a class discussion about environmental issues.

It is the Sustainability Club’s mission to educate the community about environmental issues and Funk’s

visual presentation helps in doing so, Chadwell-Gatz said.

“Fear-based approaches do not work well for proving climate change exists,” Funk said at his presentation, which was attended by a crowd of nearly 40.

Funk’s presentation included photos documenting his travels to 24 countries and 12 U.S. states, during which he observed how people are profiting off of climate change.

He said he observed three major results of climate change which people are capitalizing on most: Ice melt, drought, and deluge, which is a combination of sea levels rising and super storms.

Examples of these environmental issues, he said, that have an element of capitalism to them can be found in several countries.

In Greenland, ice is melting so much that land is being exposed and new mineral deposits are being discovered. Drilling for those minerals is how Greenland made enough money to declare independence from Denmark, Funk said.

“It’s really hard to find anyone in Greenland that doesn’t like climate change,” Funk said.

In South Sudan, where there has been major drought, land is being sold to other countries as farm land.

“A New York hedge fund manager struck a deal with the son of a South Sudan warlord to buy a chunk of land the size Delaware, where crops would be grown and shipped back to the U.S.,” Funk said.

Another example Funk used is that in Israel there is a desalinization machine that takes sea water and cleans it to make it available for human consumption. Ice melt causes increases in sea levels, thus more sea water is available to desalinize.

“The only downfall to running a machine like this is the amount of energy it consumes,” said Funk.

Funk emphasized that his work was not aimed at determining whether capitalizing on climate change is right or wrong, but towards determining ways in which it occurs.

“I wanted to tell a story that no one else has heard,” Funk said.

Whatcom student Taushia Saurel, 36, who attended the event said, “I am surprised to hear that companies have turned climate change into such a big business. Instead of capitalizing on climate change they should be investing money to prevent it.”

To further educate the community about environmental issues Whatcom’s Sustainability Club has been presenting a film festival for the last three weeks featuring documentaries discussing different environmental issues. Films are free and open to the public. The two remaining films are “Sun Come Up” which shows on May 14, and “Rooted Lands” which shows on May 21. Films will be showing in Syre Student Center room 105 at 11:30 a.m.

Nationally recognized environmentalist Bill McKibben will also be coming to Whatcom to speak on the Chuckanut Radio Hour May 16 at 5:30 in Heiner Theater.

“We are such a small campus in the middle of nowhere, so when we can get nationally recognized speakers to come to our campus, it’s a crime not to go hear them speak,” said Chadwell-Gatz, who encourages students, and the community to attend these events and get informed.

“Funk’s work has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Rolling Stone, Bloomberg Businessweek, and The New York Times, according to a biography on his website.

The biography also said that Funk “won the Oakes Prize for Environmental Journalism for his story about the melting artic and was a finalist for the Livingston award for Young Journalists for his interview in Tajikistan with one of the first prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay.”



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