Climate Change News from New York

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The big news coming out of the United Nations Climate Summit in N.Y. City –  following the largest climate change march in history is…

….what WILL NOT happen.

 

This is from a news story from the Associated Press – flash!

  • The United States WILL NOT join 73 other countries to support a price on carbon.
  • Brazil WILL NOT sign a pledge to halt deforestation by 2030.
  • China WILL NOT agree to President Obama’s declaration that “nobody gets a pass” and insists that developing nations be treated differently

The rhetoric coming out of the historic meeting of nations following massive rallies by climate supporters in NY and around the world was indeed inspiring.

“Today we must set the world on a new course” according to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

President Obama proclaimed “Today I call on all countries to join us, not next year or the year after that, but right now.  Because no nation can meet this global threat alone.

Nice words…..

In spite of continued progress on the use of renewable energy and plans to cut greenhouse gasses approved by the European Union, major carbon polluters – the U.S. and China – are more influenced by economic than environmental drivers.

I was struck by a Facebook Post by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who when  asked “what shall we do?” wrote:

“The biggest challenge we face is getting big money out of politics. We must reverse the shameful ‘Citizen’s United’ decision, if necessary by constitutional amendment. Also push Congress to pass a law requiring full disclosure of the sources of all donations aimed at affecting the outcome of political campaigns, make the SEC require publicly-held corporations do the same, and get public financing for general election campaigns with matching funds — $1 of public funding for every $2 raised from small donors. How do we do this? Mobilize, organize, energize, and make a ruckus. So stop complaining and get to work. Now.”

Politicians are followers, not leaders

Politicians in office can’t afford to lead.  They are spending much of their time running for the next election and for that they need money.  Politicians need to be pushed and pulled and embarrassed into doing the right thing.  Protest marches are necessary but not sufficient today – thanks to the power of corporate money.

So, what do we do….. we get active, and stay active.  Write letters, march, and turn down the heat in your own home.  Nobody will listen to a hypocrite.  And we pray….

And don’t quit just because there was a big rally in NY!  The struggle ain’t over….

Does anyone remember An Inconvenient Truth?

Right, former-Vice-President Al Gore’s documentary won an Academy Award in 2006 –  eight years ago!  Amazing!  What have we been doing since that moment when we were thrilled by Melissa Etheridge’s great song, I Need to Wake Up (NOW) at the end of the movie?  Lets go back to that moment…..  I love this song….

Here is something you can do!

One of the problems with rallys is that they bring attention to issues without asking for anything specific.  Here is something specific:

Write a letter or send and email to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy like this one:

SUBJECT: Docket ID:  EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602 – Support Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

As someone who takes climate change seriously, I have committed myself to advocate on behalf of the poor, the vulnerable, and all of Creation.  

Unfolding climate change caused primarily by our consumption of fossil fuels threatens both the planet and poor people. In light this,I believe that the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to regulate carbon pollution from existing power plants (Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule) can help limit damaging greenhouse gas emissions, uphold human life and dignity and demonstrate a greater respect for the planet.

At the same time, I urge the EPA to offer clear guidance to states on how to protect low-income individuals and families from undue suffering under potential energy rate hikes.  Additionally, I encourage the EPA to work with policymakers to help workers impacted by the Plan transition to other employment.

If such steps to protect poor and vulnerable populations are taken seriously, then I support the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule, Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602.

Sincerely,

Send the email to: a-and-r-docket@epa.gov

Send the letter to:

USEPA Headquarters
William Jefferson Clinton Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W.
Mail Code: 1101A
Washington, DC 2046

Why Wait?

When we discuss the problem of climate change in my classes at UMass, some of the students are surprised to learn that I had heard about “global warming” when I was in college 40 years ago!   One student told me that I be wrong because “he heard” that scientists became aware that climate change was a problem only recently.  So I took a look at the history of global climate change and found:

  • In 1896 a Swedish scientist published the idea that as humanity burned fossil fuels, carbon dioxide gas released to the Earth’s atmosphere would raise the planet’s average temperature.
  • In the 1930s, people realized that the United States had warmed significantly during the previous half-century.
  • In the 1950s, a few scientists began to look into the question with improved technology.
  • In the early 1970s, the rise of environmentalism raised awareness about climate change and more scientists took it seriously.

We have known about this treat for a long time.  One of the questions I get from students is; “if you knew this might be a problem, why didn’t your generation do something about it?”

Good Question!

If an intelligent human living in 1970 learned that their behavior might be causing harm to the planet, why would this person not change their behavior?

An article in The Economist speculates on the belief systems that explain why Americans seem unwilling to change our behavior.  They write:

  • “Psychological: The consequences of climate change are too awful to contemplate. Therefore, we’re denying the issue, as we used to deny monsters in the room by hiding under the blanket.
  • “Economic: The costs of a large-scale effort to fight global warming are too steep to bear. Therefore, we’re trying to ignore the issue, or pretending it doesn’t exist, or we believe that the economy (including development) is more important.
  • “Political: The fact that Democrats are always hammering on about climate change and Republicans aren’t suggests that this is a political issue, not a scientific one. This creates a feedback loop: if climate change were real, why is it so polarizing? Because it’s so polarizing, it must be slightly suspicious.
  • “Epistemological: Why should we believe in climate change? Where’s the evidence? All we know is what scientists say, and scientists are sometimes wrong.
  • “Metaphysical: God isn’t going to let millions of people die in an epic drought.”

In addition to these, I will add my own:

  • the belief that the “world was made for us to use”
  • the worldview that “humans are not part of Mother Nature”
  • the hope that “government will protect us”
  • the “joke” that whomever dies with the most stuff wins

Do we really have the political will to continue the struggle?

Former Vice-president Gore claimed in An Inconvenient Truth that political will was a renewable resource.

Frankly, I”m not so sure if that’s true today, given the power of campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.

 

But can you really blame the politicians?  We know that anyone in government is caught in a systemic social structure that requires them to run for election every 2, 4, or 6 years.  They cannot afford to think about the long term.  And for corporate business leaders it is much worse.  They must show increased profitability to shareholders every quarter (3 months) or their job may be in jeopardy.

So who can think about the 7th generation?   Who can be concerned about our children and grandchildren?  Who can we look to for leadership?  Well, perhaps a mature and informed adult?  Perhaps you?

Lets ask ourselves, so how do I contribute to the problem?  And then take an action….

So, lets march….. and continue to write letters and send emails AND turn down the heat in your own home.  A few degrees of heat at home (wear a sweater like Jimmy “Cardigan Carter”) won’t save the planet but it will show the political and corporate leaders that you are serious.  And what else?

Just pick one!

  • Turn off lights and unplug appliances when you leave the room
  • Unplug your cell phone as soon as it is charged.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.
  • Turn off water when shaving, brushing your teeth and take shorter showering.
  • Ride a bike, walk, carpool, or use public transportation whenever possible.
  • Use biodegradable soap, shampoos.
  • Reduce use of disposable products by using reusable containers; if you must buy disposable, buy paper or glass products instead of plastic.
  • Bring reusable cloth bags when shopping instead of disposable plastic bags.
  • Buy local and purchase recycled products whenever possible.
  • Organize an environmental awareness day at your parish or school.
  • Plant a garden and start a compost pile.
  • Eat less meat: the UN concludes that “the livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems,” including climate change
  • Dry your clothes outdoors when possible and use the dryer less.
  • Write to your lawmakers and elected officials and urge them to act with urgency and put care for Creation, the poor, and the common good ahead of short-term special interests.
  • Encourage your community to support mass transit and other alternatives to the automobile for commuting.
  • Consider the footprint of products before you buy them: from resource extraction, to production, distribution,consumption, and disposal.
  • Consider the social and environmental cost of goods and service: Who is making this product? How and where is this made? Using what resources? How long will it last?
  • Reflect on ways to simplify your life: What are my needs vs. wants? How might I reduce the amount of resources I consume.

AND PRAY:

  • for all: that we might see Creation as a gift to be cherished, protected and shared with all rather than a commodity to be consumed by a few;
  • for the poor: that our hearts be opened to their plight, that their dignity be upheld, and that we advocate on their behalf so they, and we, can pursue authentic human development;
  • for elected officials and those in positions of power: that they act prudently and place care for Creation, the poor, and the common good ahead of short-term interests.
  • Take the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor.

Yes…. prayer matters.  It helps us to find the strength to do all that we can reasonably do.  And the rest, well….. that we need to leave to others and whatever divine presence we might believe in….

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I’d appreciate it if you would share this post with your friends.  And for more ideas, videos and challenges along these lines, please join my Facebook Group; Just Food Now.   And go here for more of my World.edu posts.

 

 

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