My last post lamented that, when it comes to global climate change, our planetary house is on fire. That was five months ago. The house hasn’t completely burned down yet, but only because it’s a fairly big house. So today let’s look at this question: Where exactly are we?
Things didn’t look too good five months ago. Today they look worse. In the interim there have been a few hopeful signs: a growing youth movement here in the U.S., fueled by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s recent low carbon visit. H.Con.Res.52, a National Declaration of Climate Emergency, was introduced in the House of Representatives and has steadily gained cosponsors. The national political debate, such as it is, increasingly discusses the climate crisis – rather than avoiding it as in 2016.
My activist group, Orange County for Climate Action (OCCA), hosted an event in September called “Wake Up, O.C.!” This was our attempt to focus residents living within the Orange County bubble on treating the climate emergency with the degree of urgency that is called for, and whatever we are already doing, from both an individual and political standpoint, do more.
On a personal level, I’ve been trying my best. Over the past five years I’ve converted my yard to drought-tolerant landscaping, gone vegan, bought an electric vehicle, and converted our home to rooftop solar. A fair number of people within my activist community have done likewise. Within the Orange County bubble, those who can afford to do these things, should.
Greta Thunberg’s hope in coming to the U.S. was that we here would reach a “tipping point” at which mass support for meaningful national policies to deal with the climate emergency (such as a Green New Deal) would reach a level where our political leadership would respond. We didn’t. Greta has now gone back to Spain to attend the COP25 global climate conference, which was hastily moved to Madrid due to civil unrest in Santiago, Chile, the original host city.
So, still, the question is, where exactly are we?
Well, here is where we are. Global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase every year since 2015, the year of the Paris Climate Agreement. The U.S. and China continue to be the biggest polluters. Despite robust growth in the electric vehicle market, American consumers have shifted toward SUVs and pickups; Ford has virtually stopped manufacturing sedans, while making plans – slowly – to enter the EV market. And thanks to the fracking boom, oil companies now have long range plans to inject even more plastic into the consumer market. Federal subsidies continue to prop up fossil fuels, meat and dairy production, carbon footprint and environmental devastation of these industries be damned.
We have been striking now for over a year, and still basically nothing has happened.– Greta Thunberg
In short, we keep digging ourselves into a deeper hole. The recent U.N. report now states that we need to reduce GHG emissions by 7.6% each year from 2020 through 2030. Who believes this will happen?
And remember that in the background – or foreground – of all this we currently have a president with the intelligence of an underperforming third-grader, the empathy of a sledgehammer, and the integrity of a cow pie. Sorry, but adequate metaphors fail me. His greatest talent seems to be parroting the charges made against him and turning them against his many adversaries. I won’t spend time here delving into all the disastrous retrograde policies that have flowed from his administration and its soulless enablers.
Yeah, it’s tough to see hope here. It appears that we have a global climate emergency and nobody cares. Never in the history of mankind have the forces of corporate capitalism and industry been so heavily entrenched against doing all the things we need to do to address the climate emergency. Our slim hope is pinned on the strong emotional response of the masses (who hold little power) to a Swedish sixteen-year-old with aspergers who, ironically, understands more about where we are than all the politicians and elitists around the globe. For some, our hope is pinned on Roger Hallam and Extinction Rebellion, who operate on the cutting edge of civil disobedience, which can remain nonviolent only until it evokes a violent response from power.
These populist movements must continue, even if they ultimately come to naught. Those who understand what’s required also need to take all the individual actions possible, even if individual action is never cumulatively sufficient. There are no other choices for climate activists, except to give up, which is unthinkable.
I’ve always maintained that having even a little hope is enough to keep myself going. Tragically, we seem to be entering an era where we must keep going even as hope dwindles to a fine point, or vanishes altogether.