Center of Concern | Mon, Apr 20, 2009
The fight to increase public awareness about global warming has been ongoing for over twenty years, gaining needed momentum recently. Still, in the consumerist world in which we live very little emphasis is given to conservation of resources and goods. The seemingly endless availability of goods leads us to take possessions for granted: If a computer crashes or cell phone breaks, we don’t worry about it, but just get a new one. This mentality that everything is replaceable has extended to products, materials, and resources that are irreplaceable, the most important being Earth. We treat our planet as if it were an iPhone, with endless upgrades and ever-expanding capabilities.
During my semester working on climate change with the Center of Concern, I have realized many things. First, that despite popular opinion for the past twenty years, climate change is real; global warming is real. Secondly, the science of global warming is more in-depth than I could have ever imagined. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, NOW is the time for action.
Already, we are seeing some of the effects of global warming. Right here in America we have seen patterns of stronger storms in recent years, e.g., Hurricane Katrina, floods that wreaked havoc on the Midwest, and wildfires and mudslides along the west coast. If that is not enough, throughout the globe millions of people in low-elevation areas are susceptible to the rising seas, and in many cases may become refugees at the hands of climate change.
What is most disheartening is that the people who will feel the wrath of climate change the most are those that have caused the least amount of damage to our shared ecosystem. I cannot stress enough the shock I felt when I first learned that the United States produces 25% of greenhouse gas emissions for the entire world, yet constitutes only 5% of global population. Allow some perspective; this number is the equivalent of the population of Philadelphia producing 25% of greenhouse gases for the United States. Frankly it is absurd.
Sometimes, it seems that the most effective way to reach Americans is through the latest fad. On this Earth Day, it is time to make going green cool. We have to stress to each other that simple things such as recycling, sorting our trash, turning the light off when we leave a room will lead to bigger leaps such as more efficient cars and buildings. It is by no means an overnight task; this is something that will take a concerted effort from millions of people to be successful.
That thought is daunting at best, however, the solution lies inside us. There is an oft cited, yet still relevant, quote of Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” When a task is so large the end cannot be fathomed, it is best to start at the beginning. An architect must look at a blank sheet of paper before a design as amazing as the Empire State building can be produced. We must take the small steps, i.e., doing our share of the simple daily conservation acts, informing those we encounter, and pressuring our federal and local governments to pass legislation to seriously confront climate change and its impacts.
Climate change and its effects on the earth’s ecosystems and human communities touch all. It would be outright shameful to sit idly by as the consequences of our actions harm not only ourselves, but millions upon millions of people who have had very little contribution to global warming. Although the tipping point is near, I have faith that America can truly act as a world leader in the efforts to reduce greenhouse gases when we the citizens become more vocal about global warming. Therefore, I am asking that on this Earth Day, we, individually and collectively as a nation, take time to discern our role on this planet and step to the forefront of the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels that can sustain life on the only Earth we have. Earth is not an iPhone, it does not have an endless supply of resources; the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can make a real impact on global warming.