The Earth is heating up; that’s undeniable. The only question is: Are we going to take the necessary steps to prevent an environmental disaster? There is still time — even if only a little — to change course. I refuse to accept a forecast of catastrophe.
When it comes to saving the environment, one of the things we definitely shouldn’t do is listen to Donald Trump. The president completely ignores what science has to say on the subject. He pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, under which countries pledged to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, and continues to deny that humans are to blame for climate change.
In November, Trump tweeted: “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS – Whatever happened to Global Warming?” Known for his black humor and juvenile sarcasm, Trump prefers to see the tree and not the forest. But what is happening to our planet isn’t funny at all.
NASA recently announced that global surface temperatures have risen dramatically in recent times. The last five years (2014-2018) have been the warmest since record keeping began 140 years ago. In 2018, the fourth hottest year on record, the Earth’s temperature was 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than it was in the late 19th century.
While a single degree may not sound like that much, it’s important to remember that we’re talking about global averages here. There are patches on the Earth’s surface where temperatures have risen much more.
The consequences of climate change are evident everywhere. More frequent and more powerful Atlantic storms are battering the East Coast, including Florida, where I live. On the other side of the continent, increasingly brutal and uncontrollable fires are devastating California communities. The polar regions, the Earth’s freezers, are melting at rates never seen before. Meanwhile, there are small islands disappearing under rising seas – please watch this powerful documentary by Michael Adams about the danger facing the residents of islands in Panama - https://youtu.be/C6u48KxL790 - even the ocean currents themselves are changing.
All this can only lead to death — for humans, for animals and for the ecosystem.
The one thing we ask of nature is that it remains constant. We want everything around us to stay the same, for the sun to rise and set each day.
However, no matter where we look today we see frightening change. There is rain where it’s usually dry, snow where it’s warm and suffocating heat where it’s normally freezing cold. Where there were beaches before, there is now water and erosion; algae where there were schools of fish; shades of gray where there were landscapes full of color; winds where there was calm. And all of these changes are occuring with violence. This is nature unleashed, unhinged, lost.
I wish I were being alarmist. I am not. I have only a few years left before I’m gone. It is the next generation that will face the music, my kids and yours.
That is why it came as no surprise to me that 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — the youngest woman ever elected to Congress — was the one to take action and propose a Green New Deal. Her proposal — unattainable, according to her critics — lays out a number of ambitious goals for the next 10 years, including meeting the United States’ power needs entirely through clean, renewable energy and vastly expanding the nation’s investment in high-speed rail.
Such a plan would require the country to make radical changes, starting now. And the truth is that there is no political will to make that happen. That’s why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to the Green New Deal as a “green dream.” Fortunately, Ocasio-Cortez is as sharp with her speech as she is on social media. When asked about Pelosi’s remark, Ocasio-Cortez responded by refashioning the words into a mission statement: “I think it is a green dream.”
Even if the proposal is never put in effect, it’s worth noting the sense of urgency that has built up around it. This is, after all, a literal life-or-death situation.
Ocasio-Cortez and the young men and women from her generation won’t let people like Trump make decisions for them; that’s why they’ve taken the baton from his hands.
Their future is at stake — as is the planet’s.