“Out of the mouths of babes…” In the 50’s and 60’s, I seem to remember that protests were mainly organized and led by adults, i.e. the Women’s March on Washington, and by college students, i.e. advocating the end of the Vietnam war. But recently, major protests have been organized by high school students, demanding anti-gun regulations in Florida, and others raising the awareness of the dangers of Global Warming. When a 16 year-old Swedish high school student, a girl named Greta Thunberg, passionately addressed the UN Climate Action Summit in September, 2019 in New York City, I Googled her speech. I was amazed, impressed, and chilled by her words. You can be too.
She has inspired our children and grandchildren to insist that we act quickly to prevent impending disaster. Canada is not on track to meet the 2C warming target agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Scientific warnings with supporting evidence have been reported for 50 years or more. Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”, made a big impression on me, but I really just wondered what I could do about it. Then, we still had time to reduce our emissions of green house gases, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) to name a few. It appears that now the deadline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 45% and prevent catastrophic ecological collapse is between 8.5 and 12 years!
The leading international authority on all things related to global warming is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It was established by the UN in 1988. Currently 195 countries are participating members. In it’s most recent 2019 special report, the scenario that has the best shot of limiting warming to 1.5C by 2030, requires moving away from fossil fuels very quickly. It makes clear that policy makers must abandon proposals for new pipelines, coal industry bailouts, and leases for offshore drilling and legislate consequences for emissions, such as a carbon tax. It requires a heavy reliance on renewable energy sources, principally solar and wind power, and growing more forests.
This isn’t going to be easy. According to Guardian columnist George Monbiot’s article on Oct. 9th, just 20 fossil fuel companies have produced 35% of the CO2 and CH4 released by human activities since 1965. Also since then, oil companies have pumped billions of dollars into thwarting government action. And, they have been very successful at putting the blame for the climate crisis on consumers! Instead of reducing the extraction for fossil fuels, the industry intends to accelerate production, spending nearly 5 trillion dollars in the next ten years on developing new reserves! It is committed to ecocide. The link is for access to the full article. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/oct/09/polluters-climate-crisis-fossil-fuel
So what can we do about it?
Greta’s list: 1. Fly less or not at all (Flight produces most emissions compared to other forms of travel) 2. Cut down on meat consumption (cattle are a large source of methane) 3. Join an activist group ( Fridays for Future, 350.org, Extinction Rebellion, etc.) and inform yourself on the issues and watch TED talks. 4.Vote for candidates that put climate change front and centre in their platform.
Everyday twitter list: 1.Turn the lights off 2.RECYCLE 3.Use both sides of the paper 4.Plant a tree 5.Eat less processed food 6.Stop buying bottled water 7.Drive less, walk more 8.Turn off your computer at night 9.Use fluorescent bulbs 10.Bring reusable shopping bags.
My suggestions: 1.Talk to others. 2.Listen to TED TALKS on climate change. 3.Practice divestment i.e. tell your bank, insurance company, and pension plan to stop investing in fossil fuel companies. 4.Read Guardian articles on Global pollution, IPCC reports and NASA alerts. In other words, educate yourself on this complicated issue and act in accordance with your conscience.
Finally, in a short book by Roger Hallam “Common Sense for the 21st Century”, he states that gradualist campaigns making small demands cannot prevent the gathering catastrophes of climate and ecological breakdown. After studying successful mobilizations world wide, he found that assembling thousands of people in the centre of a capital city, maintaining a strictly non-violent discipline, focusing on the government and continuing for days or weeks at a time has the best chance of preventing the impending great extermination. “Radical change is primarily a numbers game”. The chances that politics as usual will meet our massive predicament with effective action are zero.
It looks like Greta is on the right track. In her last twitter message, she reports that 7.5 million people in 180 countries have joined in demonstrations. The next global climate strike is November 29th. Watch for announcements with #fridaysforfuture, and participate.