Some communities in our nation suffer disproportionately from systemic misconduct by law enforcement agencies, some parts of the African continent are reeling from the devastating impact of Ebola and some nationalities daily experience the pain of deportation.
But all of the world’s 7.2 billion people are impacted by climate change and global warming, and this transcends the issues of race, region and religion. Thus, it was encouraging to see the thousands of protesters jamming the streets of New York City over the past few days with a cry that we hope will drown out the naysayers who deny that the planet is in trouble.
It is good, too, that Mayor Bill de Blasio has stepped up to the plate with some grand proposals to make the city’s buildings more energy efficient by imposing strict regulations on new ones and retrofitting existing ones, and nowhere is such renewal and imagination more necessary than in our sad, practically dilapidated public housing.
With so many of the world’s leaders in town to discuss the effects of climate change, we hope that the world is finally reaching a critical mass, that more people are paying attention, particularly the developed and developing nations, which are the major dispensers of fossil-fuel emission and chlorofluorocarbons that leave our ozone layer looking like Swiss cheese.
A number of books are helping us understand the nature of the problem we are facing and what can be done to remedy it, and we are especially enthusiastic about Naomi Klein’s recent publication, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.” Her basic thesis is that, “Our economic system and our planetary system are at war,” and Mother Nature, as we know so well, isn’t anything to fool with.
Klein puts forth solutions that appear to be quite reasonable, if not immediately obtainable. She is absolutely right about the need for new ways of governing, an increase in public spending, larger investments in infrastructure, higher wages, taxing the rich, universal health care, a recasting of campaign finance laws to curb the influence of corporations and an acceleration of immigration reform.
We could add several more concerns that are vital to our survival and to the survival of the planet. True, we’ve done a lot of damage to Mother Earth, but we have to believe that it’s not too late to alter our behavior, to become more active in the fight against those who are killing the rain forests, thereby endangering half of the world’s plant and animal species. Deforestation has already created a massive erosion of land in Haiti, and the ravages of Hurricane Katrina was a destructive example of what happens when acres of wetland are no longer available to minimize the howling winds and rising tide.
Recycling is an easy and immediate way to start combatting the problem both here and abroad. Comprehensive recycling programs can lead to extensive savings in waste disposal, helping to alleviate the need for waste transfer stations. We need to change from a society of waste and disposable everything to a society that believes that waste will be our ruin and that the need to reuse, repurpose and recycle is a proactive way to help stop our environmental decline.
The world leaders at the U.N. this week will hear from a coterie of environmental experts, all of them eager to provide the information we need to save the planet, which means we save ourselves. Perhaps that’s part of the answer—we have to become more interested in what happens to the planet with the realization that our existence is mutually connected.
After the session this week, where the Kyoto Protocol is sure to be a hot topic, it’s on to Paris by 2015. Let’s hope that by then some radical changes have occurred to halt the rising water level in the island nations of the world that are gradually disappearing.