A reporter from the Rutland Herald called me yesterday to talk about the conference. He didn’t have any specific questions for me at first but rather just wanted me to talk. I started with a basic breakdown of what the conference was about, who would be there, what would be going on daily and other generic, overview-type information. After rambling for a bit, he asked me a few simple questions and then concluded by asking, is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like to tell people? Ah, little did he know that he opened a can of worms on that one!
Given the soapbox, I started to talk about how frustrating it is that in a lot of ways, true awareness by everyday citizens of what is waiting to befall humanity if something significant is not done soon to curb greenhouse gas emissions and determine ways to adapt to climate changes that are inevitably going to happen does not exist. Real, tangible consequences are going to affect everyone’s daily lives and people in the West have not taken this information in on a personal level yet (people in developing countries are already having to deal with the negative effects but unfortunately have far less power to do anything about it). It is still the stuff of jokes, as in, “ah, I just killed a tree,” said casually as someone throws away a paper cup. Or it is dismissed with a wave because “I am just too busy and have too much going on” to ride a bicycle instead of driving a car (even though often a bike is faster, especially in traffic!). What a privileged perspective.
The sentiments expressed come off as negative, I realize, but really they are from a place of caring. I think about my nieces and nephew and I actually feel physical pain envisioning the world they will have to deal with when they are adults. And then I think about their children and I can’t even let my imagination go there. But I don’t even have to think too far in the future. I think about the kids in the village in Niger where I spent 3 months and how the little girls, some younger than my 6 yr. old niece, have to walk an hour each way to the community well to pull up buckets of water and carry them all the way back to the village just to be able to cook, and then have to do it all over again to get water to wash up. This was in 2001. How much of that community well is left now? That I do not know, but I do know that desertification is only getting worse. More lakes are drying up, growing seasons are shorter, infectious diseases (easily treatable, but that’s another issue) are spreading faster and this is all happening today. And this is all happening because of us.
So then I think about this upcoming conference. Will anything useful come out of it?? I am extremely excited to know that so many people in positions of power from around the world will be there and will (hopefully) be working honestly towards solutions they know need to be created. But I am trying to temper my enthusiam with realism. Observing the conference is sure to be frustrating when solutions seem so easy but the political will is not always behind them. And why? Because governments do not hear from their citizens enough (or do not allow their citizens to be heard). They only hear from the large corporations who are run by the almighty dollar and see that profits may be less if they have to actually pay for the use of OUR common atmosphere that they have been using for free (or even paid to use by govt. subsidies!) since the industrial revolution.
People, this is the moment. Contact your electred representatives. Send them e-mails – it’s so easy. Tell them you are worried (because you should be). Tell them you have hope. Tell them the technologies DO exist to help us out of this quagmire. Just tell them something.