It’s an ‘Earth Emergency’

Scientists and Island experts gather to discuss issues surrounding climate change. 


The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society hosted a film screening of “Earth Emergency” alongside a panel discussion with Woodwell Climate Research Center scientists and environmental experts from the Island on Thursday, August 11. 

Film society founder Richard Paradise and Woodwell’s acting deputy director and senior scientist, Jennifer Francis, kicked off the event with a quick introduction prior to the film’s showing. Francis said she heard from George Woodwell, who founded the research center, that this was the best climate action film he has seen. 

“It could be because he’s in it,” Francis said, which was followed by laughs from the audience. 

“Earth Emergency” focused largely on climatic feedback loops, which are the processes that can increase or decrease the effects of climate drivers, and how each one is interconnected and amplifies the climate crisis on the planet. The documentary pointed to four feedback loop areas: forests, permafrost, albedo, and the atmosphere. These feedback loops are also driven by human activity, such as carbon emissions from factories and slash-and-burn agriculture. One example in the documentary was that fossil fuel emissions add heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere, raising Earth’s temperature, and kicking off “self-perpetuating warming loops,” causing more warming from the warming. Each problem can feed into other feedback loops. 

The documentary underscored that these feedback loops and human activity has led the world to a climate crisis “tipping point.” However, there is still a time to slow down, or even reverse, the climate crisis with global cooperation. 

“In the ancient time, individual human beings’ life depended on family. The family, their life depend on the community,” Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, said in the film. “Now, today’s world, the entire 7 billion human beings are one human community. We have to think ‘entire humanity.’”

Although mitigating climate change is everyone’s responsibility, there is one demographic the documentary pointed to having the most at stake, and being some of the most active: the youth. 

“Every great change throughout history has come from the people. We do not have to wait,” Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish environmental activist, said in the film. “We can start the change right now. We the people.”

A panel discussion, moderated by Martha’s Vineyard commissioner Ben Robinson, took place after the film. The panel consisted of Robinson, Francis, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation president Adam Moore, Woodwell carbon program director and associate scientist Wayne Walker, and Woodwell senior scientist Chris Neill. 

Robinson began highlighting some of the projects being done on Martha’s Vineyard and by Woodwell, both independently and cooperatively. One project he highlighted was an effort underway in collaboration with Woodwell and Sheriff’s Meadow to look into “carbon sequestration on the Island, biodiversity, and essentially our natural world around us. Not just conservation land, but our own backyards, and how we can better understand our relationship to that.”

“In a lot of ways, this means we have to repair what is a broken relationship with nature,” Robinson told the crowd. 

Moore said there have been both “negative and positive changes” to Martha’s Vineyard since the time the foundation was founded in 1958. On the negative side, there has been increased residential and commercial development, and fragmented wildlife habitats. On the positive side, reforestation is occurring on the Island, and around 40 percent of Martha’s Vineyard is “permanently dedicated” as conserved land, with more available for conservation. 

“There’s a lot of interest in learning more about our environment, and a lot of hope because there’s a really dedicated group of young people who are active and care and want to protect their environment here, and they’re very close to nature,” Moore said. “It gives me a lot of hope for the future.” 

The Vineyard’s ecosystem, like any other, is a “reservoir of carbon storage,” according to Walker. This makes it important for good science to be leading the way for climate action and data collection. In an analogy, Walker said it is important to understand the amount of water (carbon) in the bucket (environment), and how much water can be put in the bucket. 

“Our bucket is leaky. We’ve got water flowing out from any number of different sources,” Walker said. “The water is flowing out, those are sources of emission, the loss of carbon. Trees being cut down for development, mulch in our landscape environment on an annual basis that is decomposing and ending up back in the atmosphere. But those are also opportunities. We have opportunities to address those issues.”

Additionally, Walker said it is necessary to look for cost-effective and socially and ecologically responsible ways to address issues stemming from the leaky bucket.

Neill said studying how carbon has been sequestered, alongside the areas with “extraordinary levels of biodiversity” on the Island, over the years can help to understand what type of management may be needed to preserve the wildlife and lands, which can be applied to other communities. 

When asked by Robinson how people can recognize climate change is already here, Francis said she was looking at the increased numbers and intensity of natural phenomena, such as the record-breaking heat and the droughts experienced even on the Vineyard. Additionally, Francis said, there are more subtle forms of climatic tipping points that people should be worried about in the near future, such as the Amazon rainforest becoming a source of carbon or species extinctions. 

An idea Robinson imparted to the audience was “degrowth,” which means changing lifestyles to reduce consumption rates. 

“In order for the Vineyard to do its part in mitigating climate change, it will require us to reimagine how we manage our economy,” he said. “How should degrowth concepts in reductions in consumption and energy be incorporated into climate solutions for a place like Martha’s Vineyard? How can this complement natural and climate solutions?” 

There was also time for audience members to ask a few questions of the panelists, such as how to implement climate change mitigation in their own backyard, and how sea level rise affects freshwater availability for the Island. 

The film and discussion left an impression on audience members. Eric Goplerud felt policymakers in Boston and Washington, D.C., have to be pushed “to do more,” after seeing the film. 

“I think it’s disturbing, worrying, and it’s important that people see broadly how important and how overwhelming this issue is,” he said. “We all have to be part of the solution.”

Isabel Moore told The Times the film and the panel talk were interesting, and she was educated. 

“It was great. Kind of depressing, but it was nice to hear the talk afterward to hear things can get better,” she said.


  1. The Dalai Lama, and ”Greta” and ”tipping point” ”degrowth” and entire ”7 billion family community” are enough mentions to make someone run the other way.

  2. I saw that movie—For the deniers out there, I can only say that you’re gonna need a longer necks to keep your heads buried deeper in the sand to ignore this for much longer.
    And don’t forget to put plenty of sunscreen on your butts while you do it.
    But I do have one little ray of hope about the denier thing.
    I am frequently hearing from the deniers about Al Gore’s and John Kerry’s private jets.
    That may be one of the first signs that they are starting to wonder if there is a connection between major rivers drying up, extreme heat waves, record flooding and increasingly more powerful hurricanes and the rapidly changing climate and the burning of fossil fuels. Why would they care about how a few select rich people get around otherwise ?
    If you haven’t heard it from me before— I am for banning ALL private and corporate jets,
    Private yachts over 200 ft and single family homes over 10,000 sq ft.
    Including Al Gore’s and John Kerry’s.

    • Right there with you, Don. And graduated energy costs…the more you use the more you pay per unit of measure.

      • Yes, agreeed!
        And how about this: if you use more electricity than average, then you have to produce that additional electricity yourself, without any fossil fuels –
        And there shall be no neighborhood cable upgrade required just because one high-energy newcomer wants it.

  3. Don, why? Man can’t stop the climate from changing. All the money in the world can’t change it. We are powerless. Other countries are laughing at us while we bankrupt ourselves with this scam while they pollute until their hearts content. The climate is changing so we need to adapt to it not try and stop it. We need to protect and take care of what we have. Conserve but use wisely. One volcano eruption does more harm than we can ever prevent from mankind. I’m sick of the scam of we can change it. I’m not a climate change denier. It’s always changing.

    • Carl– usually at this point in a conversation i take some time and find provable facts about how wrong you are.
      But I am sick of doing that,as the willfully ignorant don’t believe facts science or logic and I just waste my time “throwing pearls to swine”that’s a quote attributable to Jesus.
      So let me ask you to provide us with some information backing up your points. I often do– you can too.
      I am particularly curious about where you get the idea that “One volcano eruption does more harm than we can ever prevent from mankind.”
      Let’s just focus on that one comment, Carl– show us that you actually know what you are talking about , rather than just parroting some climate denying talking point.
      Man up, buddy— I want to see the facts on that one..

      • Don,
        When I’m wrong I’m wrong. One volcano does NOT contribute more damage to the environment than mankind. I stand corrected, you are correct. However, the point I am trying to make is the cumulative affect of natural disasters is proportionally greater than that of mankind.
        In addition I’m not denying that the climate is changing. I was clear on that. I’m saying we are powerless to change it. The science does not show that we are in control or can control the environment. We cant even tell with great certainty that it’s going to rain ten days from now.
        As for offering more proof is asking to prove a negative. You can’t do it. Show me the proof that spending hundreds of billions of dollars can save the planet. China and India are contributing so much more pollutants than we are and they aren’t stopping. So please don’t tell me that what we are doing as a country is having any meaningful effect on our planet. I know you are going to eviscerate my comment but please give me credit on using affect and effect correctly as taught by you. Lol.
        And if your tired of making this argument and just want to paste a link I would be happy to read it and research it. Who knows you may convert me

        • Carl– I agree that the climate is always changing. But it changes on a scale of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years.
          Do you agree that the current pace of planetary warming is outside of the parameters of natural changes ?

          So you say I may even convert you.

          Ok — I’ll try.
          Let me start by asking a few questions so we know where we agree , and where we part ways on this topic.
          Do you believe that fossil fuels were created from the decaying remains of once living organisms that existed millions of years ago ?
          Do you believe that carbon dioxide is released when burning fossil fuels ?
          Do you believe that burning 2,000 pounds of coal produces apx. 3,740 pounds of carbon emissions ? — let me help with that one:

          Do you believe that in 2016, humans burned 8.5 trillion — yup, trillion tons — yup, tons–of coal , 35 trillion barrels of oil ( 42 gallons in a barrel) and over 27 trillion cubic ft of natural gas ?
          Do you believe human technology can measure the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ?
          Do you believe human technology can determine the amount of carbon dioxide that was in the atmosphere in the atmosphere 150 years ago?
          Do you believe that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by nearly 31 % since 1959 ? ( 318 to 417 ppm )
          Now we get tricky—
          Do you believe that the average temperature of earth has risen in the last 150 years ?
          Do you believe that atmospheric carbon traps heat from the sun’s infrared rays and contributes to the observed rise in the temperature of the planet. — The so called “greenhouse effect” ?

          I’ll stop right here, and see if we disagree on any of this.
          I checked “yes” on every question by the way..

          • Don, yes to all but I would like some time to properly articulate my thoughts/beliefs to the last question because this is where I go off the rails. Meaning I get confused. I have read that the ozone is and has been repairing itself and will be fully cured within our lifetime sooner depending which scientific researcher you subscribe to. We have been told if this happens all is good with Mother Nature. I know that plants need carbon dioxide to live. I know we shouldn’t deplete those plants and trees. But I just can’t stop thinking about how the earth went through so many climate changes in the past without humans burning/destroying the planet thousands of years ago. I would just ask is it possible just possible that the earth is going through one of these changes now and no matter what mankind says or does? I’m a naturally skeptical person and don’t have much faith or trust in man. But I’m not one who can’t be reasoned with. I’m kind of like you when it comes to the great spaghetti monster in the sky. You can’t believe in a higher power. That’s ok. I don’t trust people especially when so much money changes hands. But if I was shown enough proof that we can stop this from destroying our home and like I’m sure if you saw the seas being parted we would both be converts. I do think you have a better chance of converting me than us seeing the seas parted. And thanks for response and your time to educate me. I remain open minded and eager to learn as I respect your obvious passion and clearly tons of research. And if you don’t want to waste your time I get that too.

          • carl—I agree about the “so much money” concept.
            The amount of money being exchanged selling fossil fuels is incredible. It’s really amazing that the large energy companies “exchanging” 100’s of trillions if not quadrillions of dollars in petro products have managed to put the focus on a few billion dollars associated with the climate research.
            As for the ozone hole— we know what caused it, the Montreal protocol addressed it,banned most production of CFC’s and it is improving. Easy peasy– Identify a problem, fix it.
            Same thing with acid rain.
            If we didn’t address those issues, skin cancer rates would be much higher, and who knows what effects it would be having on the flora and fauna, and most of our lakes and rivers would be too acidic for fish to live in.
            So a question–
            Why were there so many hippies in the 60’s?
            Answer– because the rain had acid in it !

            there are 6 things that cause climate change.
            “God decides to change it” is not one of them.

            How about we take them on one at a time ?
            The most common one i hear from deniers is about solar cycles.

          • Don, touché on the fossil fuel money concept. I honestly never reversed my argument to that point. Embarrassed to say so. Now I’m off to read your suggestions.

        • Carl–I really respect that you admit when you are wrong. It inspires me to do the same– now if only andy would ever—
          So not to point out that you are wrong again, but you say ” China and India are contributing so much more pollutants than we are…”
          Not so–
          China produces about double what we do.
          India produces 1/2 of what we do,

          This despite the fact that China and India have a combined population of nearly 8 1/2 times the population of the U.S

          While the U.S is not the top emitter per capita, we produce more than twice the output of China and more than 7 times more than the people of India. If you want to blame people for polluting, pick on Montenegro or Trinidad.
          But that just doesn’t provoke the same kind of visceral response from the right wing media.

          • Over the past twenty years, climate scientists have increased knowledge about climate change. But at the same time, the rhetoric that comes from commentators and the media has become increasingly irrational. Fears of a climate apocalypse are unfounded. Global warming is real, but it is not the end of the world. It is a manageable problem. Almost half the population believes climate change will extinguish humanity. This has altered the political reality. It makes us double down on poor climate policies. It makes us increasingly ignore all other challenges, from pandemics and food shortages to political strife and conflicts, or subsume them under the banner of climate change. This obsession with climate change means that we are now going from wasting billions of dollars on ineffective policies to wasting trillions. And we’re ignoring ever more of the world’s more urgent and much more tractable challenges. And we’re scaring kids and adults witless, which is not just factually wrong but morally reprehensible. If we don’t stop, the current, false climate alarm, despite its good intentions, is likely to leave the world much worse off than it could be. We need to dial back on the panic, look at the science, face the economics, and address the issue rationally. How do we fix climate change, and how do we prioritize it amid the many other problems afflicting the world?

  4. Carl, Keller’s view on climate change is rabid. It is a real religion to him unlike his jesting on Pastafarians. He believes we are doomed unless and until we all act to mitigate. It is a meteorological Armageddon to him and he is eschatologically certain of its trajectory. He is more certain of this than almost anything else in his life. He is a decent man who is obsessed with research and always learning but never coming to the knowledge of truth.

    • Andy– what do you call it when 10 of the word’s largest rivers are drying up ?
      We are having multiple record breaking heat waves and droughts, record flooding ( not just every thousand years ) more severe storms and a rising sea level.
      I will call it an approaching ” meteorological Armageddon”

      By the way, you are misusing the word “eschatologically”.
      It is a religiously affiliated word based in belief of things that are not known or provable. — Like the book of revelation.
      Provable science and common sense observations are not associated with eschatology.

      • If I am misusing Eschatology, then you are misusing Armageddon Keller. Eschatology is the study of End Times. Armageddon is an actual battle in Revelation 16. The last one cant be proven but the first one is a real term.

    • Andy– there is a saying—
      Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit— Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.

  5. Could the comments section on the articles in the MV Times somehow move beyond frequent commenters talking to each other rather than to the readership as a whole?

    • Mark…simple solution would be to not read the comments. MV is not a huge community and if there just a few exchanging, opinions, ideas, thoughts or conversing so be it. Not sure what your problem is with that. I find it entertaining, enlightening, Educational, humorous and infuriating.

    • Mark–as a frequent commenter I often talk to people who don’t comment but read this stuff.
      Since real names are required, some people, particularly business people don’t comment out of fear of offending some of their clients.
      Take a stand, express an opinion and some people will love you, some will be offended. The offended ones may even choose not to do business with you whether it’s a comment about school funding, who can speak at libraries, or concert venues or climate change . The nuances about political divisiveness in our divided society are difficult to quantify.
      You chose to make this suggestion in an obvious response to the discussion between Carl and myself. You do not have to read it– Just click on some other story.
      But both Carl and I know that there are hundreds if not thousands of people reading what we write. Some of those people are world leaders and influential business people, as well as artisans, writers, craftsperson’s and regular people who care about local and world issues and events.
      But to get back on point– the current public conversation between Carl and myself about climate issues is not just a personal conversation about whether to marinate chicken with teriyaki or a ginger sauce — that would be fine if we were– there have been plenty of such topics here

      Carl and I have both decided to engage in a public conversation on this forum about what we both think is one of the most consequential issues of our time–
      I respect him for that, and I am sure he respects me also.
      This forum is about an open and civil exchange of ideas.
      You can easily avoid any topic you choose.
      I encourage anyone who cares about any of the numerous topics that come across this forum to participate.
      if you are out of line, the moderator will not allow it to be printed.
      I look forward to your response, Mark.
      And I look forward to the commentary of anyone who is willing to participate in this forum on any subject.
      Thank you for your comment, Mark.

      • Don, you have given me a lot to read and have definitely opened my eyes and mind to the climate change debate. You are dragging me kicking and screaming. Reading Englemans post really resonates with whereby, I think all three of us want the same results that being a clean and efficient planet. As I look at this more and more it’s the narrative that’s problematic. It’s like we just want to argue for the sake of arguing. My point is that being green doesn’t and shouldn’t be a liberal/progressive/democrat talking point. By admitting that climate change is real and making the necessary changes to deal with affects of climate can also be done using technology that reduces the harm to the planet. I think we get to the same place by working together. Prepare for the inevitable by using our resources sparingly and efficiently and we probably get to the same place in the end. Or am I oversimplify this and being naive?

        • Carl. I agree it’s not a republican /democrat issue. we are all here together.
          But you just have to admit, that the overwhelming number of people who do not believe the changing climate is a problem, or if it is, it’s not a very consequential one, are republicans.
          Especially at the highest levels of the federal government.
          And that’s where it matters.
          While it is good for individuals to make an effort, taking cold showers isn’t going to do it. You know there are some people who just don’t care. Take for example Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s private 747. They took it from New York to La. To go to a party.
          I could never take a hot shower again, never drive my car again, and never get on a jet again, and I wouldn’t save enough to cover that one trip.
          That kind of stuff has gotta stop. Gore and Kerry included.
          Developing fusion technology and quickly getting that power into widespread use might help.
          As for “green” — that’s a pretty useless marketing concept.
          Most stuff is just what it is, and slick advertising companies make a killing selling stuff that is “eco friendly” or “save the planet”. BS.
          Those little “eco” light on the dashboards of cars are a good example–people feel all touchy feely “green” about driving their 5 thousand pound car that gets 20 mpg because that little light is on. The only way you can get out of “eco mode” in those cars is to put the pedal to the floor while going uphill.
          Read some of the stuff that Steve Cabana posted on the climate action plan story.
          Some of it would fit into the “alarmist” category, but the majority of it is pretty verifiable.
          And we should be alarmed– we should be very alarmed.

          • Thinking about it, republicans do deny it while democrats preach to the masses to change their habits while traveling on private jets living in huge homes. So how are we supposed to believe what John Kerry is saying when he doesn’t follow his own advice. Both parties need to lead by example including republicans who claim to be fiscally responsible. Laughable.

          • Carl– We all know that the way we live is unsustainable, and we will eventually have to start making some sacrifices. We know we won’t do it voluntarily. Particularly the wealthy will not give up their perks.
            So let me just talk about air travel.
            First a fully loaded 747 with about 500 passengers is much more energy efficient than having 250 cars driving the same distance.. While the variables concerned with that statement are hard to quantify, here is something to keep you occupied in your spare time. Sorry– Ha!
            But clearly Kim And Kanye taking a converted 747, and 6 passengers is over the top.
            Or John Kerry’s private jet.
            So when the governments of the world get serious about carbon emissions, the lowest hanging fruit is banning private jets and mega yachts.
            A typical 70m yacht gets about 50 ft to the gallon.
            Which party in the U.S do you think would be more likely support that idea ?
            As for John Kerry– does the fact that he flies private make climate change any less real ?
            By the way, Kerry does not preach to the masses to change their behavior — he preaches to government leaders to change their laws.
            You won’t see any clips of him telling people to sit in the dark, but he did push for research and development of led light bulbs. And the phasing out of incandescent bulbs.
            If he had to fly to Australia to help get a total ban on incandescent bulbs there It just might be worth that trade off.
            The U.S was well on it’s way to phasing them out until you know who became president and reversed the momentum on that one. Biden has renewed the effort.

    • I had to laugh when one writer told us that there are ”hundreds if not thousands of people reading these posts and some are world leaders”.. This is a guy trying to be a big fish in a small pond because he couldnt make it anywhere else. No one cares about this stuff.

      • Andy– I have to laugh at your silly efforts to criticize me.
        As for not being able to make it anywhere else– do you really think the Vineyard is an easy place to “make it”? Tell that to all the people who would have loved to stay here, but couldn’t because of housing, high cost of living or whatever. You are insulting a whole group of hard working people who had to move through no fault of their own.
        I worked hard to stay here andy. I built my own house with my own hands,
        It didn’t come easy– Shame on you.

  6. Keller, coming to an island destination resort is fraught with economic issues and people should know that in advance. YOU DIDNT. As for making it, my comment is not related to your so called hard work but you desire to be a male ingenue and wannabe journalist researcher. Your apocalyptic hysteria about the world ending doesn’t help anyone.

    • Excuse me andy, if when I comment about something, I actually take the time to do some research so that I know what I am talking about before I make myself look like an ignorant fool. And I share the footnotes, so others don’t just think I am lying and blowing smoke out of an orifice or two. If I am proven wrong, I admit it. — I have a number of times– I really respect Carl for that.
      Do you still think I didn’t take your wager ?
      If you read what I have been saying about the topic of climate change, you will see that I am following the science and not talking “apocalyptic hysteria”. Quite the contrary. When ignorant people here criticize Obama for being concerned about rising sea levels and buying a house “on the beach” I remind them that the worst case scenario , according to real scientist and not people who lie about what the scientist say is that the worst case scenario is about 6 ft before Obama turns 150 years old. His house is at 12 ft.
      If the science is clear, and I accurately articulate it, that is not “apocalyptic hysteria”. It is speaking truth to an inconvenient problem that is getting more inconvenient all the time.
      Perhaps when your barrier beach Island in Florida gets washed into the sea, you will get a little more concerned.
      But you’ll just move because you won’t be able to make it there. Even if it’s not your fault.

    • andy– unlike your eschatologically based belief about the “end times” –climate change will not be the end of the world. It will just be another mass extinction event– which have happened many times on this planet. Humans will just be one of many that become extinct– many creatures will survive, and undoubtedly flourish. Life will continue— Evolution will continue– the sun sun will rise and set, the climate will change, and in a couple hundred million years, something smarter than us might get to the top of the heap.
      You brought up the concept of “meteorological Armageddon”, and now are somehow telling me that those 2 words can’t go together after I quote you ?
      What up with that, andy ????

    • What’s more hysterically apocalyptic than the evangelical apocalypse fairy tale in its fear mongering (terrorizing) of non-Christians, particularly Jews? That’s quite some cognitive dissonance you’ve got going on there, engelman, criticizing Don for a belief in and sharing of, you know, science, also as known as, reality.

  7. EARTH EMERGENCY post screening panel discussion.

    If anyone would like to see/listen to the complete post screening discussion we taped for the entire community — you can connect to it at

    We thank Woodwell Climate Research Center, Woods Hole and the panelists for sharing their film and resources with us.

    MV Film Society

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