The No. 1 Trans-Atlantic Dating Agency

Amongst the flotsam and jetsam of my office is a pile of scruffy leaves of A4 paper. Contained on these pages are several hundred letters written by the 11 to 14 year olds that we have met along our route through the UK.

These letters are part of our ‘message in a bottle’ project and will be placed in sturdy capsules to be cast over the side of our container ship as it transports us across the Atlantic. The bottles will have satellite transceivers attached to them so that they can be tracked on our website as they bob above the ocean waves, left to the whim of the currents and destined for distant unknown recipients.

The letters provide a flavour of teenage life today.  Lovingly folded into tiny rectangles and handed over surreptitiously at the end of lessons they offer up personal confidences.  “I am popular in some way but not in the in-group with that kind of person. I bet whoever in the world is reading this, you know what I mean”.

Some make bold pronouncements about the times. “This is the age of swine flu”. Whilst others are more philosophical, “Imagine if someone finds this in 50 years. I will be 64, wow. I will be old. I wonder how the world will have changed, the things the older me will have seen”. Occasionally, they even display a vague comprehension of the lessons we have been teaching “I especially hope that our beautiful earth will not die and will be mending and getting better”.

But the most consistent theme is love. Love has conquered our project and our bottles have been appropriated as vessels of trans-Atlantic affection. Pen-friends turned suitors state their credentials in bold uninhibited terms “I have a six pack and huge muscles”. Others are meekly reflective “I think I have been in love but I am not sure anymore” or harbour homely desires “I am looking for a nice looking girl with blue eyes”.

One letter proclaims as unequivocally as a foghorn heard through a sea mist “I love Christiano Ronaldo so much. I just love him. If you are not Christiano Ronaldo please put this letter back in the water. Thank you, love x”.


Plots and pans

We are now full time expedition planning since visiting the last school in our UK network on Thursday.
I spend my days touring camping shops, plaguing their hapless employees with questions about the precise battery life in various head torches, the exact weight of a frying pan and the dangers of chaffing when wearing trousers which zip off to make shorts.
Using my extensive albeit 20-year-old experience of setting up dolls’ houses I have become fixated on how small things are and how neatly they can pack into tiny spaces.
And if we ever get four consecutive minutes of sunshine in Somerset I dash outside to trial my solar panels (thank you very much Powertraveller).
However, collecting expedition kit is much more fun than dealing with the devilish detail in our carnet de passage – a kind of passport for the car – or trying to work out the best order in which to obtain West African visas. These difficult decisions I leave to Tim.
– LM

Back to school

Apologies for radio silence blog fans. Atlantic Rising has been very busy over the last couple of weeks visiting schools all over the country.

It’s exciting now the first stage of our expedition has begun and we have already been to 10 of the 11 UK schools in our network.

Visiting schools is a disconcerting experience. Having never willingly set foot in a school in my life and certainly not frequented such establishments since 1998 it was very strange to be back in the classroom. And even odder to be allowed into the haven of the staffroom.

We found sometimes children completely understood the climate change issues we discussed in class and other times they were only interested in hitting each other with water bottles. Regularly, I have been pulled back from the brink of despair by an insightful comment from an interested child or a question that shows someone is thinking for themselves.

It’s is not easy and I think our teaching techniques could do with some improvement but it is really good when we see children logging on to Rafiki (the online community for schools) and beginning to get in touch with children in other parts of the world. And in moments such as that, I think our project might actually work.

America loses ground to salinisation

American conservationists have been putting a lot of energy into publicising the plight of North Carolina’s coastline. Low lying, swampy and sprinkled with well managed conservation areas, it hosts numerous endangered species including the red wolf and red cockaded woodpecker, as well as a splinter group of black bears. It was here that early settlers drained bogs and built dykes, carving a new landscape from the peaty myre that greeted them off their boats.

However, rapid sea level change is threatening this unique ecosystem. In a long article in The New York Times yesterday, Jessica Leber visited Alligator River Wildlife refuge to report on the slow farewell to a coastal refuge:

Continue reading

How will the oceans change in a warmer world?

A useful, if slightly simplistic, overview of how the oceans will be affected by increased atmospheric temperatures has just been published on Al Jazeera’s website.  It is a good introduction to some of the issues we will be exploring later this year.

For those of us who live near the coast, the oceans have a clear and direct impact on our everyday lives; storms, varying sea levels, fishing and recreation.  However, if we live inland, what possible influence can the oceans have on us?  For those of us who live in the developed world climate change is our problem, our fault, and we have to act now to prevent the situation from worsening.  A sceptic would argue that climate change is not the problem of the developing world.

If only life on our planet was that simple.

The full article can be found here

The knock-on effects of sea level change

So sea level change will profoundly change the geography of our coastlines, but what are the knock on effects for inland areas. Population migration and increased competition for agricultural and water resources will lead to inland areas being put under profound stress.  A group of scientists in U.S.A are currently researching these impacts on the Lake Wales Ridge area of Florida.  The consequences look pretty frightening.

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Now, what I want is Facts

The climate change discourse is awash with facts but since 2007 there has been scientific consensus around an important one that ‘most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities’.  This was the statement issued by the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001 from which no national scientific body of national or international standing now maintains a dissenting position.

Here we look at some important figures and answer one of the questions we are asked repeatedly – how far have sea levels risen already? Continue reading

West African governments take action

Two weeks ago in Banjul, a sea level change adaptation project involving five countries – The Gambia, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal – was launched in Banjul.

The goal of this project is to develop and pilot a range of effective coping mechanisms for reducing the impact of climate change induced by coastal erosion in vulnerable regions in the five participating countries. Acquired and implemented by the National Environment Agency (NEA), the adaptation to Climate Change and Coastal (ACCC) project is funded through the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Continue reading

Sierra Leone: time running out for coastal slums

The three big climate change challenges facing the International Community are commonly recognised as:

  • How to stop and reverse further global warming (mitigation).
  • How to live with a certain amount of global warming (adaptation).
  • How to design a new model for human progress and development that is climate proof and climate friendly and gives everybody a fair share of the natural resources on which we all depend.

Whilst governments and corporations are wrangling over different ways to confront these challenges, one thing is abundantly clear: it is the richer countries who will have greatest responsibility for mitigation, and the poorer countries – often most under threat due to sea level rise – who will be under greatest pressure to adapt. Continue reading

Tooling Up

I’m in Crouch End surrounded by architectural models and CDs and watching Grace the goldfish who seems to have a problem with her swim bladder.

It couldn’t be further removed from waking up in a tent on top of a Land Rover in Mauritania.

Last night over supper in a pub we created a list of ‘potential problems’ and ‘actual problems’ with our project. The actual-have-already-definitely-happened problems list was reassuringly short but potentially a hell of a lot could go wrong.

So I am staving off an anxiety attack with another visit to the Land Rover garage in Herne Hill. Continue reading