Cecilie Benjamin: Mahonia Na Dari (Guardian of the Sea)

When some people learn to dive, they want to travel and dive as many places as they can. But Cecilie Benjamin was so taken with her first dive site she decided this was a place where her passion for the marine environment could flourish. She was so enthused, she helped establish a thriving future environmental education centre.

Jeff Goodell on Climate Change: The Water Will Come

An invited speaker at the Singapore Writers Festival 2018, author Jeff Goodell from the US speaks his mind on just how the climate has changed and what we can all do about it to Mallika Naguran of Gaia Discovery. Listen to his lecture on Sunday 11 November at the Victoria Theatre from 3-4 pm.

SINGAPORE, 8 November 2018. Will the water come in the form of rising seas, storms, floods, typhoons and more to destroy what mankind has built? Hard questions they may be, but confronting them head-on is Jeff Goodell, the author of The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Reshaping of the Civilized World.

 Jeff Goodell shares his journey in writing his recent book at the Singapore Writers Festival 2018, and his thoughts on the economic and political implications of climate change for a place like Singapore.

Jeff Goodell shares his journey in writing his recent book at the Singapore Writers Festival 2018, and his thoughts on the economic and political implications of climate change for a place like Singapore.

Investigative journalist Jeff Goodell has authored six books, three of which deal with the environment. Prior to The Water Will Come, Goodell had written and published Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future; and How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix the Earth’s Climate.

His newest book – The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Reshaping of the Civilized World – is based on scientific research and on-the-ground reporting, and said to be written in the tradition of environmental classics such as Silent Spring and The World Without Us. It was a New York Times Critics' Top Book of 2017, and one of Booklist's Top 10 Science Books of 2017.

Gaia Discovery posed some questions to Goodell, who will be delivering a lecture at the Singapore Writers Festival.

What were the motivations for writing The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Reshaping of the Civilized World?

I have been writing about climate change for more than 15 years. I’ve travelled all over the world, from Greenland to South Africa, reporting on everything from drought to wildfires. But my understanding of the risks of sea level rise really began in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy hit New York City. I saw what a three meter storm surge could do to rich and powerful city like New York. And three meters is about the high end of how much sea level rise we could see by 2100. Then shortly after Sandy hit, I visited Miami during normal high tides, and saw that the tidal flooding was already serious. It became very clear to me that, because of a variety of factors – including billions of dollars-worth of real estate right on the water and the low, flat topography of South Florida – that if you take climate change seriously, Miami is in big, big trouble. What, if anything, can be done to save Miami? And if Miami is in big trouble, what about other coastal cities in the world? And that is basically how the book was born.

 Jeff Goodell conveys highlights of his book at Singapore Writers Festival 2018. Image courtesy Little, Brown.

Jeff Goodell conveys highlights of his book at Singapore Writers Festival 2018. Image courtesy Little, Brown.

What are a few highlights of your latest book? Who should read it and why?

When I think of my favorite parts of the book, I think of my account of a three day trip to Alaska in 2015 with then-President Obama, during which I got to spend a good deal of time with him talking about the politics of climate change. I think of my trip to Marshall Islands, where sea level rise is an existential risk – their country will vanish. I think of my visit to Lagos, where I spent time with people living in the city’s water slums, where I learned a lot about how to adapt to rising seas.

As for who should read my book, I’d say anyone who considers themselves an informed citizen of Planet Earth. Sea level rise is going to profoundly reshape the world as we know it. Also, anyone who owns a home in a coastal city, or who has investments in coastal real estate, should read this book. Because the risks are huge.

What are your thoughts on the latest IPPC’s Global Warming of 1.5C report? Hopefully it is being read by all policy makers worldwide (including Australia’s environment minister who dismisses the report as baseless!).

The latest IPCC report is terrifyingly clear and straightforward. A consensus of the best scientists in the world is telling us that climate change is real, it’s happening now, and it’s happening fast. There is nothing speculative about it. We only have a few decades to reduce carbon emissions, or we will condemn our children and grandchildren, and many generations beyond that, to life on a superheated plant, one with a radically different climate than humans have ever lived through before.

Am I optimistic that this report will change anything? No. I think it’s vitally important to do everything we can to reduce carbon pollution. But at the same time, it’s also time to prepare for life on a very different planet. Because no matter what we do with carbon pollution, it’s too late to “stop” climate change. That’s one reason why I titled my book, The Water Will Come, instead of, say, The Water Will Come Unless We All Install Solar Panels on Our Homes.

People often ask me, given that we are already seeing extreme weather events and the political inertia in some parts of the world to act quickly to address climate change and/or global warming, is it too late to act? How would you respond to that?

It’s absolutely not too late to act. Every ton of coal we avoid burning, every rainforest we preserve, every barrel of oil that stays in the ground, brings us that much closer to maintaining a stable climate. At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge that we’ve already dumped billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and it’s going to have an impact. And we need to prepare for that, and do all we can to minimize the risks.

How would you respond to climate change deniers?

Well, climate change deniers come in lots of different flavors, so it’s hard to generalize. But in general, the people I’m trying to reach are the people who understand that climate change is real and caused by human activity, but don’t really grasp the full scale of the consequences of this, or the risks we face, now and in the future.

What do you intend to speak about at the Singapore Writers Festival?

I’ll talk about my three year journey reporting this book, and what I learned about the risks and consequences of sea level rise to coastal cities around the world. I’ll talk about what can be done, as well what can’t be done, to protect coastal cities. And I’ll explain why sea level rise will have enormous political and economic implications for a place like Singapore. Ultimately, I’ll argue that climate change is going to force us to radically rethink our relationship with water, changing how and where we live.

The Singapore Writers Festival is on from 2-11 November 2018. Find out more on the festival’s website.

Photo of Jeff Goodell courtesy of Singapore Writers Festival

Harry Morris: Davao Reef Saviour

Harry D. Morris is a Filipiono national-level rugby player, and better known by many for his skill on the sportsfield. But Morris is a marine biologist, and passionately active about preserving Davao Gulf, one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world.

Elephant Knowledge: Anna Songhurst and Ecoexist

What started out as a PhD investigating behaviours has transcended into a whole social approach to making a better life for elephants – and safer lives for the humans who live and farm near them.

Ian Rosenberger: Trash for Dignity

Ian Rosenberger visited Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, and what he saw, and who he met changed his life. They also spawned a whole new business dedicated to making money out of returning dignity and clearing dangerous plastic waste.

Katherine Connor: Sustainable Elephant Rescue

Katherine Connor set up an elephant sanctuary in Thailand purely to benefit itsanimals - and to educate their owners. Not just for tourists wanting a memorable snap for their online account.

Andrew Sebastian: On Malaysia Ecotourism & Ecology

No stranger to bird lovers and forest trekkers in Malaysia, guide Andrew Sebastian has more tricks up his sleeves in promoting ecotourism and habitat conservation than anyone can imagine. Gaia Discovery’s Mallika Naguran catches up with the bird expert to find out more about the Wallace Project through Sebastian’s own NGO - Ecotourism & Conservation Society Malaysia, and about his views on how tourism can help raise ecological awareness.

Jin of Chickenfeet Travels: Adventure with Positive Impacts

Travelling just got more responsible, whether it is trekking, kayaking or just a stroll in the wild country, with a trip planned by Chickenfeet Travels. Mallika Naguran catches up with a rather unSingaporean Jin at a vegan shop in Bugis.

Michel Rawicki: Fragile Nature Through the Lens

Nature and wildlife photographer Michel Rawicki shares with Gaia Discovery what he has observed about nature in the Polar Regions, and how the climate is changing the environment in parts.  Rawicki is a guest of Voilah! festival, which presents his large scale prints in an outdoor exhibition themed Touched by the Cold.

Alexander Yee: Overcoming Turtle Conservation Challenges

Alexander Yee: Overcoming Turtle Conservation Challenges

It took vision, persistence and wisdom for conservationist Alexander Yee to be able to release his 30,000th turtle hatchling into the South China Sea after five years this March. He spoke to Mallika Naguran about how this highly effective turtle conservation programme came about but more importantly, how obstructive village practices were overcome to boost this aspect of marine life and ecotourism in Sabah.

Michael Davis: My Role as a Responsible Installation Artist

Bio-Resin, reusable metal in bar chimes… these are just a couple of materials that are surprisingly part of the Illumaphonium, a musical structure that stands tall, colourful, entrancing and strong at the I Light Marina Bay 2018 festival in Singapore. Gaia Discovery’s Mallika Naguran gets on the same bandwidth as its British creator Michael Davis as he speaks about his musical interest, beliefs, style and role as a responsible artist.

Amala Menon: Genuine Indian Homestays With SaveAGram

Just how authentic can community-based tourism get? SaveAGram strives to raise the bar in not just capturing the authenticity of village tourism experience in the north and south of India, but also maintain responsibility in touring activities so as to uphold age-old traditions, culture, values and even the architecture of Indian villages.

Alex Tsuk: Rise of Responsible Tourism Community in Bali with BookGreener

A ground up, industry-led responsible tourism movement is picking up in Bali. Mallika Naguran speaks to the founder or 'Chief Alchemist' of Book Greener, Alex Tsuk, about this special group of operators and the role they play in dealing with crisis as volcano Agung continues to disrupt tourism in this island of paradise.

Masaru Takayama: A Stronger Asian Ecotourism Network for 2018

Masaru Takayama, Chair and Founder of the Asian Ecotourism Network, speaks to Gaia Discovery's Mallika Naguran of his plans for 2018 and in shaping a stronger association that promotes responsible tourism in Asia. 

Tony Oposa: Rethink Economics, Consumption & Role of Law

Tony Oposa: Rethink Economics, Consumption & Role of Law

The connection between economics, progress, politics, power and law often leads to societal harm and environmental degradation in the name of progress. What does it take to review this chain of connection, and how?  Tony Oposa, award winning environmental lawyer, offers radical concepts and practical solutions in his recent publication Shooting Stars and Dancing Fish: A Walk to the World We Want. Mallika Naguran reviews the book and chats with Oposa.

Gloria Guevara Manzo: President & CEO of WTTC

Gloria Guevara Manzo: President & CEO of WTTC

1 August 2017 — Mexican Gloria Guevara Manzo will leave her office in sunny Florida to become the new President & CEO of the London based World Travel and Tourism Council, known as WTTC. WTTC is seen by many as the world authority on Travel & Tourism with a membership of over 150 CEOs of the world’s leading Travel & Tourism companies. It is the only global private sector organization representing the breadth of the global business and leisure travel industries.

Janson Chan: Mushrooming Food Security in Singapore

Janson Chan: Mushrooming Food Security in Singapore

Urban farming and agriculture have many benefits such as maintaining food security in land scarce Singapore. Mallika Naguran and Chan Shu Yin conduct an exclusive interview with Janson Chan, CEO of Agrivo Mycosciences to find out why the company connects with children on mushroom farming.