Sunday, June 10, 2007

Climate Change: Global Crises Demand Global Cooperation

Among the most interesting aspects of the so-called “debate” over global warming are the ideological agendas of those who would deny it as a “leftist” conspiracy for erecting a one-world government or a “communist” ploy. No evidence supports such allegations. What is clear is that the time for debate is over. Global warming is as well established a fact as any in the scientific literature, and that its current incarnation is fueled and accelerated (literally) by human-manufactured green house gases is supported by overwhelming evidence. The real issue, then, is not whether we are confronted with the potential crises that may result from global warming, but simply what on earth (again, literally) we’re going to do about it. Some suggestions:

• It’s high time we put aside the silly notion that global warming is the latest conspiracy of the “left.” Fact is, if we don’t confront this looming crisis through local, regional, national, and international cooperation we will all suffer, and those who already suffer the most—the poor, citizens of developing nations, indigenous peoples, children, women, and the elderly—will suffer at disproportionately higher rates creating political instability and demographic upheaval. Democratic decision-making about global crises must be conducted at a global level. I can think of no more important charge for the United Nations, NGOs, charitable organizations, governments, socially conscious corporations, environmental groups, and even Angelina Jolie than this one.

• It’s equally high time we abandon the idea that the “free” market is adequate to confront global warming. Indeed, the single most responsible culprit in the deterioration of the environment is unregulated corporate manufacturing. From deforestation to air and water pollution to species extinction to acid rain to resource depletion to climate change, the ultimate result of un-or inadequately regulated manufacture is, as Rachel Carson foretold way back in 1963, suicide. A lot of good our commitment to “free” exchange will do us when we’re all dead. U.S. waste, consumption, and pollution outstrips any other nation’s, and our refusal to sign Kyoto is nothing but denial of responsibility.

• Avoid the fallacy of accident: Whether or not Al Gore flies in gas-guzzling jets or is inconsistent with respect to his carbon footprint is irrelevant to whether reduction and conservation are good ideas. Just because someone does or doesn’t take her or his own advice doesn’t mean the advice is poor. None of us, in fact, can be fully consistent in our efforts, but we can make a difference. Here’s what I do: recycle everything that can be recycled; reuse what can be reused; avoid disposables; compost everything else wherever possible. Drive the least gas-guzzling vehicle that can accommodate legitimate needs (not merely wants); organize car trips, and make fewer of them; buy organic where affordable; stop eating meat; avoid herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and insecticides wherever possible; avoid the use of chemical-based household cleaning agents. Conserve water.

Sound too hard? Even if each of us committed to just one of the items on this list, it would matter. The responsibility to act to prevent environmental deterioration, restore habitat, and slow global warming falls on each of us both as individuals and as citizens of our communities, our nation, and the global community. And we are members of a global community; every purchase we make affects the web of economic and thus environmental interrelations that support our insupportable way of life. It’s no “leftist” claim to point out that the time for xenophobic nationalism is long over. The consequence of abdicating our responsibility to the environment is a future earth—without human consciousness.

Wendy Lynne Lee
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