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Why don’t we just talk about the weather……

July 22, 2012

It is a late Saturday afternoon in July as I compose another column for Recoil. The most obvious and most pressing issue to write about seems to be the weather.

So far, there have been multiple days of record-breaking temperatures in Michigan and across the country, along with extreme lows in precipitation. Trees in my backyard are losing leaves and everywhere I look yards are brown.

The heat has been so oppressive that it is frequently the first thing people talk about, even in very casual settings. To date MLive has run a few stories about the record temperatures, but only one story that “asked” the question of whether or not the most recent heat wave is related to climate change.

I’m not going to waste writing about the need to respond to the oil-industry funded global warming denial sectors in the US, other than to say that it is absurd that much of the US news media still provides equal time/print space to those who claim that human activity has not contributed to climate change. Even in Grand Rapids we have meteorologists who deny there is any evidence that global warming is even an issue.

Instead, I want to address people who have come to terms with the fact that climate change is real and might be the most urgent issue of this generation. Still, it is not an easy topic to address. First, because it often feels quite overwhelming and secondly, most of us don’t haven’t really felt the direct effects of global warming both because of our privileges in the world and our location.

However, there are millions of people who are suffering the direct effects of global warming right now around the world. One well-researched book worth reading that sheds light on this fact is Christian Parenti’s, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. Parenti documents how global warming has caused massive displacement, drought, unstable weather patterns, food & water shortages and has even forced the US military to develop strategic planning scenarios for the future when more people will be scrambling for a declining amount of livable space.

Since we have the privilege of not enduring these hardships brought about because of climate change, we have the opportunity and responsibility to do something about it.

Ever since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in 2007, the consensus amongst the scientific and environmental community was that the world needed to reduce current carbon emission levels 80% by 2050. This means we have less than 4 decades to reduce current carbon emission levels by 80% or we will have gone past the point of no return. Serious stuff.

Unfortunately, what many environmentalists and green capitalists have done since then is to convince us to buy electric cars and put florescent light bulbs in our homes, which will do virtually nothing to reduce the level of carbon emissions necessary for future survival. Now, I’m not saying people can’t make lifestyle changes, which would be wise even if we weren’t at a critical stage in history, but lets be honest and acknowledge that carbon emissions are primarily produced from institutional entities and systems.

Climate activists are well aware of the fact that industrial manufacturing, agribusiness, fossil fuel driven transportation and militarism are the four main generators of carbon emissions. Each of these systems perpetually engage in practices that by their very nature are ecologically destructive and impact global warming. Whether it is clear-cutting forests for crops, paving over soil for roads, using coal-powered electricity to manufacture products or the consumption of millions of gallons of oil daily to power the US military alone, these are the real culprits that need to be drastically altered or dismantled if we are serious about the 80% reduction by 2050. In fact, each of these institutions could be radically altered if we abolished the system of capitalism.

Of course, there is no easy plan of action and no 10 simple things you can do to save the planet blueprints here. However, the first task would be to recognize that these are the things that cause the most damage and therefore that is where we should put our energies.

Some easy targets for action would be to stop the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, which means no more pumping and exploring for oil, no more mining of coal and no more extracting of natural gas, particularly through the method known as fracking.

A great deal more could be said about what needs to be done and how we do it, but this is a conversation that should be had in the company of other people who also want to seriously and honestly take action to respect life on this planet. Hell, who knows, it might even be fun and rewarding. A good place to start in Grand Rapids would be with the group Mutual Aid GR, which is hosting an Action Meeting on August 8 at John Ball Park.

No Compromise in defense of Mother Earth!

One Comment leave one →
  1. catherinestreet permalink
    July 22, 2012 4:06 pm

    In total agreement with your piece, too far away to participate. My only nudge is when you say: ” Even in Grand Rapids we have meteorologists who deny there is any evidence that global warming is even an issue.” ~ Even? Isn’t Grand Rapids known for being a conservative city? I would think it would be – “Of course in Grand Rapids…”, and that you would have a challenging environment to get a meaningful discussion going. I applaud however, and am rooting for you in that.

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