There are basically two reasons why I won’t discuss global climate change when I talk to folks about the environment. The first has to do with the enormity of the problem. I’m the first to admit that we have a hurculean task ahead of us if we are to avert radical climate change in the future. But having said that, to many, it is such a daunting task, and the numbers and science so overwhelming that discussing it can be a turn off. Many times, I have heard people saying things along the lines of “Well there’s no way I can stop the icebergs from melting so there’s not really much I can do.” So I try to steer clear of it and instead focus on things that people can relate to (energy usage, waste, water usage, etc.)–things that they can do something about and that will also help in the fight against climate change.
The second reason is that, sadly, it has been politicized to the extent of becoming a quagmire. Due to a number of reasons, many people I speak to feel that if you are talking about climate change, or global warming as it has been sadly referred to time and again, you are pushing a left wing agenda, and they just tune out to everything you have to say. This doesn’t do anyone any good, so I always start my seminars with a slide that explains why I don’t talk about climate change because I don’t need to. I can give you ten reasons why the changes we all need to make are important, ranging from religion, to thrift, to national security and show you the importance of change without ever mentioning global warming once.
Having said all of that, I am going to break with tradition and spend today’s column discussing global climate change. Why you ask? Well, because I was fortunate enough to attend the Governors Global Climate Summit 2 in Century City, California last week and was really struck by what I heard there. The conference was set up as a precursor to Copenhagen, where the nations of the world will soon meet to discuss a new climate change treaty that will hopefully be more inclusive, and more effective than the Kyoto Protocol was. Attending was a veritable smorgasbord of folks from all walks of life, and I was able to interview quite a few of them and speak candidly with them after the fact.
I will not mention specific names, as I was there as a filmmaker for another entity, but was able to speak to one of President Obama’s advisors on the environment, a retired Vice Admiral of the U.S. Navy, the governors of Oregon, Wisconsin, and the state of Amazonas in Brazil, a U.N. director for policy development, a 17-year old school kid who teaches other kids about global climate change, a policy maker from India, and a native rubber tree farmer from the Amazon basin, just to name a few. It was quite a varied cast of characters from all over the globe who all came to the conference to bring the severity of climate change to light.
We spoke to all of these individuals privately, interviewing them for a piece on climate change, and then had time to speak with many of them off camera afterward as well. As a result, none of the folks we spoke with heard what anyone else was saying. And the frightening thing was, give or take a handful of months here or there, each of them spoke about the need for change within five years. Essentially what they were saying was that if we don’t have a plan in action and start limiting our CO2 output now and moving into the next five years, we will pass the point of no return and will not be able to do much if anything about climate change.
Five years. Think about how small an amount of time that is. Now of course, maybe they are off, but the point is that the deadline is out there. Between climate change, the end of cheap oil, and so many other problems on the rise, it’s not a question of if, but a question of when, and we need to act now.
So I’d ask each and every one of you, on a personal level, to take a deep look at your fossil fuel usage and cut it down, way down. Drive less, fly less if at all, turn your lights off, turn that AC and Heat down, step back and take a critical look at how you live your life and consider that fact that with every ounce of fossil fuel energy you are using, you are casting a vote for the future of this planet.
And once you are done doing that, or perhaps before, take a moment and write a letter or email your elected officials and implore them to come up with a solution at Copenhagen. Explain to them that reversing climate change is an issue that is important to you and that they need to address it now and be a part of the solution. If you live on the coast, talk to them about sea rise. If you live inland, talk to them about radically changing weather patterns and the potential for crop and water disruptions sending millions of people in search of livable conditions. Tell them that if they want your vote next time they are up for election, they need to step up and face this.
If you live in the United States, you can find out who and how to contact here. If you live elsewhere, you can probably find out how by Googling the info, but please feel free to post the link in the comments below for your own country.
Time is running out and we need to put the pressure on. If we all en masse start speaking up now, perhaps Copenhagen will end up being the start of the change we need to see. If not, there may not be time to avert the crisis at hand. I for one will work for the former in the hopes of averting the latter. How about you?
Dave Chameides is a filmmaker and environmental educator. His website and newsletter are designed to inspire thought and dialogue on environmental solutions and revolve around the idea that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. “Give people the facts, and they’ll choose to do the right thing.”