A few weeks ago I had an experience that I can’t seem to get out of my mind.
I was in Havana, Cuba, sitting on the seawall that lines the city, watching the rows of the mirrorlike waves as they rolled in from the emptiness of the ocean. The night had a strange beauty to it: an incandescent fan of sunlight had gathered over the western horizon, and the heavy swells of the Atlantic heaved up slowly, unfurling over the barnacle-encrusted rocks with an oil-like fluidity.
Contemplating this scene, I remember thinking what a beautiful, what a magnificent, what an utterly precious planet we live on. Though that thought inevitably led me to a horrible question, a question that’s haunted me for the majority of my life: what would it be like if our Earth were to die.
And then I grew sad, for I remembered, in that moment, that such a possibility is right on our doorstep.
My name is Jared, and today I’m here to talk to you about the dangers of Climate Change, and why, if we want a future for our kids that’s conducive to life, the United States needs to take immediate and sweeping legislation to address it, and we, as a people, need to do everything possible to resist it. Doing so would not be easy- but it would be our only way to avoid a complete ecological catastrophe.
I assume most of you already know what Climate Change is. For those who don’t, a quick refresher:
Climate change is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as the abnormal and dangerously fast rise in global temperatures, heralded onwards by humanity’s massive usage of fossil fuels. This rise in temperature is currently causing a unprecedented melt-off of the earth’s ice caps, thus causing rising sea levels and an harrowing wave of catastrophic storms and a wholesale collapse of Earth’s ecological systems. The phenomena of global warming is recognized both by the United Nations and 97% of scientists worldwide, and the effects of it are already becoming visible.
Droughts in California and Texas have eviscerated agriculture; super storms such as Hurricane Katrina and Sandy have ripped apart coastal cities; diseases previously restricted to tropical regions have extended their fingers far into the northern lattitudes of the Earth; species are disappearing at a saddening rate as ecosystems crumble under the weight of changing climate patterns; and the U.S. is already witnessing its first wave of “climate refugees”- people who lived in the Louisiana deltas who’ve had to abandon their homes because rising sea levels put their homes underwater.
Tragically, however, several decades of political saber rattling has perversely- and, I dare say, intentionally- reconfigured climate change into a supposedly “partisan” issue. According to some, climate change only means something if you reign from a certain political denomination. To an alarming amount of Americans (who have been unfairly misinformed by a nonstop media diet of conservative TV stations, which are financially intertwined and ideologically influenced by the same corporate conglomerates that thrive off the oil industry) climate change is interchangeably misperceived as a corrupt hoax, maliciously fabricated by Big Government liberals, scientists, and the Chinese for the sole purpose of stripping America of its economic power and jobs. That a neofascist president has been feeding off this collective fear to consolidate his own power does not help curb the spread of such misinformation.
One of the first arguments that people who don’t want to address climate change will wield is that these temperature fluctuations are normal: that they’re merely a part of the centuries long rhythms of the Earth’s heat. Are they technically right? Yes- of course they are. But what they fail acknowledge is that science has proven this recent warming period to be far more rapid than any of those witnessed in the past. (According to a study conducted by the National Research Council, the warming of the Earth is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.)
Many people say we shouldn’t address climate change because doing so, of course, would “destroy new jobs.” This is fair-enough argument. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see the intended logic behind it. But look at the numbers. According to a 2012 study and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 1.7 million American jobs exist in the oil industry; couple that with 174,000 jobs in the coal industry and the result is roughly two million jobs in the fossil fuels industry as a whole (I will exclude international employment statistics here, for those who complain about progressive climate policies hurting American jobs tend to not care about foreign labor in the first place). But in a country of 324 million people- in a world of 7 billion people- two million is a less than minuscule number, if you can even call it that- equal to only .006 percent of the U.S. population. To continue pumping toxic gases into the atmosphere in the name of maintaining the coal industry is the equivalent of filling a house with carbon monoxide to give one out of every one hundred thousand people a job.
But in the end, some people will still say: why should we even care? Sure, yeah, there’ll be storms: but we’ll get over them. Right? Just like we did with Katrina. Just like we did with Sandy. But we only regard history looking back retrospectively- we look into the past to construct narratives that never really existed, narratives that, like the opioids many people use to escape the painful reality of their daily lives, delude us of the true seriousness, the darkness, of our harrowing predicament. We convince ourselves that these storms suck, but that we’ll be able to get through them. That they’re just normal.
But all empirical, scientific evidence says otherwise- that these storms will continually worsen and become even more catastrophic. Katrina and Sandy were only the beginning. They were but the canaries crying out in the cave of our own self-destruction. To believe anything else is merely appeasement- a pushing off of the inevitable.
Addressing climate change should not be a task carried out merely for our own sake- we, of all the generations to come, will be the least affected by climate change. It is our kids who will have to foot the largest end of the bill: the storms and droughts they will have to endure, the toxic air they will have to inhale on a daily basis, the multifaceted consequences of complete ecological meltdown to which they’ll bear witness, will all reach a level of severity far greater than we will ever have to experience.
We should address climate change for our kids, and their kids, and their kids after that (if there is still the possibility for life at that point).
Insisting that the United States government to make sweeping legislation to tackle the Earth’s warming- through carbon taxes, through the incentivization of clean energy industries- and resisting the corporate evisceration of the planet, is the only option to avoid complete ecological catastrophe- that is, to avoid annihilation, oblivion, death.
We are at the eleventh hour. Scientists have been warning us for decades about the dangers of the planets rapid warming. At this turning point in history- and not just the history of mankind, but of life on Earth- we have to ask what our legacy as a species will be: will we retreat into the cave of our arrogance and be forever remembered as the parasites who destroyed life on Earth? Or will we muster the courage to rise up against a corrupt system to salvage the one thing that belongs to us all?
I will let you decide this- the whole world has to decide. But you better decide quick: because time is running thin.