Friday, November 21, 2014

Why care about climate?

by Alden Phinney 

I stood watching glaciers crack and calve with a horrendous crash into bright blue swirling seas. It was summer in Alaska, around 80℉ (approximately 26℃), and I was on the deck of a monstrous cruise ship in Glacier Bay. Glacier Bay was named for its monolith of ice that once extended to the mouth of the sea. They estimate that by this summer no ice will touch the water in Glacier Bay.
(Image source)
Over the loudspeaker, a National Park Ranger droned on about how “man-made global warming is a force outside our control”. I literally shouted “WHAT?!” to the heavens, and earned a couple of sideways glances from passengers trying to enjoy what remains of the great outdoors.

Climate change is a big and complex problem, no doubt. The rapid warming of the planet is arguably the most potent existential threat that our species and civilization has ever faced. But to argue that the problems of humankind are outside of humankind’s control was defeatist at best. To perpetuate this fallacy to the consumptive class most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions was appalling. The Ranger was preaching to a myopic choir singing slogans of American exceptionalism in the face of impending catastrophe.

We must be the change we intend to see in the world. In the face of climate change, we must pursue effective, equitable and bold action if we wish to live up to the United States’ mantle of a global leader. Continuing to advance the comfortable status quo at the expense of future generations is unconscionable. We are saddling our children with a debt repayable in war, droughts and famines.

I was disgusted by the gluttony, but more so by the apathy. Though the public discourse is rife with climate denial, the scientific consensus is settled. (Aggregate) global warming is occurring, is accelerating, and threatens every facet of human existence. However, it’s not all doom and gloom; according to the United Nations, the worst effects of climate change can still be avoided if governments quickly enact aggressive Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions reductions.

So when the world must set binding targets for GHG emissions, we should make every effort and sacrifice to be bold, to think forward and systemically, rather than backwards about the extractive industries that have driven economic growth for so long.
"The greater danger for us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark." - Michelangelo
Interested in learning more about climate action, climate justice or fossil fuel divestment at UCSC? Like Fossil Free UCSC on Facebook, check out the homepage of the Fossil Free campaign, or feel free to send me an email at aphinney [at] ucsc [dot] edu.


Alden Phinney is the Sustainability Office Climate Action Analyst through the Chancellor's Undergraduate Internship Program; a member of the Campus Sustainability Council; and a coordinator for Fossil Free UC Santa Cruz.

1 comment:

Melissa Ott said...

Thanks for sharing this experience, Alden! How frustrating that the tour guide said that... you are doing awesome work--keep it up!