Strolling past London’s Marble Arch on an unusually warm April afternoon and I am promptly greeted with a flood of tents in the street. A wave of slow indie music floats among the fluttering of multicolored flags above. A man to the left hands me a pamphlet, subtlety breathing, “Extinction Rebellion. Rebel for life.”
Despite the serenity experienced on one of the protest days; the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations were smacking national headlines. Thousands went out lobbying the Government, demanding change for a more sustainable future.
But this isn’t a new conversation. Over the years the rise in environmental activism groups has been growing rapidly. In 2017, over 200,000 people took part in the People’s Climate March in Washington DC. Climate change and global warming is a hot topic (no pun intended) yet, we still find ourselves with unachieved goals and sunken with the lost dreams of a greener future. We’ve learned a lot over the last 30 years when talk on climate change really started to emerge but why is tackling it taking so long? Have we seriously still not got it right?
According to Beryl Pankhurst, an activist for Extinction Rebellion, the “invested interests in the world for fossil fuels” and lack of “political will” are accelerating the climatic crisis. Large multinational companies, she argues, are making millions of dollars at the expense of the environmental protection of the earth and the Government allows the business elite to escape without penalty.
An article from the Guardian went as far to expose the fact that, American multinational oil and gas corporation, Exxon, knew about climate change as early as 1981 but continued to spend up to 30 million dollars on researchers and thinktanks who promoted climate change denial over the following 27 years in order to increase the firm’s profits. The actions from the firm have been compared to the those taken by tobacco companies in the denial of the connection between smoking and lung cancer to protect profits.
As a post-millennial it’s hard to imagine why an issue with such global prominence has been allowed to slip through the cracks for so long. In such an age of technological advancement and international cooperation it almost feels comical. At the same time though, it is somewhat understandable when looking through the eyes of the elder generation. As Danish physicist, Niels Bohr once said, “technology has advanced more in the last thirty years than in the previous two thousand. The exponential increase in advancement will only continue.” We are now living in times so unique and distant than that experienced in the vast majority of human existence. It was unthinkable that we would ever achieve what we have so soon. Perhaps we simply have not had enough time to truly understand our impact in the little time that we have made it.
Despite this, there are those who no longer see this as an excuse. Almost inverting the argument, they state that, if we can create such drastic change in a period as little as 30 years then we can surely reverse the effects in the same way. We have the evidence; we have the technology but most importantly we have the money.
WHAT OF THE FUTURE?
Scientists have declared that a 2°C rise in global temperature threatens to leave us at a point of no return and engender irreversible damage to our world and existence. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has already set out a 1.5°C threshold in order to sustain our future.
Countries such as China are already starting to lead the way with environmental change, whist incorporating economic and business needs. The launch of fully electric taxis and the adoption dockless bike-sharing systems containing 20 million bikes in Shenzhen are a few paving the way. With goals to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in energy consumption to 20% by 2030, China is demonstrating an international leadership and impetus to finally engender some needed changes. But this can’t be a one country solution to a worldwide affair. As we are reminded, climate change is an international problem and it will take more than electric taxis and bicycles to solve it.
However, with other world leaders continually denying the existence of climate change its hard to see where the future lies. With Trump’s exit from The Paris Agreement and global warming deniers like Vladimir Putin’s stating that, “so-called anthropogenic emissions are most likely not the main cause of this warming”, it does make you question the likelihood of international cooperation and the existence of a shared global endeavor in tackling the issue for the next generation. But what’s clear is that whatever it comes to, we each need to take some responsibility.
As Pankhurst pleads, “some people in the world are actually suffering enormously from the effects of climate change right now. Their houses have disappeared completely.”
Could we be willing to let our only home disappear too?