Saving the Earth from its smart inhabitants
A new documentary by ScienceInsider published on May 31, 2017, has just revealed a bleak reality to humanity as a whole: We are so careless that there may no longer be a radical solution to global warming.
A new global threat to Earth is again that we the humans, the only rational animal inhabiting Earth, are extraordinarily irrational when it comes to safeguarding the planet, carelessly destroying our ecosystem and ultimately our very existence.
The report mentions that the excess amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is now so big that going green and planting trees can no longer save us anymore. “There’s not enough space on Earth to plant the number of trees it would take to prevent the climate from warming by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit [2 degrees Celsius].” If this is the case, then the risk of having more wildfires, drought, heat waves and deadly storms has become very high. Scarcity of resources will increase, leading to more famine, shortages, poverty and ferocious wars.
Global warming is a serious issue, one of the most challenging of our times. It is dramatically changing the lives of everyone. We all have to assume active responsibility, at the levels of the individual, community, nation and globe. Some people think that this is the problem of future generations, but it is actually knocking frantically at our door.
So what are we doing about that? What can be done? We need something transformational.
Scientifically, planting 1.7 billion acres of trees can eliminate 3 billion tons of carbon present in the air each year, which is around 10 percent of what we produce each year. This can be helpful in part, but not as a whole since we need a tremendous area and that would probably be at the expense of lands used for cropping and farming. Again, this means more famine, migration and war.
Globally, the one good thing world leaders have initially come up with is the global consensus on fighting climate change through the 2015 Paris Agreement, an accord adopted by 195 countries to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to keep the increase in the global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius.
While this is considered both an international and national responsibility, Donald Trump, president of the second-largest carbon emitter after China, officially decided on June 1, 2017, to withdraw from the agreement as “it puts the USA at a permanent disadvantage.”
Reactions and counterreactions are now coming from all over the world, but the decision is taken and its unpromising consequences are to be endured not just by the people of the United States but also by all the living creatures of Earth.
Nevertheless, if our leaders fail to lead, we have to act ourselves. We may need “a clean environment revolution” while benefiting from initiatives at the macro and micro levels, be they political or social, until scientists hopefully figure out a solution. But if we remain insensitive to the degradation of our ecosystem and our constant abuse of our natural environment, we will pay a price that is even higher than that of any “human-made” violence recorded across history.
“Our future starts with a grass-roots movement in our communities, our cities and our states. … It is time to start a revolution to save our planet,” Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, said in response to Trump’s withdrawal decision.
California is a good example that is worth mentioning. As Schwarzenegger tells it, while he was the state’s governor from 2003 to 2011, he was able to pass the strictest environmental rules in the country at the state level. Today, California’s economy is booming and the state is the first in terms of both the protection of the environment and economic growth. California has “the cleanest air and water, and also more manufacturing jobs than any other state.”
The Istanbul Environment Friendly City Award 2016-2017, created at the 19th meeting of the contracting parties to the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean in February 2016, is another initiative that aims to acknowledge the efforts of local authorities to improve the environment and promote sustainable development in Mediterranean coastal cities. It’s hoped to be an efficient way to encourage environmentally friendly cities and raise awareness around the importance of protecting the environment and promoting urban sustainable development.
Last, there are none who can be keener to protect the future of our children than the children themselves. Education at school and home is key to raising the awareness needed, eliminating insensitivity toward our environment and atmosphere, and acting to resolve the climate change issue, beginning at home and ending in Paris and Washington. An example of that is the creation of eco-clubs at all academic levels and their empowerment to have more impact on their surroundings. In this context, the eco-clubs at Rafik Hariri High School in Sidon have proved to be very successful in bringing to life the “ecological ideas” of the children while linking their projects to the real world, with businesses and the community at large.
These initiatives and others give us hope and motivation to act appropriately and take more seriously our global challenge. That is how we can “make our planet great again.”
Dima El Hassan is director of programs at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.