Last week began with two massive demonstrations, the People’s Climate March and Flood Wall Street. These took place in the couple days before the United Nations Climate Summit on Tuesday, where leaders from around the world were to discuss what is possibly the most pressing issue facing humanity today.
City officials to shut down 60 blocks for the People’s Climate March. It drew, by one estimate, 310,000 demonstrators—joined by many, many more around the world over the weekend. Flood Wall Street saw thousands of protesters blocking streets in New York City’s Financial District, trying to get the attention of what they think is the root cause of the climate crisis: the corporations that make up the economic system in the United States. Here’s a quick, informative video about the march:
For many people, it makes perfect sense to not think of climate change as a big deal—last winter was a bit colder than we’re used to, so what? Or maybe you’re of the belief that climate change is an acceptable tradeoff for our standard of living, because fossil fuels make our lives a lot easier than they would otherwise be (think 1850s). Maybe you’re an investor and are enjoying killer returns on your stock in fossil fuel companies. All valid reasons to put climate change on the back burner—seriously, no sarcasm here. However, if you care about public health…
Climate change is a public health issue in a variety of ways. Forget about the polar bears for a second. Back in 2003, an estimated 70,000 people died from a heat wave in Europe. Climate change will test the limits of our agricultural system, making it more difficult to feed the world. It could expand the range of mosquitoes that carry malaria. And it may disproportionately affect areas prone to extreme weather and communities with poor air quality. I could go on.
At this point, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. Climate change is everybody’s problem, and it’s everybody’s job to fix it. It may not be possible for you to give up your car or your computer or the massive amounts of natural gas to heat your home in winter, and that’s okay. I know I definitely can’t.
However, there are two things that you can do.
First, learn about climate change: what it is, what causes it, and what consequences we might see. I highly recommend Climate Central‘s book Global Weirdness, which does an excellent job of presenting just the facts in a simple way. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also has basic information and Q&A about climate change (note that the content on these two pages do not promote any kind of agenda or policy).
Second, if and only if you’re convinced that climate change is a problem, actually do something about it. Learn about renewable energy efforts—The Solutions Project is a plan to transition the United States to 100% renewable energy while creating jobs and saving money. Learn about the movement to divest from fossil fuels (the University of Michigan has a campaign too). Turn off the lights at night. Walk and bike more. Buy Energy Star products and support SmartWay companies. Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #ActOnClimate. Talk to your friends, especially ones that don’t think climate change is a priority.
And you’d be saving the planet for not only the next generation of people, but also the next generation of polar bears.
It’s time to act on climate.