Guest Post – from Janis Bookout
This editorial is written by Janis Bookout, outreach manager of Earth Day Austin. She is also an organizer with 2020 or Bust, a nonprofit organization that seeks to end the climate crisis by helping people all over the world reduce their own personal carbon footprint.
Our complacency is obscene. In the face of the climate crisis, our response is not connected to reality. Consider the following:
- 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have happened since 2001
- The US fire season is over 100 days longer than it was 40 years ago
- The 6th mass extinction in the Earth’s timeline is happening right now. (Even peer criticism of this scientific finding admits our rate of extinction ain’t good.)
To give a sense of our insanity, let’s look at where people spend their hard-earned time and energy. Google Trends tracks the search volume over time of different keywords. The following graph compares the US search volume of the term “climate change” (blue) against the search volume of the term “lettuce” (red) over the last five years. The uptick you see in late 2017 corresponds with Trump’s announcement to leave the Paris Climate Agreement.
In the Climate Reality Training I attended in March, there was this wonderful slide of a woman cleaning the windows of her pub as the flood waters rise. Although she is dry, outside the dirty flood waters obscure 30 percent of the window frame, the water level up to her shoulder. (I don’t have permission to use it here, but Google “York woman cleans pub window flood,” and it’s the first image you’ll see). That’s just how we are about climate change. We keep acting like things are normal when they are not. And if you think I am not talking about you, you’re wrong. We (myself included) are delusional about the urgency of climate change. Every time we wake up to this urgency, fear puts us back to sleep. We are like that proverbial frog that stays in a pot of water while the temperature rises to a boiling point.
The truth is, it is almost (if not already) too late. We have already released too much carbon to stay under the established “safe limit” of 1.5 degrees warming. And we are are on track (including the much touted Paris Agreement) for at least 3 or 4 degrees warming – which, by all counts, threatens many global systems that make human existence possible. My children will almost certainly see the loss of Key West, the death of most of the Great Barrier Reef, and the reshaping of our major coastal cities. That will almost certainly happen just with the carbon we have already locked in.
And now, Trump has announced the U.S. is leaving the Paris Agreement. Despite the fact that our opportunity to leave the agreement does not present itself until after the next presidential election, his position may well give some states (like Texas) implicit permission to further obstruct local policy. At the same time, states and cities are proclaiming their commitment to the Paris Agreement. But if you drill down, in many cases, city commitments are more acclaim than action, more plan than project. So where does that leave us?
It leaves us where we always have been — with the opportunity, at any moment, to take personal responsibility for the future and align our individual actions to that purpose. Take the rainforests for example. They’re the world’s largest natural carbon offset program, and yet we’re destroying them everyday. But there is an opportunity to get involved and to change that. In addition to donating to rainforest protection, people can also abstain from beef and palm oil. We can buy less stuff (all of which has a carbon life cycle). We can install solar or increase the efficiency of our homes. We can buy hybrid and electric. We can convince others to do the same.
Rainforest Partnership has declared June 22 World Rainforest Day. It’s a chance to discover just how important our rainforest systems really are for our future and to take action. (Don’t worry if you missed the actual date itself, you can still visit the World Rainforest Day website and learn how you can do your part to save the rainforests). Do you know that you can reduce your personal carbon footprint just by donating? Do it.
And also, come join County Commissioner Brigid Shea, Carbon Life-Cycle Expert Joep Meijer and Executive Director of Rainforest Partnership Niyanta Spelman to discuss Paris, Austin and the Future of Climate Change.
Collectively, individual action can make the difference so desperately needed. But to take action, we each have to get out of this weird trance we are in, where business as usual somehow makes sense. Just because you can’t see the water rising outside your window doesn’t mean it’s not there. And believe me, I am a criminal too. I go back to sleep at least five times a day. I compromise. I comply. I justify. I take my time.
But then, there is my son, who spoke so eloquently at the City Council meeting on renewable energy this week. (Skip my presentation and go to minute 1:19.) He called for the fastest possible action from City Council. He said it so simply. He needs us. He needs action. He needs people to wake up. And to keep waking up.
I get it, really I do. It would be much easier to hit the pub and avoid reality. But, if you think about it, the end of insanity could begin with you.
Ways to Participate:
- Wednesday, June 28 at 6pm
- Austin Green Room, 4804 Grover Avenue, Austin TX 78756