101: Musings on Climate Change
Updated: Jun 12
Howdy! Like most folks born after the mid-eighties, I've been at least vaguely aware of climate change, as a concept, since I was a small child. Back then, it was global warming and the concept felt right on an instinctual level. Littering makes the world ugly, so of course pollution makes it sick. At a 1990's-Disney-level simplicity, pretty was inherently good, and ugly, bad. So I encouraged recycling at home, using carboard tubes for craft projects, and making beads from magazine scraps.
Later I learned that the corporations most responsible, were well aware of our mass impending doom for over a generation, before the government decided to acknowledge the threat. When were they actually made aware of the problem? I don't know, but doubtless earlier than we, the people. By now, it's common knowledge that corporations coined the term "carbon footprint," to make individuals feel the weight of responsibility in the ongoing global catastrophe, and while we're not blameless, that phrasing was an intentional misdirection. Obviously any one person can't, in their lifetime, compete with scale of polluting of a corporation, or an army. Eventually I caught wind that most recycled goods (in the USA) are ultimately dumped in the trash, anyway, thanks to a combination of ignorance on the mass' part, and the small scale of what (USA) recycling plants can sort.
I talk to everybody, every type of person. My friends and family lean more conservative than me, and my husband is a borderline Libertarian. When climate change comes up, as it often does in popular media, my conservative peers speak up, doubting the severity of the crisis. Their reasoning is that scientific predictions, once announced, aren't 100% in agreement, and they predictions shift constantly. They're are always in flux. And of course they are? A planet, a series of ecosystems, with numerous climates, tides, etc, is a system with an insane amount of moving parts, and there isn't a single expert of everything anywhere on this little blue dot. Scientists work within their fields, bringing studies together where relevant and possible, building on the findings of their peers—and yeah, I would expect inconsistencies from one field, to the next. It's not that educated conservatives (who aren't being paid to be disingenuous) are convinced climate change isn't happening. When it comes up, they don't trust the timeline, the scale of the impact, and some doubt whether climate change is due to humanity, and whether anything we do will negate it at all.
One peer, in particular, believes that climate change is likely our fault, that we could've mitigated it decades ago, but now it's too late, and there isn't one set plan we can do to negate the impact. They cannot bring themself to care about climate change due to a combination of having grown up witnessing worldwide government inaction on the part of the environment, or worse, they're constantly aiding and abetting oil tycoons gutting rainforests, shorelines, etc—unique, dense ecosystems. When they demand I list a solution, I have a multitude a steps, ways to chip at the issue, and they take umbrage with how ineffective my hypothetical plan is. And I get it. I'm their go-to leftist, the face of a larger entity as far as they're concerned. But I'm not an environmental scientist, or a politician. I'm not a leader with the backing and power to bring together resources to form a greater plan, let alone enact it. And there are leftists protesting who have set demands, ad while they're not an amorphous blob of likeminded-ness, their stances are fairly consistent.
Most environmental protests demand a limitation of capitalism. Many activists call for an outright ban on oil-drilling permits. Some call for a ban on fracking, which aside from the pollution, causes earthquakes. There are calls to more heavily regulate the meat industries, to end factory farming, to ban the selling and consumption of meat. Aside from the obvious animal rights cause, farming swine and cattle produces a lot of methane, and also leads to the pollution of nearby water sources, namely rivers. Plus, the cattle are raised on cleared land. Activists are fighting against the privatization of bodies of water.
Pointing the finger at individuals is ineffective. Most people are focused on their on daily struggles, paying their rent, keeping their kids fed, staying out of debt. They don't have time to separate their paper and plastic, to clean food residue from plastic containers before bringing them to the curb. They can't afford an electric vehicle, adding to which, mining lithium has a negative ecological impact. The average person can't afford solar panels, let alone justify that expense for their rented property. They aren't sacrificing the small joy of eating a meat entrée for some theoretical greater good. Change has to come from the top down, but in the USA, for the people, by the people, is a myth. Corporations pay our politicians to rule in their favor, and the uber wealthy will not suffer during famine, drought, wild fires, flooding, etc. The rest of us drink polluted water downstream from Ohio, but don't worry. The uber rich can afford the world's best water filtration systems, and top notch healthcare should they accidentally experience a moment's exposure to the real world, outside their compounds.
Assuming we had leadership that cared, folks who grew up aware of climate change, who rather than becoming disillusioned, cruelly cynical, through the prolonged observing of the selfish disregard for the greater good on the part of our elected officials, ran for office themselves, won, and never lost that righteous tenacity—I'd suggest the founding of a multinational organization with teeth, made up of experts in their fields, specifically of those with a background in meteorology, oceanography, biology, etc. Think "environmental scientists." They'd also need engineers, working to find, and expand on, alternatives to fossil fuels as a source of energy. Any one politician is unlikely to have a background in the relevant fields, and thus would be a poor fit for solving what is a worldwide issue, hence the need for a collaborative team.
Initially, some obvious steps we could take, internationally, would be the banning of recreational oceanic cruises and yachts, which spew a small cities' worth of pollution in their wake. A ban on private planes is necessary. Likewise, with the expansion of public transportation in the USA, we could cut back on short flights. Banning them altogether might be an ablest take, though I can't imagine many scenarios where they're easier for a disabled person to use than a train. Bringing home the USA army would minimize where they're burning, burying, leaving, toxic substances. As activists keep pushing for, there needs to be a the multi-national ban on new oil drilling permits. I am all for regulating factory farms to prevent animal cruelty, and I support taxing meat more highly than produce, to encourage folks to cut back on their meat consumption. I had an outspoken conservative, claiming to be disabled, yell at me over this take. She suggested that there are health conditions where the patient requires meat int heir diet, not high-protein plant alternatives, and said it would be ablest for her to be taxed for such expenses. So, fine. There could be health exemptions from the tax. Just like when there were taxes levied on cigarettes, it helped encourage regular people to quit smoking. Obviously, the rich weren't impacted. This isn't meant to punish the poor, but to protect everyone from potential flooding, wildfires, famine, droughts, etc.
The point is that governments need to cease putting the wellbeing of whatever industry, over that of the planet. It means lost jobs and that sucks, but there will be new, sustainable industries to replace them. Sure, throwing money at expanding recycling plants, at sustainable building practices, are great. But I'd argue that rather than building new properties, at least within the USA, we'd be better off providing current empty homes, and rapidly-made obsolete commercial properties, to those without. Because ultimately, yes, if the goal is to STOP climate change, we need to reel in capitalism.
Unfortunately, right now, the people in power are not prioritizing the environment. Biden literally just okayed new drilling permits in Alaska, to a company that has a history of causing ecological disasters, at least one of which they tried to cover up in China. The EPA has historically been led by foks with major ties to the oil industry. Rail workers are watching their industry remove what minimal safety policies left and right, and now the USA government is complicit in protecting Northfolk Southern from the legal and financial consequences of allowing a train crash that poisoned not just a town, but anyone downwind or down stream from them.
So realistically, what can we do? Frankly, the activists are right, if not extreme enough in my opinion (not that I'm any better! Ranting from my keyboard. At least they're getting out there, making themselves heard!). Protesting, signing petitions, voting is all well and good. But we have to hold those in power accountable. I'm sick of this "blue no matter who" nonsense. We have two major capitalist parties in the United States, and both use their political weight to keep alternatives off the ballot. Biden, the Democrats, are not prioritizing the environment. They talk the talk, but they put the economy first, every time. Vote green. Be frank about why when discussing politics. If you're on my blog, you probably support trans rights. Great! Same! And while there are some Democrats genuinely fighting the good fight in that arena, on a local and (occasionally) state level, that appears to have fallen off at the federal level. I'm not holding it against anybody who votes for the lesser evil when the lesser doesn't openly hates trans people, but Biden literally signed off on banning trans people from sports. Federally especially. the Democrats don't have trans' peoples' backs. He also just made it nearly impossible for refugees to enter the United States. It is so frustrating when I talk to people who believe leftist policies would benefit the United States, but voted for Biden so they "wouldn't have to pay attention to politics anymore." That is so incredibly selfish and such a privileged take.
Aside from politics, there are steps you can take. Don't go into debt trying to live ethically. There is a popular saying, "there is no ethical consumption under capitalism," so do your best within reason. Recycle when possible. Instead of maintaining a traditional lawn, figure out what's indigenous to your area, relatively self maintaining, doesn't grow above 8 inches, and plant that. Gardening is great. If you insist on planting anything invasive, keep that plant well contained, preferably to a pot. Minimize pesticide use. If you reach out to gardening groups in your area, folks will be able to recommend decoy plants to keep common pests away from the plants you'd like safe. They'll also recommend plants that keep certain pests away. This is also an opportunity to compost natural waste. You might assume that eggshells and banana peels will naturally decompose in the trash, and in the short term, you're right. However, depending on where the refuse ultimately ends up, likely a landfill, it will be pressed until compact, into the ground. A decade ago, folks went investigating a big New Jersey landfill, to see if the trash was breaking down. It was not. They could still easily read the headlines from newspapers dumped decades prior. Minimize your meat consumption and try to source it from local farms or hunters. Car-pool, use public transport, or walk more. I'm a big fan of thrifting, buying used fashion online, and shopping at estate sales. Consider both utilizing an ereader, and using your public library, as opposed to collecting books. I'm a very tactile person, and I really don't enjoy reading on the Kindle, so I've mostly been buying used books. My library is super small and sadly, kind of lacking. Instead of throwing out your old books, or old anything really, consider giving them away in buy-nothing groups on Facebook, sticking them in a box out front for passersby neighbors to paw through and claim, or donate them properly.
A no-waste life style isn't attainable for the average person. But if we all try a little bit, maybe we aren't negating the impact of climate change, but we're keeping out point on this little blue dot, a little cleaner. For my conservative peers, I share my five year old logic, that making the world prettier is it's own reward. And eventually, the corrupt old timers running this country, will die. Gradually, those who've always known about climate change, are coming of age, and to power. We are the new normal and we will have our say, however late.
Thanks for stopping by. I drop a new blog post every Monday! Toodles!