Planet Change: Speaking Out on Climate Change

Over the past several months, I and many of my colleagues across The Nature Conservancy have  been working on Planet Change, a new microsite we are launching today to draw attention to the need for a global solution to climate change that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions as well as two crucial, yet often overlooked issues in the fight against climate change:

The site we’ve put together informs users on the importance of these issues and invites them to participate in our campaign to bring these issues to the table as U.S. lawmakers and global leaders debate the framework for national legislation and global agreements on climate change.

The site gives users the ability to post a message of hope on what they want to protect from climate change and use the social networks Facebook and Twittter to tell their friends about the importance of curbing deforestation and helping nature reduce the impacts of climate change.

While we were creating the site, much of our time was spent on esoteric and technical concerns like design, messaging, user flow, flash integration and APIs (check out Wikipedia if you must know). At the risk of sounding overly cynical, much of what we were doing could have been dedicated to marketing soap flakes instead of raising awareness of solutions to climate change.

Then, one evening last week I was putting together the video above, shot by Conservancy staff in Kenya, and my attitude changed in an instant. The video is a testimonial of a Samburu tribeswoman from Kenya talking about the changes she has witnessed from climate change during her lifetime — drought, decreased food production and loss of income.

Like all of us (whether we know it or not), the Samburu depend deeply on natural systems for their livelihood. Those systems are changing and with those changes, people are facing new hardships in an already exceedingly difficult existence.

After putting this video together, launching Planet Change was no longer an exercise in  implementing new web 2.0 tactics. It was now all about getting this woman’s message to the world and helping as many people spread that message as broadly as possible.

It brought my mission home: Use the power of the web to amplify a solitary voice that otherwise might never be heard.

If you believe in the work we’re doing, please lend a hand.


  1. It is unjust that places third world countries such as Kenya are the first to feel the effects of climate change. The Developed world must take responsibility for their emissions of greenhouse gases, and aid these countries to help them adapt to the changes they have had forced on them.

  2. Hi Dave,
    I am a believer in human-induced climate change and I believe that the developing world will be hit hardest by climate change. But, after watching the video posted above I am wondering if it is accurate to suggest that the changes being experienced by this Kenyan woman are a result of climate change. I mean, how often does the area experience drought? Are there any other meteorological explanations? In a time when climate is such a hot button issue, I would love to see these types of statements supported by some data.

  3. TL,
    Thanks for your comment. You know, this is a tricky thing. Here is a woman, who every day spends her life thinking, “where am I going to get water from and how will I put together my next meal.” I say this not necessarily to elicit sympathy, but to point out that her livelihood is extraordinarily closely tied to the land, the weather, seasonal changes and yearly climate changes.

    This woman is reporting here that she has seen, year after year, not just extended drought, but noticeable shifts in when seasons occur — the rainy seasons have shifted and they are noticeably shorter.

    To her, these events do not seem cyclical — they are abnormal. As you note, we know that these types of communities will be hardest hit by climate change, we know that climate change is occurring now and we know that unless we reduce greenhouse gas emissions this will continue.

    I can also tell you that our scientists and conservation experts working on the ground are very concerned about the threat of climate change in this area.

  4. I concur that the woman and her community are intimately tied to the land and other natural resources, making her a good barometer of the health of the ecosystem. And there is sufficient scientific evidence that global warming is primarily anthropogenic; which obliges us to act now to curtail our impacts at all levels.
    However, be careful collecting such anecdotal evidence and casting it as representative of the facts—one has to be methodical and scientific with such approaches. She is but one granular piece of the puzzle, and one should strive to conduct professional social/anthropogenic studies to earn credibility of your peers and the wider society, lest we make further policy mistakes such as unbridled fossil fuel mining and consumption.
    Again, I too believe global warming is in full swing, but let us substantiate such moving stories with some evidence-based prologue that substantiates her experience, for instance, local climate studies.

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