The World Wildlife Fund just published a new report on climate change, and they essentially said that if by 2020 we, as a global community, don’t make drastic commitments to limiting fossil fuel emissions, we could be living in a drastically different world. This, of course, comes off the back of a UN report on climate change, which stated that the changes we will see in our environment will be much worse than anything we’ve ever predicted. And yet, even with all this knowledge and science, it’s hard to wrap your head around it. After all, when we look out our window, the world looks the same — the trees and birds are still there, the sky’s still blue, and winter is still cold. When we observe the world like that, in small time frames like a human lifetime, it’s difficult to see climate change. So it makes it that much easier for politicians and governments to argue against it, and instead choose the short term economic and technological benefits big industries can deliver. And since they’re in power, and will be for the foreseeable future, those of us who believe in climate change can no longer afford to be optimistic. We can no longer look at these reports and pray that these statistics and figures will change the ways of countless governments and industries around the world to create legislation that limits the effects of the emissions we have been steadily creating since the industrial revolution. We can’t afford this blatant positivity any more.
Most individuals who believe in climate change can pinpoint the first time they heard about the potential problem. Perhaps it was early in life by a tree-hugging parent, or perhaps later on, when a professor whose name they forget accidentally rambled on about it. I remember when my sixth grade teacher first introduced my class to climate change and told us that even though her generation created the problem, our generation would have to go out and fix it. There was a certain sense of positivity and hope in her talk, and it made us feel invincible. We truly walked out that day and believed that one day, we would be the pioneers who would stop climate change from ruining our planet.
Nine years have passed since that day. And in those nine years, our collective global community has been able to further harness the power of the wind, sun and water, as well as further study and understand the ways in which we can prevent this problem from getting out of hand. And yet, we find ourselves in a global community in which half the participants find it easier to question the legitimacy of science and evidence than face the music and work to stop the catastrophe they are arguing is likely to ensue.
Environmentalists tend to be the minority voice in legislative conversations. The changes they want pushed through government aren’t as “sexy” or lucrative as those of big business. Environmentalists can’t promise the creation of new jobs or of booming the economy, whereas their adversaries can. So the entire idea that we can still afford to be positive and hopeful about the future and the changes we can make in legislation is moot. Rather, we need to focus on being realistic, and learning to play with the same tactics that our adversaries employ. We need to rebrand and get the message across without being as positive and hopeful in hoping for “someday” when the climate will be fully protected.
In truth, the likelihood of us stopping our dependency on fossil fuels within the proper time frame is very low. It would not only mean that most countries would no longer emit any fossil fuels within the next ten, fifteen years, but it would also mean that politicians and governments around the world who benefit from environmentally destructive industries would be willing to forfeit the monetary gains for the good of future populations. It would require greedy businessmen and women to learn the value of nature without linking it immediately to money. And it would also require shifts in beliefs in billions of people around the world, who would have to accept perhaps lower qualities of life than they are used to in order to even have a chance for future generations.
Clearly, it would require drastic changes, and if we know anything, it’s that humans are resistant to change. So the baseless positivity we project on our governments is fruitless. Instead, we need to redirect that effort into funding realistic hopes and beliefs into our governments and our future. We need to learn to fight fire with water, and douse out the claims the climate change deniers have been spreading for years.
Climate change and environmental destruction are very real things that are going to very deeply affect us within our lifetimes. Not only that, but it will affect the morals we will one day attach to having a family with kids, because how can you morally raise a child in a world that is bound to die. So as of today, it is too late for positivity and hope. It’s time for real, drastic rebranding of environmentalism and to stop passively waiting for people in power to change their minds. It’s time to be realistic and accept their minds will not change, and find new, constructive ways to reach lasting solutions.