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Climate climate Man-Made

Five minutes to midnight: climate change action fighting the clock

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by: Sharai Hoekema
five minutes to midnight  climate change action fighting the clock

Right, we finally managed to wrap our heads around the concept that climate change is undeniable and real. And that we have to take action if we are to avert the majority of negative side-effects that this environmental disease, so to speak, brings along. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the close reader will quickly realise the fallacy here. 

Yes, we have - some notable exceptions aside - largely agreed on the validity and reality of global warming. The Paris Climate Agreement and Poland COP24 are testament to this. Yet we somehow seem unable to turn this around to actual, hard-hitting action. 

Lots of written words. Millions and millions of them, to be exact - these included. Lots of vague promises and pledges. Some half-hearted initiatives of the largest polluting countries and companies, that are all too easily mistaken for a publicity ploy instead. Yet the real urgency seems to be sorely lacking.

Take the antibiotics or sit it out?

Let’s draw the obvious comparison to your own, personal health. You feel miserable and after some days of calling in sick and staying in bed, there is no real improvement in your situation. You drag yourself to the GP, who claims that you have got a nasty case of the flu, which has led to pneumonia. He prescribes some antibiotics and urges you to take them twice a day for two weeks, to ensure that it does not get worse. 

You consider yourself lucky that you are not living back in medieval times, when this ailment would often be considered a death sentence, and haul yourself to the pharmacy and back to bed. Time to take on this bug and get rid of it once and for all. Perhaps you’ll even consider giving up your precious cigarettes to give your lungs some much-needed relief. After all, you’ll still be needing them for the next decades.

Why do we refuse the obvious global warming medicine?

So, what is the difference between our personal health vs the health of our environment? There must be one, as we somehow refuse the obvious medicine for global warming that will clear our earth’s lungs of the accumulated poison. We gladly accept the Doc’s explanation that the earth is sick, we’ve even decided on a course of action - to reduce our CO2 emissions, live more sustainably - yet we somehow forego the visit to the pharmacy.

As of now, any action is mostly driven by young companies, aspiring eco-engineers and entrepreneurs. Some conscious households and communities, perhaps the odd lobbyist and politician. While we applaud their enthusiasm, most of us lack the real drive. Our minds do not seem to want to accept the small sacrifices we must bring if we are to enjoy this world for just a little while longer.

The clock is ticking for climate change action

Here is the reality check. If we do not cut our global carbon emissions in half in the next 12 years, we will not be able to avert the worst consequences of global warming. Fact. 

And yet, while we read this, our minds already go in overdrive to find excuses for not taking action today, right now. It is a biological result of evolution, dating back to our ancestors living in caves. Their worries were pretty much focused on the present. Hunt. Escape from that sabre tooth tiger. Mate. Sleep. Repeat. 

Do you think any of them worried about their retirement plans and next year’s elections? You bet they did not. 

We are only human and this is how we have been trained to act and think for centuries and centuries. Our tendency to look towards the future and start worrying about tomorrow is still relatively new and fresh, with most of us still struggling to adjust. 

What to change to avoid further climate change?

The climate change lobby should therefore focus much more on playing to the psyche of people. It should explore why we are so hesitant regarding this perceived change and how we can turn this around to work in our favour. After all, there is nothing more astounding than human’s capability to adjust and overcome - the exact trait that has led to our survival over time. We have got to tackle the perception that we, as individuals, hold no control over this situation anyhow. So why bother? 

Additionally, we’ve got to accept that even the smallest activities that we perform on a daily basis are malignant, such as stepping into our gas-guzzling car to take the kids to school. We have to stop undervaluing the impact of climate change on our lives. It may not be visible right now, but it sure will be in a decade of two. 

Most importantly, we’ve got to educate ourselves and others. Ignorance is not a pretty trait in anyone, and in this case might even prove to be our downfall. We should stop telling people that they have to sacrifice and give up some comfort. Instead, start telling them about great new initiatives. Educate them about their personal emissions, open their eyes to their own actions. Get them excited about being a part of a massive movement that will clear our earth’s lungs. 

Tell them that they will be the hero that saved the earth’s life. We hold the antibiotics that the earth so direly needs. We just got to start ingesting it.

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