Wild Edens: Russia. Opening remarks at the global premier.
Bright New World was invited to MC the global premier of the new National Geographic Channel film Wild Edens: Russia. Here are the opening remarks
Good evening, and welcome to this very special event.
I am Dr Ben Heard, Founder of the environmental organisation Bright New World. I am also an energy researcher based in the Global Ecology Lab of Flinders University, in Adelaide, South Australia.
Bright New World is one of the voices for a rapidly growing movement that regards nuclear technologies as not merely acceptable, but rather an essential tool in the fight against climate change, and in the protection, conservation and restoration of our natural world.
As an environmentalist, I have had quite a journey with nuclear technologies, and I will summarise it in six steps that have brought me before you tonight.
Firstly, I was anti-nuclear.
Then, I really understood climate change.
Then I really understood nuclear.
Then, I changed my mind.
Then I started talking about it.
And then, I didn’t stop.
So you can imagine that is my absolute pleasure to be your Master of Ceremonies for this very special event.
We assembled here today in Sochi, have the great privilege of being the very first audience in the world for this beautiful new film series from National Geographic, Wild Edens.
Tonight, a specially edited version of the first episode will be taking us to the eden that is the great wilderness of Russia.
Truly, we are most fortunate to have this unique experience, thanks to the support of our conference event hosts, Rosatom.
I feel especially fortunate.
I’m a long way from home, but I love seeing our world – walking the cities, meeting the people, and exploring the wild places.
I know I can’t see it all in one lifetime, but I want to know that our wild edens still exist.
That this beautiful and important film from National Geographic is brought to us with the help of Rosatom, represents something Bright New World fights for every day – recognition that nuclear technologies are crucial to the protection, restoration and expansion of our natural world.
Thanks to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases, nothing remains untouched by our civilisation.
Our rapidly changing climate no longer any kind of hypothetical.
When I was a child, a day above 40 degrees Celsius in an Adelaide summer was a rarity.
Our summer of 2013-2014 had 13 days above that mark.
Right across south-eastern Australia, our climate is swiftly trending hotter and drier.
Even on a continent that is well-adapted to fire, climate change poses a grave ecological risk.
We are experiencing conditions that are so persistently hot, and so dry, with seasons that are so long, that a new, more intense fire regime is emerging.
Instead of fire as an extreme, but normal part of our ecological cycles, this new regime threatens the future of certain Australian ecosystems, like the stunning Alpine Ash forests of Victoria and the alpine ecosystems of Tasmania.
Similarly, over the last few years our Great Barrier Reef has experienced extraordinary coral bleaching events.
Like fire, it is not merely that this happens, but how often and how severely, that is causing great concern.
Fortunately, many ecosystems, including forests and coral reefs, can be surprisingly resilient.
Unfortunately, human-induced climate change is just getting started.
Protecting these places means rapidly transitioning from fossil-carbon fuels, for a future global community of 10 billion.
But to safeguard our wild edens, we must also alleviate other pressures immediately.
We must boost the resilience, quality and connectivity of these edens.
If any of us experiences a fever when we are otherwise healthy, fit and strong, we will likely recover.
The same fever when we are weakened, stressed, diseased and damaged, might kill us.
So, we must to lighten our footprint on nature, which, perhaps ironically, means we must care for people.
Humans with electricity and fuel don’t cut and burn trees and charcoal to survive.
Humans with educations and meaningful jobs don’t poach endangered animals – they cherish them.
Clean energy combined with human ingenuity, lets us intensify our agriculture and food production.
Agriculture is easily the single biggest impact we have on the natural world.
Conversion of land takes our forests.
Diversion of water dries our rivers.
Chemical run-off harms our reefs.
Using more energy, and being smarter, we can lighten these pressures.
At Bright New World we understand it is particularly nuclear technologies that will help us find this energy at a global scale, without super-charging the climate change of tomorrow.
Nuclear technologies are proven in meeting the electricity needs of developed nations, on a tiny footprint of land, using facilities close to our human habitats.
Today’s new plants will provide for our needs for 60, 80 or perhaps even the next 100 years and can securely hold their waste.
Tomorrow’s plants will recycle that waste to provide another twenty-times the energy from the same fuel.
Every nation on earth can identify a credible clean energy pathway with nuclear technologies in the mix. Almost none can do so without it.
We will still need to decide to protect our wild edens.
But with nuclear technologies, we know we can make that decision.
In fact, we can decide to make a planet that is better and brighter than we have let ourselves dream.
And one of the greatest, most hopeful signs I have seen that this can happen, is to see a major corporation like Rosatom step boldly forward in this way and claim this issue on behalf of nuclear technologies.
So, as a global industry with the most powerful energy technology in your hands, this week, I invite you dream aloud.