My Feet Only Walk Forward is a proud participant of Blog Action Day 09 focused on Global Climate Change.
A few weeks ago, I spent an entire day, from sunup til just before dusk, in Central Park. My friend Julio had flown in from Chile a few weeks before and he, with Team Vicki, had organized a massive human sculpture that was the kick off to a series of events for Climate Change Week.
Since Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth, the topic of global climate change has been shifted from an issue that concerned climatologists and Green Peace activists to a mainstream issue. From the auto industry to the United Nations, climate change has been on every lip and tongue. Green buildings, green jobs, green economies, and green energy are the code words that really mean that the world had better get its carbon consumption under control as Mother Nature is gearing up for a global ass whooping of cataclysmic proportions.
In all the talk about reducing carbon footprints, Greening this and that, and the new Kyoto Protocol type gathering scheduled for Copenhagen in December of this year, the one conversation that is missing is the impact of climate change on people.
This week there has been massive flooding in the Philippines where hundreds have lost their lives. Mega-Hurricanes like Katrina, once a rarity, are now almost common place and create billions of dollars in property damage each year and claim priceless lives. Changing weather patterns means changes in agriculture. It means wet places going dry and dry places getting extremely wet, with little time for adaptation. It means that the poorest are starving, with the latest estimate that 1 billion people on the planet are experiencing famine, the rapidly changing climate will only exacerbate the impact on those that do not have the means or resources to feed themselves.
Climate change is about people. The cost of climate change, though measured in dollars, should be measured in lives lost.
The conversation about climate change isn't new. Thirty years ago scientists began attempting to bring the risk of global warming to the attention of the powers that be. And, in the grand fashion of the powerful, they were largely ignored or shunted to the fringe. Republicans and Democrats in this country believed that climate change was hocus pocus and was not discussed credibly by anyone other than long haired hippies that wanted to save the whales and unicorns and whatever else they fancied might be in trouble.
If only we had listened 30 years ago.
The reality is that it is incumbent on the largest consumer nations on this planet, starting with the number one resource guzzler the good old USA, to take the biggest, boldest and hardest steps to combat climate change. Economic pressure must give way to human pressure and nations such as China and India that claim their right to develop in the same monstrous way that industrialized nations developed has to be dealt with in a way that recognizes the need of these countries to move their people out of poverty but without sending the world spiraling into destruction.
The only way to do that is for Western nations to suck it up and realize that we can't continue to consume the way we always have. It is all of our responsibility to lift humanity out of poverty and want. When it comes to hunger, disease, and the threat of natural disaster and climate crisis there are no national borders. If my personal actions do not reflect a consciousness of my impact on the planet, then I am culpable for the dead Pillipinos as well as for the starving in Sub-Saharan Africa.
It is incumbent on all of us to join the fight against climate change. You don't have to become an activist but you do have to become conscious about how you, as an individual, impact the world around you. This is truly one of those moments where if we all do something the collective impact will be tremendous. Copenhagen is a big next step for the governments of the world, and it is up to us to pressure our own governments to be real and make real commitments to stopping climate change, but it is also as important for each of us to do our best to reduce our impact on the world we share.