Dear EarthTalk: A friend of mine in Connecticut raves about the "Green Drinks" events she attends there every month to meet up with other eco-interested locals. How can I find out if there are any such gatherings in my area?
—Janet McIntosh, Dubuque, Iowa
Every month green-minded people in 460-plus cities around the world meet up at informal social gatherings called Green Drinks. Started in 1989 in London by Edwin Datschefski and friends, the concept has spread like wildfire, with some 350 different Green Drinks chapters worldwide today. The events are designed to be low-key, unstructured and welcoming of all viewpoints on environmental topics. Many participants have found jobs, made friends, developed new ideas, done deals and had moments of serendipity and inspiration at various Green Drinks events.
In the U.S. alone, different Green Drinks events are held in 223 cities every month. The New York City chapter is the biggest in the world, with an invite list topping 10,000 people and typical attendance in the hundreds. Green Drinks events are also popular in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Poland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Japan, New Zealand, Chile, Puerto Rico and Australia. Melbourne, Australia currently holds the record for the world's biggest Green Drinks event, with more than 1,700 participants showing up on the first night of the city's February 2007 Sustainable Living Festival.
"People from different fields come together with a mutual interest in environmental issues and cross-pollinate and drink in a very low-key social atmosphere," says Margaret Lydecker, who started New York City's Green Drinks chapter in 2002 and currently serves as the U.S. point-person for the events. Lydecker—who has personally helped start upwards of 100 different chapters, including one in Kabul, Afghanistan—says the events have been a big catalyst for connectivity, community, collaboration and change in the environmental sector in New York and beyond.
In the U.S. and Canada, most mid-sized and large cities already have thriving Green Drinks chapters. You can likely find one somewhere near you, wherever you live, by searching under the "Find City" link on the GreenDrinks.org website, and clicking through until you get a schedule of upcoming events in your particular city. If there isn't yet a Green Drinks chapter in your region, by all means start a new one.
Heather Burns-DeMelo, who had started a local/green happenings website for Connecticut called CTgreenscene.com, was inspired by Lydecker in 2007 to start a Green Drinks chapter where she lives in Connecticut's Fairfield County so that green-minded people in the area could connect in person. "The web is great," she says, "but face-to-face is key to growing the movement."
According to Burns-DeMelo, setting up the chapter was easy—she just emailed Green Drinks founder Datschefski from the greendrinks.org website with a request to start a new chapter—but getting people to come to the initial events was more challenging. She and friends set up sign-up tables at local community events, found a restaurant willing to host, sent a press release to local papers, hung fliers and posted notices on her website and others. The hard work paid off: 65 people showed up at the first event on a gloomy Wednesday night, and the chapter has been growing by leaps and bounds ever since.
CONTACT: Green Drinks
Dear EarthTalk: Which parts of the United States are or will be hardest hit by global warming?
—Aliza Perry, Burlington, VT
It's difficult to predict which areas of the U.S. will suffer the most from global warming, but it's safe to say that no regions will be unaffected. Scientists already point to increased severity of hurricanes on the East Coast, major Midwest floods, and shrinking glaciers in the West as proof of global warming's onset.
Of course, America couldn't have asked for a better poster child in the fight to stave off global warming than Alaska, which is undergoing dramatic landscape changes as a result of warming-induced temperature increases, glacial melting and sea level rise. Even Alaska's conservative elected officials can no longer deny that human-induced warming is affecting their state. The picture isn't looking too rosy in the western continental U.S. either, which is already facing some of the country" largest temperature increases. The signature glaciers in Montana's Glacier National Park may be all gone within just two decades.
A recent report by two leading nonprofits, the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Natural Resources Defense Council, details how the 11 U.S. western states together have experienced an increase in average temperature during the last five years some 70 percent greater than the global average rise. The hottest part of the region has been drought-stricken Arizona, where average temperatures have risen some 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit—120 percent greater than the global rise—between 2003 and 2007. Researchers also found that the West has experienced more frequent and severe heat waves, with the number of extremely hot days increasing by up to four days per decade since 1950.
In the Midwest, seemingly minor increases in temperature have already wrought major effects. In 2006 Lake Erie didn't freeze for the first time in history, which led to "lake effect" snowfalls as more evaporating water was available for precipitation. Likewise, changes in the lake's water temperature have begun to alter fish populations, which in turn affect birds and their migratory patterns. Despite localized heavier snowfalls, though, the region is generally suffering from a drying trend. Farmers worry that the result will be lower crop yields and thus more expensive food for American consumers.
On the east coast, coral reef bleaching, heat waves and increased hurricane intensity are just some of the warming-related hazards Floridians have had to deal with in recent years. Washington, DC's famous cherry trees are now blossoming earlier due to temperature increases. Further north, milder-than-typical winter temperatures have been linked to subtle changes in ocean currents. In New York City, the average temperature has increased about four degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, and could get 10 degrees hotter by 2100, according to a study commissioned by the federally funded U.S. Global Change Research Program.
But the bigger problem for New York City, as well as other low-lying areas around the nation's coasts, will be sea level rise: Climate models predict that sea level around the Northeast is expected to rise between é inch and 3 ½ feet over the course of this century.