Biology 105 here at EMU has two obvious effects: wrecking your GPA and, less bitterly, the reification of concerns about our world with regard to climate change.
Yet the class’s method of getting our attention about this potentially cataclysmic issue is, well, boring.
Of course, climate change as a whole has become such an uninspiring topic because it’s always approached in the same fashion: You’re told the world is being destroyed, sea levels are going to rise and the polar bears and pandas are going extinct.
I write this not sardonically or even to marginalize the very real worries encompassed in climate change. The issue itself is massive; that goes without saying. As the LA Times of Dec. 9, 2011 articulates:
“Climate change is no longer a theoretical concept to be debated at symposiums by science nerds. It is happening right here, right now. Thirteen of the warmest years on record worldwide have happened in the past 15 years. In the U.S., 12 weather-related disasters this year have caused in excess of $1 billion in damage each, a record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“Although many expected the global economic downturn to slow the output of greenhouse gases, emissions actually have been accelerating at an alarming rate, growing 5.9 percent in 2010 — the biggest jump since 2003. The American response? Fiddling around.”
Those are extraordinarily depressing statistics. Realistically, that entire passage reads as: “Climate change is really bad.”
As a result of knowing we are numb from being beat over the head with how terrible climate change is, the last line of that passage becomes understandable.
Unfortunately, those defending Mother Nature are idealistic, repetitive and intransigent. If the environmental movement is to enact real change, it needs to shed its anti-technology and anti-human image. The Guardian from Nov. 5, 2011 wonderfully elucidates:
“Let me be clear. The environmental movement needs to change. The world is radically different than it was in the 1960’s and 1970’s when the modern movement was formed. The environmental movement needs to mature its view of the role of people, technology and corporations. People are the solution not the problem. Technology and innovation allows us to survive on a resource-limited planet. Big corporations are not always the enemy.”
Consider the environmental ads or videos you have been shown. They almost always condemn humanity, demonize corporations and appeal to a utopian, natural world devoid of technology and its corresponding evils. Whether each of those things is legitimate in claim is a separate conversation. More pressingly, it’s clear this method of political and individual inspiration is failing.
The correct path for the environmental movement is the opposite of the one it’s on now: It needs to be human-focused and technology-driven.
One of the key tenants of being human-focused is the realization that environmentalism can be helped by politics. Currently, however, environmentalism is a relatively minor political issue.
In the publication, “The Death of Environmentalism,” the authors assert, “Environmentalists’ failure to achieve more is because they operate in Washington and they accept incremental progress … They’re scared they’ll be marginalized by calling for big cuts. They are taking the expedient route even as we see the scientists sounding the alarms and saying it’s too late to avoid the significant disruptions.”
Beyond even politics, and very broadly, the movement needs to collectively realize technology is the solution. From alternative energies to more efficient cars, the theme of “technology got us into this mess, now let’s use it to get us out of it,” could be extremely effective.
Obviously this is too massive of an issue to be tackled in 700 words, but we need to vary the way we think about our natural world and its impending doom. It’s true the previous statement is not a hyperbole and it being as such should motivate us all to action.
Ultimately though, environmentalists need to realize no one will try to solve a problem that is built up as insurmountable.