While the threat of melting glacial ice caps seems far removed from Caribbean life, climate change affects all corners of the world — even Love City.
Rising sea temperatures have been found to be a major contributor to the declining health of coral reefs, the beauty of which draws hundreds of tourists to the island.
Thanks to part-time resident Kent Taylor, this month residents and visitors will be able to learn much more about the dire climate issues happening around the globe.
Taylor, who is an avid diver and underwater photographer, has observed the same local reefs over the past 20 years and noticed a disturbing problem.
“I dive in the same area on St. John year after year and the fact that the reefs were bleaching was very obvious to me,” said Taylor. “While many factors contribute to the problem, like salinity and pesticide run-off, I realized increasing ocean temperatures probably had the most to do with the reef deterioration.”
The Chicago-area resident kept up his diving off-island, regularly getting underwater at the renowned Shedd Aquarium. It was through the Shedd that Taylor kept abreast of ongoing research related to climate change.
“I’ve been lecturing about global warming and its effects on our oceans since the 1980s,” Taylor said. “Seeing the slow, relentless deterioration of the reefs moved me to understand what was causing this precipitous decline. I began to incorporate the information into my dive presentations from within the Shedd’s 90,000-gallon Carib-bean Coral Reef exhibit.”
While Al Gore’s Academy Award winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” prompted many to take up the cause of global warming, it was a pledge that the former vice president made which spurred Taylor to action.
“Gore was on a national broadcast one day and said that he was going to train 1,000 volunteers to spread the message and I jumped on that,” said Taylor. “After searching for more information on the internet, I came across The Climate Project, which is the grass roots organization that was going to facilitate the training.”
Within a few months, Taylor was one of the 1,000 accepted to the program and in January, he traveled to Nashville, Tenn. for a three day training session.
“They trained us in groups of 200 and it was really just an amazing experience,” said Taylor. “The first day everyone checked in and at dinner Al Gore gave a few words. The amazing thing was that afterwards he stood by the front for one and a half hours doing a meet and greet with anyone who wanted to talk to him.”
Gore gave the presentation seen in “An Inconvenient Truth” during the second day of training, but included much more information, Taylor explained.
“He made the presentation and then he dissected the presentation slide by slide,” said Taylor. “He went through 300 slides and was on his feet the entire time. He took every question and answered everyone.”
The third day of training covered “why bad presentations happen to good causes,” said Taylor.
A sitcom writer explained tips for conducting effective presentations and then volunteers got the opportunity to try their hands in front of the crowd, Taylor explained.
“We made mock presentations of certain sections and then Al Gore came back at the end of day,” he said. “He talked about the mission and it brought tears to my eyes. He gave so much of himself I was really impressed.”
While Gore’s film covers basically the same material which Taylor will go over, the live presentation gives the audience the chance to ask questions, Taylor explained.
“It’s the same presentation, but I’m giving people the opportunity to ask a question, or say ‘I didn’t understand this concept’ or ‘that slide made no sense to me,’” said Taylor. “I want everyone to have a firm understanding of the underlying science behind global warming.”
Although the issue is anything but upbeat, Taylor wants people to walk away from his presentation with hope.
“We can do this — we’ve solved a lot of problems,” Taylor said. “We defeated Hitler and polio and we’ve even developed the science to solve the ozone hole crisis. This is a tough one, but it’s within our grasp.”
“My message is we can’t go from denial immediately to despair,” continued Taylor. “It really isn’t that depressing — it’s an opportunity that will enhance our entire standard of living. I want people to walk out going ‘yes, we can do this.’”
Green Technology Opportunities
People should look at the climate change as an opportunity to expand technology, explained Taylor.
“I think there is going to be a net profit, not a net cost involved with global warming,” he said. “There is money to be made in green technology. There are going to be entire new industries formed.”
“There is no reason to look at this like we have to sacrifice anything,” Taylor continued. “There is no reason this can’t be a big economic benefit.”
Taylor will give his presentation “Climate Change and Global Warming” at the Westin Resort and Villas on Tuesday, March 27, at 7 p.m., and on Wednesday, March 28, at 7:45 p.m. at the Maho Bay Campground pavilion. Both presentations are free and open to the public.
Available for Bookings
The climate expert, who will be on island until April 14, is also available to any group interested in the presentation. Contact Taylor on his cellular phone at 708-347-1849, at the Westin at 693-8000 or his email address at [email protected] to book a presentation.