Ian McEwan, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the Royal Society of Arts and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, recently wrote a heady piece for The Guardian that discusses the necessity to immediately act on climate change. Now that the majority of the world contends that climate change is real, says McEwan, we must take swift, meaningful action:
"On the all-too-kickable stone we call the Earth, where results from thousands of measurements in oceans and on land masses are mapped against satellite data, the mean temperature has continued to rise. In 2006, and even more in 2007, the shrinking of the summer ice in the Arctic exceeded the gloomiest predictions. Data for the past year, during an economic downturn, show CO2 levels rising as fast as ever. It is doubtful whether there is yet a single recorded instance of a carbon-producing power station taken out of commission to make way for a clean energy installation.
"The burning forests, the dissolving coral reefs, the extinction of species - we have numbed ourselves with these familiar litanies. During the past 30 years we have dealt with the issue, if at all, only in our minds. There are, of course, first signs of a new clean energy infrastructure - along certain stretches of the Danish coastline, on some German and Japanese rooftops, in certain deserts - but the effect so far is miniscule. We are still dreaming, still murmuring in our sleep as we grope for the levers that connect thoughts to actions."
McEwan proposes that President-elect Barack Obama is the only one who can "unite humanity for this life-or-death struggle" and convince global leaders to take steps like the actions we have already seen from countries like Denmark, Germany and Japan. Obama has the leadership power, or at least the perceived leadership power, to do so, and it is no longer a question of if he can, but of how quickly he can take the necessary steps. Bottom line, says McEwan, the problems are solvable, but require fast action:
"We have less than eight years to start making a significant impact on CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, eight years to move from Berkeley's solipsism to Johnson's pragmatism. Thereafter, as tipping points are reached, as feedback loops strengthen, the emissions curve will rise too quickly for us to restrain it. In the words of John Schellnhuber, one of Europe's leading climate scientists and chief scientific adviser to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, 'what is required is an industrial revolution for sustainability, starting now'.
"To be effective, this is only possible at the level of international cooperation - far more difficult to achieve than any technological breakthrough. There is a rendezvous next year in Copenhagen in late November which the entire world of climate expertise is preparing itself for and which is considered by many in the field to be our best and possibly last hope of addressing the problem before it runs away from us. It is the global successor to Kyoto, known in the trade as COP (Conference of Parties) 15. There is a case to be made that it will be one of the most important international meetings ever convened. If it does not result in practical, radical measures, the fight to control our future could well be lost. Every nation on the planet will be represented. The general feeling is that the conference cannot be allowed to fail. And it cannot succeed without the leadership of the United States. There are fears that Obama will move too cautiously on climate change for political reasons, and that would be a tragic error. Schellnhuber says, "If he were prepared to come in person to Copenhagen and make a speech, a bold commitment, similar to what Reagan did in Reykjavik, he would become a hero of the planet, for good."
If Obama has the power to unite humanity and halt climate change, says McEwan, then is it not only because he has told the world that he could do so, but also because the world believes in him. With our collective thoughts giving him, and therefore ourselves, a vote of confidence, we just might be able to stare down the mountainous problem of climate change and say ‘yes, we can.’
Photo credit: flickr/selena marie, Creative Commons license.
The global, human-induced predicament visible in our time to the family of humanity makes one thing clear: people with eyes to see, ears to hear and no speech impediments have got to speak out loudly, clearly and often now. Silence, the greatest power the rich and powerful possess, cannot be allowed to prevail. The reckless way a few people with wealth and power maintain a "golden" silence, one that protects their greed, gluttony and hoarding, is dangerous and cannot longer be endured because a good enough future for our children and coming generations is being mortgaged and threatened by these leading elders in my not-so-great generation.
Regardless of whether or not other human beings choose to accept the "answers" to one question, I believe we must ask ourselves, "Can we teach one another to live within limits?"
It is necessary, I suppose, for human beings to recognize and affirm human limits
and Earth's limitations
To do otherwise and, by so doing, choose willfully and foolishly to ignore the practical requirements of biophysical reality runs the risk of putting life as we know it and our planetary home as a fit place for human habitation in peril, even in these early years of Century XXI.
Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
"The global, human-induced predicament visible in our time to the family of humanity makes one thing clear: people with eyes to see, ears to hear and no speech impediments have got to speak out loudly, clearly and often now."
I'm sorry, but this is a bizarre statement. Should the blind and deaf and speech-impaired not make their voices heard?
I realise that you probably didn't mean this, but if speaking out is so important, we should be careful what we say.
Good point. Words matter.