June 1, 2017.
Stop! Do you hear what I hear? Cacophony fills the air.
Sirens – warning, wailing, weeping.
“By exiting the Paris Accord, the US loses a seat at the bargaining table where the world is creating the framework for the future” – Wired
“US quits Paris climate pact” – BBC News
“Trump announces US pullout from Paris climate accord” – Al Jazeera
“Trump pulls US out of Paris Climate Agreement” – NBC News
“Pulls out is a good metaphor,” I think.
I take to Facebook to feel some measure of solace and solidarity. I watch him in the Rose Garden. I furiously type the following words, cry, re-read, and click “Post.”
For context: while we are careening headlong into catastrophic territory – we have already locked in substantive hardship for our children and grandchildren, even if we ceased all emissions today – the Paris Agreement only goes into (non-binding, but still) effect if 55 countries producing 55% of global emissions commit to the Agreement.
Contrary to what many believe, the United States is the second-largest emissions economy on the planet – just behind China. What’s more, approximately 45% of global emissions are the responsibility of China, the United States, and Russia.
If the United States leaves the Agreement – what is to keep Russia, and other countries less aligned with the “Western bloc” from doing the same? This is not just about the United States – this has ramifications for the entire planet.
If you believe climate change is a hoax or that Jesus could come back any day and whisk his believers away and create a new planet to wreck, if you laugh in the face of recycling efforts or look coldly through the lens of profit as you contribute to the decimation of our planet’s unbelievably complex and fragile ecosystems, if you cannot grasp the fragility of life on this planet or just shrug and chalk it up to “man’s fallen nature,” then you – we – are all part of the problem.
I have seen a few memes going around lately that speak clearly to this present moment – if we, by virtue of thinking our *only* planet is in danger, seek to make it a better place, a freer place, a more equitable place, a cleaner place, a more sustainable and respectful place – where. is. the. harm. in. that?
The kicker? Greed and economic triumphalism – growth at all costs – has no place on a planet (with finite resources) that hopes to survive. The systems of governance, economics, and socialization the West has spread to the corners of the planet is corrupting the very likelihood of our continued existence.
Everyone…everyone that lives in a consumer-driven society is complicit in this terrible tragedy. I am. You are. We are. So what the hell are we, collectively, going to do about it? It is already too late to maintain the status quo. It is already too late to stave off consequences for our greed and inaction. It is not too late to try mitigating the harm we, the Industrialized World, have caused. It is not too late to commit to paying for our crimes – through the welcoming of refugees displaced by political turmoil or climate change.
You know what will make our inaction even more unforgivable? Raising up our drawbridges – building walls – demonizing “others” – and rejecting the pleas of those drowning, dying from heat, starving from lack of food. And lest we think hard times cannot visit us on our continent, separated by vast oceans – well, we will have a harsh and rude awakening. I just hope we are not too dead or dumb or stupid to hear the crescendo of the bells sounding the alarm.
What can we do? What does this mean for our future? How do we wrap our minds around a challenge so complex, so far-reaching?
Specific policy strategies elude me.
Yet something must be done. Our leaders are not taking care of us. We are divided. Scrapping to survive. Clinging to some measure of stability and belief in an effort to assure ourselves of some future comfort.
But here is a difficult question: what if future comfort is not assured? What if this really is all we have? Even those of us who believe in future states – life after death – can surely contemplate the ramifications of the opposite.
Do we have it in us to stare into oblivion, steel ourselves, and seek to make this life as equitable and just as possible? Do we care about the planet? Can we grasp the complexity and consequences of our actions?
Perhaps we find ourselves at this juncture because of long-held beliefs and philosophies we cannot bring ourselves to discard: they became too sacred. Perhaps we are so convinced of our rightness to even contemplate the validity of someone else’s position is a betrayal to our own foundations.
Maybe many of our challenges are the result of ego run rampant – ego fueled by consumption or the illusion of personal autonomy, a rejection of the belief we are “all in this together.”
I sit in a coffee shop today, writing haltingly – terribly, even. I should not be stunned, but I am. I am sad; I grieve. And this weekend? I will dance and sing and laugh in the face of what bears down upon us, because goodness knows the memories we make today might be the only pleasant things we can draw upon when we are old and grey – our children and grandchildren around us, asking, “How did we get here?”