Note: I took this photograph of Nathan while our family was camping at Glacier National Park this summer. I submitted the text below as a letter to the editor of the Brookings Register a couple of days ago. I’m posting it to this blog in the airport in Sioux Falls, awaiting the flight Jihong and I will take to New York City.
Maybe your ears perked up last week when the accounting giant PriceWaterhouseCoopers announced its belief that we are only 20 years from global catastrophe, if the world’s governments don’t take swift, aggressive and coordinated measures against climate change. “The timeline,” it says, “is unforgiving.”
These aren’t scientists talking, but a legendary accounting firm. “The gap between what we are doing and what we need to do [to reduce greenhouse gas emissions] has again grown,” the PriceWaterhouseCoopers report states, “for the sixth year running.” At current rates, we’re all headed towards 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit of global warming by the end of the century—not the 3.6 degrees our governments, informed by science, agreed back in 2009 might be manageable (i.e., largely survivable) and were therefore aiming for.
Imagine the person you love most in the world, with a fever raging out of control. Their biological systems are shutting down. They’re at death’s door. But no hospital, no insurance company, is willing to treat them.
Wouldn’t you be screaming bloody murder?
Now, imagine the planet with such a high temperature, and maybe you’ll understand why the two of us will be in New York City this Sunday for the People’s Climate March. As world leaders converge on the United Nations for a summit on the climate crisis, we marchers will demand that all governments do their fair share to get us out of this mess, starting now. Citizens at more than 2000 other events in 130 nations will march with us, out of concerns for property, homes, livelihoods, communities, habitats—for an entire planet already being ravaged by the effects of climate change.
The two of us will be marching out of love for our son, perhaps most of all. Nathan is only 12. In 20 years, where will he be? What kind of world will he be living in? Marching in New York won’t answer these questions. But at the moment, marching in New York is what we can do.
What about you? We assume you love your own kids and grandkids, even if they’re not yet born. What can you do on their behalf regarding this problem that sometimes seems too big, too far away, to tackle?
To start, maybe you’ll decide to drive down to Sioux Falls on Sunday for that People’s Climate event. It will begin at Augustana College, with the 1pm screening of the film Disruption in the Gilbert Science Hall Auditorium, 2001 South Summit Avenue. If watching that film fires you up, you might want to join the march at the same location at 2pm, showing your support for urgent action on climate change.
Then, you might also help to vote into office more public officials who care more the future more than they do their own election, and re-election. Who care at least as much about succeeding generations of children as they do the interests of Big Business, including Big Oil—such as TransCanada, the company still intent on building the Keystone XL pipeline, despite the incredible harm it will do in the long run. No number of jobs is worth building it. Not anymore. Our state’s Public Utilities Commission should deny TransCanada’s permit, now up for approval once again, the original permit having expired in June.
No industry or government is going to take major steps on climate change unless “We, the People” put our foot down and demand it. March and scream till we’re red-white-and blue in the face, if we have to.
So we know where we’ll be on Sunday. Where will you be?