I got this email–something about climate change–from Jennifer Browdy. She’s asking for stories or poems for a big jamboree, an April happening at Deb Koffman’s Art Space. My buns didn’t get in an uproar. It’s not I don’t care. It’s just not my expertise. Besides everyone knows about climate change, right? My pen sits still, my cursor stalled. Ideas swirl in my head. They keep swirling. I procrastinate. Then, as if Browdy is some kind of Good Witch of the West waving her magic wand, the topic of climate change comes at me like a gale force wind. It’s an issue all right; it’s the one, the only 21stcentury issue staring us right smack between our eyes. It’s an issue bigger than all the other issues facing us now.
This morning as I write, the Democratic governor of Washington State, Jay Inslee, announces he’s thrown his hat in the ring for the 2020 election. Climate change and the environment are his signature issues.“ We’re the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we’re the last that can do something about it,” he states. His political focus is on point except for one thing. He twice tried and failed to get a carbon tax his state legislature. If a progressive state won’t pony up for a carbon tax it suggests an uphill battle in states less forward thinking.
He’s not the first politician speaking out. Senator Markey, our Massachusetts man, has been working tirelessly on climate issues. Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, jumped on the band wagon; and, together they’ve launched the Green New Deal. But the idea was conceived twelve years prior by Thomas Friedman in a 2007 New York Times article, calling for a climate friendly energy system with the potential of revitalizing the economy. And even before Friedman, in the mid seventies, came the geochemist Wallace Broecker. Broecker coined the phrase global warming (read global warning). He predicted that temperatures in the21st century would rise beyond the limits experienced during the last thousand years. We were informed, warned. We took no heed.
Every passing day brings another environmental catastrophe. Friends in California have been evacuated due to smoke, floods, fires and mudslides. Across the globe in India, especially on the isle of Ghoramara, rising waters flood the Sundarbans islands, eliminating the lifestyle of whole communities. Up in Anchorage Alaska the famed Iditarod Race is threatened because of the unpredictability of ice and snow. The British Antarctic research station perched on a perilous ice fissure has been moved twice. Flooding of British villages forced wide scale evacuation while an over- heated Paris fried. Fierce tornadoes and wild hurricanes whip across continents in a path of unrelenting devastation. And a warming climate at Lake Reelfoot, Tennessee, means winter water fowl are absent. Due to economic growth and rising emissions, carbon emissions formerly in decline, have increased by 3.4% in 2018. Yet despite all these tragic events they’re not happening here on a large scale. No worries, not yet.
Thumbing through the Arts section of the Financial Times, I happen upon Greta Thunberg. Thunberg, at 14, is a Swedish climate change crusader. Parking herself in protest outside Stockholm’s parliament she aims to reduce Sweden’s carbon footprint lower than that of the 2016 Paris agreement. Criticized for missing school she plans striking until a change happens. “Why should I be studying for a future that soon will be no more, when no one is doing anything to save the future?” She walks her talk. And talk she does; on Ted, at Davos and in the world. Suffering from depression when she was 11, taking action on climate change helped her recovery. As a result of her activism, the Thunbergs made some dramatic lifestyle changes, giving up flying, becoming vegetarian and buying an electric car. Her Mother gave up her international career as an opera singer keeping in line with the new family ethos.
If a fourteen-year-old teenager can rock the world’s consciousness on climate change, where does that leave me? What part can I play? Then I hear a PBS interview featuring David Wallace Wells’ book The Uninhabitable Earth, describing a bleak terrifying planet if steps aren’t taken curbing climate change. As individuals, he says, there’s little we can do. Political legislative action on a global scale is what’s needed. Al Gore tried, Jay Inslee shows promise, but the question now is who will step up to the political challenge needed and will we support them.
Annie Rye is a freelance writer living in Berkshire County, MA. She’s a political junky with a particular interest in improving the working lives of women, an animal lover and oenophile.