Keeping my climate covenant, building the 3.5 percent.
I have been paying attention to global warming. I am outraged about climate change.
And I am writing.
Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, the day after the 2016 presidential election in the USA, was one of the worst days in my nearly 53 years of life.
Top 10, easy.
How could my fellow U.S. citizens do this? I kept asking myself.
It was a horrible turn of events for the nation, not to mention a long list of people and groups of people who were bound to suffer under a Donald J. Trump presidency. But it was especially devastating for Earth and the prospects for the human race as a whole.
The Green Road
My environmental awareness, if not all-out activism, began in the early 1980s when I was in high school. Back then, the issue was a severely damaged ozone layer caused by chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), dangerous chemicals created for use in products from spray cans to air conditioners.
Then, in 1988, Dr. James Hansen, who was then the director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Institute for Space Studies, took a seat before a Congressional committee and told senators that “Global warming has begun.” He and other scientists attempted to educate the senators about the dangers of the “greenhouse effect” and “climate change,” to explain to them that human activities—like burning coal, gas and oil —were the cause, and to warn them that if world leaders didn’t change course significantly and quickly, the future of the human race would be in jeopardy.
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What happened next was predictable.
Members of Congress, many if not most of whom are in the pockets of fossil fuel companies due to those companies’ campaign donations, did nothing. Meanwhile, the fossil-fuels companies and industry associations launched massive, well-funded disinformation campaigns to undermine and discredit the scientists. For the most part they were successful; average citizens of the USA and the world were skeptical and have remained so for years.
It’s hard to say when, exactly, the skepticism peaked or where denial began, but it’s clear the USA’s 2016 presidential election was a watershed moment. Trump won the Electoral College vote (don’t even get me started) , and from the moment he took office climate-change denial was on full display and in full force at the highest levels of our government. In Trump’s first few days the phrases “global warming” and “climate change” were wiped from federal government websites. He appointed a former state attorney general who had sued the Environmental Protection Agency multiple times and expressed a desire to dismantle the agency to run it. He reaffirmed his intention, announced during his campaign, to withdraw from The Paris Climate Accord.
Then he and his enablers launched, in earnest, their attacks on public policies adopted over the years to keep our air clean, our water safe and the nation’s ecosystems viable, all to enrich their cronies and campaign contributors. Over the course of Trump’s four years in office, they were relentless.
Flying My Progressive Colors
By then I’d been blogging on IV Words for many years, as well as writing op-eds for local and regional newspapers, but for the most part I’d stayed away from politically divisive issues. As a small businessperson, I told myself, prudence dictated that I not go out of my way to irritate the overwhelming number of conservatives in the area where I live and do business, North Dakota and western Minnesota, who are either current or potential clients.
It’s a bit of an understatement to say climate-change denial is strong out this way.
But that reasoning was beginning to feel disingenuous.
The election changed my mind overnight; I had a new clarity – I didn’t want to work for people who believed in Trump’s USA, anyway. I needed to be true to myself to be able to look in the mirror every morning. Besides, staying mostly silent was killing me from the inside out.
I started writing about all kinds of political issues, especially global warming and resulting climate change. My resolve strengthened as Trump’s plans to roll back every environmental rule, regulation and law became clear. I rededicated myself to writing about global warming, the climate-change crisis and impending climate catastrophe as often as possible.
Then, in 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released “Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C.” Scientists from around the world told us what was coming due to global warming. More ominous yet, they let us know we had about a dozen years before it would be too late. By 2030, they said, if humanity doesn’t stop releasing carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, Earth will pass several critical tipping points; systems that have sustained life for millennia will be seriously and irrevocably altered.
It’s Happening Faster Than Even the Scientists Expected
I am listening as climate activist Greta Thunberg repeatedly admonishes world leaders that it is past time to act. “Our house is on fire,” she keeps telling them, but they fail again and again to do anything that will truly turn the tide on global warming.
I am paying attention, too, to the youth who make up the 21 primary plaintiffs in Juliana vs. the United States, one of whom is Hansen’s granddaughter, Sophie Kivlehan. They’re suing the government because of its inaction over decades to curb global warming.
And I continue writing.
Now it’s August 2021, only a couple of weeks since the IPCC released the summary of its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) for policymakers.
“Climate scientists are increasingly concerned… The impacts are likely to be much closer than most people realise, a draft report from the world’s leading climate scientists suggests, and will fundamentally reshape life in the coming decades even if greenhouse gas emissions are brought under some control. Life on Earth can recover from a drastic climate shift by evolving into new species and creating new ecosystems… humans cannot.”The Guardian
What they’re saying is climate change doesn’t care who we are, where we live or how much or how little money we make. It is altering things around the world in ways that are devastating to human habitation.
Meanwhile, between the lines of every blog and social media post, and sometimes explicitly, like now, I’ve been saying the human race is like a disease on the face of the planet; once Earth is able to rid itself of us, it will heal and life will continue. We just won’t be here anymore.
It can go that way. Or it can go the other way, too, if enough people begin doing the right things and, more importantly, stop doing the wrong things. There is time left.
We must stop burning fossil fuels.
We needed to do it yesterday.
We can’t afford to wait until tomorrow.
We must put an end to it today.
Building the 3.5 Percent
Which is exactly what we need.
Which is why we need you.
When – despite the many studies, reports and stark warnings from climate scientists for decades – there are still people on social media asking, “Do you believe in climate change?”, it’s clear we need every single individual to make our voices heard.
You’ve got to be joking.
I respond to all those types of queries the same way:
“This is no longer a valid question. Climate change is already here.”
Right now we’re seeing the devastating impacts of rising ocean levels, fires in the Amazon, Australia and western United States, deadly flooding in Europe, fire on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico due to a gas line leak below, droughts taking hold in too many places to list and every year setting a new global record as the hottest on record.
Last month, amidst the hottest period in recorded history along the west coast of North America, the little village of Lytton in British Columbia, Canada, burned to the ground in a fire that, as climate scientists have verified and The New York Times and other media outlets have reported, was driven by the heat wave.
The town is simply gone.
We cannot sit back and allow that event to become a harbinger or a microcosm of what is yet to happen to the human race.
What we need is a minimum of 3.5 percent of the population – in the USA and around the world – to be passionate, engaged and, above all, active in protesting governmental and global inaction on something that could lead to our extinction.
Lead. To. Our. Extinction.
Nary a day goes by when I’m not newly astounded that this very real possibility hasn’t sunk in for so many U.S. and global citizens.
That’s why, every day, we need to get our asses out there, wherever it is each of us can do the most good.
My Climate Covenant
I still respond to the social media dunderheads – I can’t stand to let those kinds of questions and claims go unchallenged – but I don’t spend a lot of time on them.
Every person who still thinks that way is simply another brick in the wall that blocks our path to sustainability and continuing viability for humans and other species.
It’s nearly impossible to get them to even listen, let alone comprehend the facts and recognize the greed and hypocrisy of fossil fuel companies and their enablers.
Better to expend my limited energy and time on encouraging and supporting people who appreciate our predicament, are changing personal behaviors to slow the acceleration of global warming and are pressuring politicians and elected officials to enact bold public policies that are absolutely critical to turning the tide on climate change.
My hope is I’m also reaching some people who have yet to get engaged.
Join the Nonviolent Climate Change Battle
During the global COVID-19 pandemic, which isn’t over yet, I also dedicated energy and time to developing the Knights of the Climate Covenant. The nonprofit’s mission is to increase the number of people in the world who take nonviolent personal, community and political actions to address global warming and resulting climate change.
Knights of the Climate Covenant is an idea as much as it is a community, and a promise more than anything else, to do whatever we can to slow global warming and counter climate change deniers. The community provides an easy, obligation-free entry into climate activism for everyday people, and in so doing confers upon us the ‘climate activist’ identity. That personal identifier, in turn, makes it more likely Knights will expand our engagement in the future, from contacting their congressional representatives to writing letters to environmental voters before elections to protesting in Washington, D.C.
It’s also what I continue to do in my daily life, taking shorter showers, shutting lights off when I leave a room, walking or biking instead of driving, engaging with environmental groups, marching in climate protests and, most importantly, writing climate change posts for both IV Words and the Knights in an attempt to get more people involved. Involved and, yes, pissed off.
It’s how I keep my promise to myself, my children and my neighbors worldwide to use whatever skills I have to be loud and persistent in bringing global warming to the front of everyone’s minds and, ultimately, force positive change.
It’s the best way I know to fulfill my own Climate Covenant.
I have been paying attention. I am outraged. And I am taking action.
How about you?
Featured image by Devanath via Pixabay.