The report issued this month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should be the top news. IPPC was established in 1988 as an international organization that reviews and assesses the most recent information around climate change from scientists and research from all over the world. This is a strictly reviewed and objective assessment. It affects our children, animals, social justice, health, food systems, people in the US, and all over the world.
We basically have 12 years to keep this planet from warming to unmanageable levels which will no longer sustain life as we know it by the end of this century. The children alive now will face the worst of this. We’re already seeing the effects in increased heat waves, stronger intense storms, more floods, droughts and wildfire. This will get exponentially worse, and fast.
I’ve been giving a few presentations locally about climate change after completing Climate Reality Leadership Training. The idea is if we go into our communities and talk face to face about what is happening, why it is happening, and what the solutions are, we can work together for our future.
In the main two States I have lived in, Oregon and Washington, we have initiatives on our ballot to work towards decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels. Are they perfect? Possibly not yet, but they are our best chance to start moving in the right direction and moving faster towards lowering carbon emissions before it gets worse. And we’ve been seeing it get worse in front of our eyes in this region too. The main arguments against making change seem to be based around economy. Coal miners will lose jobs, gas prices will rise. Well, our economy will be shifting now or later, regardless. We can embrace renewables and clean energy and lower our costs now. Or, we can continue to pay rising costs of natural disasters, health issues from pollution and diseases like Zika which are spreading in a warmer climate, and pay more as crops decline from drought and dwindling water resources. Think about who really profits from our dependence on fossil fuels. Solar and wind energy are available to us and the prices keep coming down, which is not profitable to those who have been reaping the rewards of polluting our planet without paying. Our current leadership is full of people directly linked to these fossil fuel industries and they have a financial interest in keeping the public from taking action.
Climate deniers like to say that the climate is always changing, that there is nothing to be done, and that we are alarmists. The proof is here, we were told 30 years ago this was happening, and now we are witnessing it. Trump has now moved from saying it is a hoax made up from the Chinese, to something that it goes “back and forth”, is not caused by us, and might harm the economy. We’ve been told not to make the message too scary, but fear seems to motivate about half our country. And we still have hope and solutions available if we can understand how urgent and massive our challenges are, so we can stop stalling. I would say one of our biggest challenges is our political division, and that environmental protection is only embraced by one party. If there is one uniting issue, it should be clean air, water and a livable future for our children.
Mobilization against this climate crisis is now being compared to World War 2 as far as the type of wide-scale and global efforts needed. We need to radically shift to lower carbon on a federal, state, city and even individual level. We can have the motivation to work for something so much larger and more important than ourselves. When you look at history, there have been times when people have been faced with ethical choices such as in Nazi Germany and the Civil Rights Movement, for just a couple of examples. They could resist, they could go along with the mainstream, or they could ignore it. Since facing extinction is a pretty heavy concept for us to really think about, it feels better to ignore it and think someone else will fix this. That hasn’t happened in the last 30 years, and at this point we have a government intent on rolling back our EPA regulations and creating more fossil fuels for very short-term benefit. My theory is that the very wealthy think they can be protected from the worst since they can afford to move, have bunkers, etc. This planet is our home, and if we destroy our environment, the economy will be the least of our problems. If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
I have been talking more about climate change than food lately, but moving to a plant-based diet actually makes a very large difference. We won’t be able to reach our carbon goals without factoring the animal agriculture industry into this. It’s important to do whatever we can to push with our marketing power towards sustainable food, packaging, minimizing waste, and choosing the most green transportation, energy sources and building options. The market will respond to this, and is already. It’s not Option A, B or C, it’s Option A + B + C
We can’t fix this with only individual lifestyle changes while the biggest polluters continue to spew carbon, but we can move the needle using our purchasing power. Most importantly, we need to realize the power that each of us has, both inherently, and as part of a democracy, and use your vote! This is our time in history to step up to this challenge and choose which side we will take.