Monthly Archives: January 2017

Responding to a friend who saw climate change on his vacation

My friend, Mark Deeter, getting ready to go on a scuba dive in Jamaica.

January 13 2017, my friend, Mark Deeter, saw the damage of climate change firsthand.  He was scuba diving on one of his dives in Jamaica. He had trouble making sense of what he saw.

He posted the video below on Facebook with this comment:
“One of my dives in Jamaica. What’s startling is that the reef is essentially dead. There are a number of small fish but the larger fish are absent. There were not many crabs or crustaceans either. We did see some turtles and an octopus No lobster, eels or other creatures that should be found in a healthy reef. The reason: Global Warming. The warmer oceans have killed the reefs. Only about 1/4 of the existing reefs in the world are healthy. Perhaps my friend Brian Ettling can also comment (we worked National Park Service together and he is a world renown expert on Global Warming).”

Below was my response to Mark:

Mark: I wake up everyday wishing that climate change is not real. I take no joy only sadness with the increased amount of evidence for global warming that we are seeing across the world, especially with what just videoed from you recent dive in Jamacia. Having said that, the only way I know to overcome the dire evidence of climate change that I have seen working in the national parks is to act.

Joan Baez said: “Action is the antidote for dispair.”

Dr. David Orr said, “Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.”

Mark Deeter and I worked together in Everglades National Park from 1992-93. The Mother of Everglades National Park and one of my biggest heroes, Marjory Stoneman Douglas used to say, “It’s not a matter of being optimist or pessimistic when It comes to saving the Everglades (or the planet). It is something that simply has to be done.”

We will have negative consequences with climate change in the future and now. The question is: How bad do we want it to be?

Our decisions that we make each and everyday day does make a difference. Each and everyone of us has to decide what kind of world that we want to have.

Explorer Robert Swan, said, “The Greatest Threat to Our Planet Is the Belief That Someone Else Will Save It.”

So what gives me hope? The millions of people across the world organizing to reduce the threat of climate change. Canada is getting ready to implement a nationwide carbon tax by 2018. Worldwide carbon emissions have now been nearly flat for three years in a row from years 2014-2016. China plans to invest over $361 billion dollars in renewable energy. In many areas across the world, renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels. In 2015 almost 70% of new electricity installed came from renewable energy. I have not seen the final figures yet for 2016. However, Solar Made Up 64% of New Electric Generating Capacity in the US in the first quarter of 2016. 2010 was the first year where more money was invested in renewable energy than fossil fuels. The future trend shows more money being invested in renewable energy in the future while investment in fossil fuels continues to shrink.

Source: “Fossil Fuels Just Lost the Race Against Renewables,” Bloomberg News, April 14, 2015.

I get my best deepest sense of hope for the future by getting involved with other climate advocates. American conservationist Ding Darling said, “It’s not enough to care. We must link our arms together and act collectively.”

I get hope with my involvement in the Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps since 2012. The next Climate Reality Training is in Denver, Colorado on March 2-4. I will be a mentor there. The Climate Reality Project has trained almost 11,000 people across the world over the past 10 years to give climate change talks in their communities.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) gives me tremendous hope for the future. They have over 55,000 volunteers across the U.S and world. They have over 368 groups in the U.S alone regularly engaging their members of Congress and the media to get Congress to pass their carbon fee and dividend. With their efforts in 2016, they enabled 16 GOP members of the House of Representatives to co-sponsor the Chris Gibson Resolution H-424 calling for climate action. With the persistence of their volunteers in 2016, 9 GOP House members and 9 Democrats are now part bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus to discuss climate change solutions.

Brian Ettling lobbying Congressional Offices as a volunteer lobbyist for Citizens Climate Lobby, November 2016.

There is hope in the world. However, we must be open to look for it and, more important, we must be willing to act.

Buckminister Fuller wrote, “If success or failure of this planet and of human beings depended on how I am and what I do… HOW WOULD I BE? WHAT WOULD I DO?”

Mark Deeter and I served together in the the Christian Ministries in the National Parks in Everglades National Park in the winter of 1992-93 and Death Valley National Park in the spring on 1994. For years afterwards, I was not active in any church. However, over the past two years, I have been speaking in different churches on climate change.

As I have been speaking in churches recently, I have been ending with this quote that I heard decades ago:

“You ask what the will of God is and this I know is true. It is the nearest thing that can be done and can be done by you.”

The Best Way I know to Reach Climate Change Doubters

Below is the text from a speech I gave at St. Louis South County Toastmasters on Wednesday, January 4, 2017. The members of this Toastmasters Club for me as “The Best Speaker” for this speech.

Are you frustrated with the world and don’t what to do about it?

I highly recommend joining your local Toastmasters group. Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. But let’s face it: public speaking scares many people to death.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld famously joked, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Image Source:

Mr. Toastmaster, my fellow Toastmasters and honored guests, let me tell you my story. Unlike most people, I am a bit of a ham.

For the past 19 years, I have been a seasonal park ranger in Everglades National Park, Florida and Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. I loved every minute of standing in front of an audience, in these iconic places sharing about nature.

Ranger Brian Ettling at Crater Lake National Park

I even created my jokes as a park ranger, such as:

“What did one continental plate say to the other after the Earthquake?”

Any guesses?

“It’s not my fault!”

I thought that was hilarious. Some of my fellow rangers even stole that joke from me.

As a ranger, I saw something that was not funny at all. Any guesses?

Ironically, one of I the things I quickly learned when I started giving ranger talks is that people expect park rangers to know everything, don’t you?

Around 18 years ago, I was giving ranger talks in Everglades National Park, Florida. Visitors started asking me about this global warming thing. Visitors hate when park rangers tell you, “I don’t know. ” As soon as I could, I rushed to the nearest Miami bookstore and library to read all I the scientific books I could find on climate change.

The mangrove coastline in Everglades National Park

I discovered sea level rise along our mangrove coastline in Everglades National Park. Sea level rose 8 inches in the 20th century, four times more than it had risen in previous centuries for the past three thousand years. Because of climate change, sea level is now expected to rise at least three feet in Everglades National Park by the end of the 21st century. The sea would swallow up most of the park and nearby Miami since the highest point of the park road less than three feet above sea level.

It really shocked me that crocodiles, alligators, and beautiful Flamingos I enjoyed seeing in the Everglades could all lose this ideal coastal habitat because of sea level rinse enhanced by climate change.

Wild Flamingos photographed in Florida Bay inside Everglades National Park. Image Source: Brian Ettling

Even worse, I learned that sea level rise could be a disaster for the millions of people living in south Florida. In the last couple of years, the evidence is mounting for what is now called ‘sunny day flooding.’ This is flooding from ocean water showing up on Miami streets during the highest tides or what’s called ‘king tides’ of the year.

National Geographic now projects up to a 6 sea level rise by the end of this century that could displace up to 13 million Americans who live in these coastal counties.

Image Source, “Americans in Danger From Rising Seas Could Triple,”, March 14, 2016

I became so worried about climate change that I quit my winter job in Everglades National Park in 2008. Since then I spent my winters in hometown St. Louis to educate folks here about climate change.

This led me to join South County Toastmasters 6 years ago this month.
I joined Toastmasters not because I had a fear of public speaking. I had a deep fear about talking publicly about climate change. I was scared of people wanting to argue and angrily confront if they disagreed with me.

Let’s face it: many people consider climate change discussions as a downer.

Climate speaker Dan Miller observed in his TED talk: “Society conspires to suppress the discussion of climate change. As someone who talks about climate change a lot, I can vouch for this. For me, talking about climate change (can feel) like farting at a cocktail party.”

Nobody appreciates that!

Image Source:

My friends, if you scared to death to talk publicly about climate change, I advice you to join Toastmasters. You will joining a supportive community group that can help you learn how to engage and talk with people that strongly disagree with you.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: “if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Image Source:

In the past 6 years, I am really thankful for my fellow Toastmasters who strongly disagree with me about climate change. They have really helped become a more effective communicator. I know this because some of my fellow toastmasters have shifted in their thinking on climate change because of me.

Take our incoming club President Adam Kutell. If you go on YouTube, watch a speech I gave five years ago called, “The Debate is Over.” In the speech, I talked about how 97% of climate scientists agree current climate change is real and human caused. After the speech, I had a 5-minute question and answer period. Adam forcefully argued that he disagreed with me on the scientific agreement. Neither Adam nor I have backed down from our positions.

South County Toastmaster member Adam Kutell

Many climate advocates would never want to talk again with a person who disagreed with them so strongly. However, Adam came up to me afterwards and complemented me on my speech.

Three years later, I was preparing for a climate change Toastmasters speech. I contacted Adam for his advice. Adam generously met for coffee with me to practice the speech. That speech also called for a question and answer period from the audience.

I groaned to Adam: “Someone is probably going to say to me: ‘How you say that climate change is real when it was cold in St. Louis recently?’”

Adam responded: “You don’t have to worry about this because you already explained to us (in a previous speech) ‘weather is a snapshot, climate is a movie.’”

St. Louis Gateway Arch in winter


Wow! Adam’s statement felt like a huge victory for me. Here was Adam who is still very dismissive of human caused climate change. He now gets this vital concept.

I am so appreciative of Adam and his partner Erin for their advice and friendship over the years in Toastmasters that I invited them to my wedding over a year ago.

Adam Kutell and Brian Ettling.
Image Source:

For my friends looking to make a difference on climate change, joining Toastmasters is still the best tool I know. You will learn presentation skills, confidence, and build up your expertise. Even those who disagree with you will be very supportive and helpful. You will make professional speakers like Dan Miller proud you can speak about climate change effectively. You will not stink up the room like a fart struggling to explain it, and embarrass our club founder, Howard Brandt.

South County Toastmasters Club Founder Howard Brandt. Image Source: Brian Ettling

Best of all, You may overcome a fear of public speaking, which according to Jerry Seinfeld and many others can be a fate worse than death.

For inquiries into Toastmasters International, check out their website at

If you live in south St. Louis County, Missouri, check out South County Toastmasters