Need for climate activism
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - October 20, 2019 - 12:00am

The ecological crisis has begun. It has  become a major topic in the worlds of science, the academe and even media. However, people and governments are still behaving as if there is no crisis; or, the climate crisis is a future event. 

Instead of a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the global emission rate is still increasing.  Sea levels are continuing to increase; but, it is noticeable that reclamation of land, building of new airports and urban development are all being done with the assumption that sea levels will relatively remain constant.

Yuval Noah Harari, in his recent book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century wrote: 

“For thousands of years Homo Sapiens behaved as an ecological serial killer; now it is morphing into an ecological mass murderer. If we continue with our present course, it  will not just cause the annihilation of a large percentage of all life forms but also might sap the foundations of human civilization.

Most threatening of all is the prospect of climate change. Humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years and have survived numerous ice ages and warm spells. However, agriculture, cities and complex societies have existed for no more than ten thousand years. During this period known as the Holocene, Earth’s climate has been relatively stable. Any deviation from Holocene standards will present  human societies with enormous challenges they have never encountered before. It will be  like conducting an open indeed experiment on billions  of human guinea pigs. Even if human civilization eventually adapts to the new conditions, who knows how many victims might perish in the process of adaptation.”

The climate crisis is already a present reality. Scientists concede that the emission of greenhouse gases  such as carbon dioxide are causing the earth’s climate to change at a frightening rate. The  scientific consensus is that unless the emission of greenhouse gas emissions is cut in the next two decades, average global temperature will increase resulting in expanding deserts, disappearing ice caps, rising oceans and more frequent weather events such as hurricanes and typhoons.

What will be the immediate effect of all these changes? Agricultural production will be disrupted, coastal cities will be permanently flooded, much of the civilized world will become uninhabitable and hundreds of millions of people will become refugees in search of new homes. The long term consequences have not yet been fully studied. But, it could mean the end of human civilization as we know it as a result of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – War, Famine, Disease. Pestilence.

Scientists have warned us of  an even worst consequence. There are “tipping points” beyond which even a dramatic drop in greenhouse gas emissions will not be enough to reverse the trend and avoid a worldwide tragedy. As global warming melts the polar ice sheets, less sunlight is reflected  back from Earth to outer space. This planet will then absorb more heat, temperatures will rise even higher, and the ice will melt even faster. The worst thing is that, at a certain point, scientists believe that it will gather an unstoppable momentum and all the ice in the polar regions will melt even if  humans stop burning coal, oil, and gas. 

Unfortunately instead of doing something about it, in recognition of the danger the world is facing, the global emission rate is still increasing. 

Climate activists

The number of persons engaged in warning the world and demanding action regarding the climate crisis have resulted in a growing global climate movement. Today, the most famous is the 16 year old Greta Thunberg who sparked a global climate movement through personal action. 

There were two other persons who warned of this climate crisis and begun the climate movement. Rachel Louise Carson was the author of the book Silent Spring. Then she wrote a trilogy of books about ocean life – The Sea Around Us, The Edge of the Sea, Under the Sea Wind. Henry David Thoreau was an American essayist, poet and philosopher who is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings.

Today, the global environmental movement has emerged to become a diverse group of social, scientific and even political movements. The Green Party has achieved major political status in several countries of Western Europe. The conservation movement has gained strength especially in developing countries. Its core principles are that human activity damaged the environment, there is a civic duty to maintain the environment for future generations and scientifically, empirically based methods should be applied to ensure this duty was carried out. 

The Extinction Rebellion is beginning to be one of the most publicized climate activist movements. It is a non violent global environmental movement which aims to use civil disobedience to compel government action to  take specific actions to avoid social and ecological collapse.

Pope Francis  is in many ways a climate activist. He wrote the papal encyclical Laudato Si which was a worldwide wake up call to help humanity understand the destruction that man is rendering to the environment and his fellow men. This year he declared a global climate emergency, warning of the dangers of global heating and that a failure to act urgently to reduce greenhouse gases would be A “Brutal Act of Injustice Toward the Poor and Future Generations.”

It is time for our political leaders to focus on this climate crisis instead of fighting for bigger pork barrel allocations. It is also time for business leaders to show leadership on climate change as part of their responsibility and not just acts of charity. Each and every person should become a climate activist.

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