If there was one thing that our highly partisan society could agree on, I believe it would be that we live in a convoluted time. Nothing is simple- and that is a wonderful thing. We live in a time of innovation, where standards of living are rising, and global awareness is growing by the day. What we now have, is a terrible obstacle. Just as we can all agree that the systems at hand are convoluted, I believe we can also agree that we require the earth, and the climate as we know it, to our own success. The fact that we affectionately call our planet, Mother Earth, is indicative of our dependence to its health. With Climate Change coming into full swing, it is time that our innovative powers are put to work, on an omnipotent issue that does not discriminate based on wealth, race or age.
The very reason Climate Change matters to me is simple. The earth is my livelihood. While one could see caring about the world as a moral commitment, the fact of the matter is that this is the furthest thing from altruistic. To put it bluntly, without the climate as we know it, the way in which the population is living now is not long for this world.
If this is such an omnipotent issue that is bound to affect us all, why is there any hesitation to take action? This brings us back to the first statement: our systems are convoluted. When we look at the climate through an economic and government lens, other partisan issues are quickly tacked on. Certain political agendas become associated with environmentalism or development, and shortly thereafter, people loose interest. But the thing is, life ought not be broken down into a dichotomy of environmentalists and developers. With green building practices, anti sprawl campaigns and community growth groups all emerging, we see how people care about their home and those around them. We are not arguing about the Keystone XL anymore, but instead, about the world YOU want to live in. It’s tough to separate the politics from a matter like this, but upon doing so, there are few people who would advocate for trashing their homes.
Two big issues arise, both of which seem to be the faults in our possible success with such an issue. The first one is, being aware of the climate is not a rich mans game. To be environmentally aware, with the goal of preserving the earth as we know it, you need not be part of the bourgeoisie or the “hippy” movement. Unfortunately, we have tightly associated the idea of “environmentalism” with expensive hybrids and pricey solar arrays. What is wrong with living a low impact lifestyle where you take public transportation, avoid buying new items as often as possible, and limit your electrical use? Nothing is wrong with that, in fact, if everyone lived in such a way, we would be far better of. The next contention that I see coming up, is the bit that this is such a daunting problem. Learning about climate change instills fear in many, but this is only part of what we need to happen. I heard from a speaker once that, “It’s too late to be a pessimist,” and I think he has a wonderful point. Life is going to change as we know it- that’s a given. Now though, we are in it, and we are seeing how little of a change we can make. This is where I become fearful, and where I completely understand the appeal of backing oneself into a corner and ignoring the reality at hand.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe we call them Solutionaries, maybe innovators, maybe mad scientists. All that matters though, is that we have fantastic ideas coming about right now, that have the potential to change lives, for the positive. The two parts that I am most excited about are renewable energy sources and efficiency products, as well as a change in values. Wind, solar, geothermal all have great potential. They sometimes get a bad rap when they are implemented in the wrong area, but with prices being driven down by competition I think that it is fully feasible for such technologies to be utilized much more in coming years. This coupled, with the societal realization that ones worth is not tied to the number of vehicles they own or how much they isolate themselves from the rest of their community, could be incredible. As Bill McKibben put it, “Cars are the epitome of our independence.” No denying that, but why does independence need to be the indicator of success. It makes sense with historical context, but with the resource restraints of today, that isn’t feasible anymore.
I don’t mean to sensationalize myself as the perfect environmental citizen. I try to live my life in a way that leads to awareness, cognizant of how I am damaging the world around me. It’s with these mistakes that I try and grow. There is no doubt that the environmental issue at hand is one of the largest that the human race has ever faced, but that is just part of what is so special about it. No longer should we be competing like in the space race, but instead, working together. Who knows, maybe that means competition to certain goals, but the heart of the matter is that we should be working towards global well being. It is hard to make the long term health of the earth better for just one isolated geographical area, meaning that, with any work, all will benefit.
We live in an exciting, scary time. There are plenty of reasons to stick your head in the sand, or buy a gas guzzler and yell, “YOLO!” but the reasons to pursue a better ecological tomorrow outweigh these in my opinion. This is undoubtedly a huge challenge, but it’s one that is exciting, and merits all of our attention. Incredible work is already being done, and can serve as inspiration. If you make the goals tangible, with time we can all experience great success. Only this time, success is merely a way of saying longevity of life as we know it. The stakes have been raised.