Climate change: Fight the power | Moment's Notice


Last updated 8/29/2019 at 7:01pm

Maria A. Montalvo

Talking with my uncle this past weekend, we covered the usual subjects ... family, outings with friends, current events. Despite a lot going on with family and that he is reviewing the final draft of a book being published about his life's work (he is an artist), we talked primarily about the fires that have been burning in the Amazon rainforest for the past three weeks.

Seeing the devastation and our global lack of response, he said, makes it really difficult not to give up hope for this planet.

He's right. In the face of what we know, it is easy to give up hope.

The United Nations just released yet another worldwide scientific consensus paper about the diabolical effects of climate change. The Economist recently dedicated an issue to the disappearing Amazon rainforest (and that was before this week's news). 2050 is likely the point of no return if we continue to ignore (or worse, retreat from) opportunities to stop the damage.

For the last week, newspapers include a photo here and there of the Amazon on fire, but usually not on the front page (there were Tweets to talk about). Fires are far more damaging than ever before (up 85% since just last year), and are often intentionally set to allow for more development, logging, and farming. (The President of Brazil says that they have the right to exploit their natural resources for financial gain just as the rest of the western world did.)

The G-7 met over the weekend to determine financial support to fight the fires and barely managed to come up with a nominal response.

This environmental crisis, generated in good part by our demand for commodities that we do not really need, means we will soon struggle globally to produce the food to feed the people living today. We will struggle to maintain safe places to live. We will struggle to find potable water. But hey, no big deal.

The Amazon rainforest helps to rid the planet of carbon dioxide, supports the planet's oxygen generation, and is home to one-tenth of the planet's biodiversity, but hey, no big deal.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the gravity of the problem, and certainly our government or scientists or business innovators will find a way to ensure we have access to food, water, and shelter in the future. We have survived despite the speed of progress over the last 100 years.

Haven't we always found solutions to problems because someone was smart enough to come up with an easy answer?

There actually are some easy answers. Plant more trees – there, here, anywhere. Reduce consumption of beef. Reduce consumption, period. How about just making sure that people in power know they have to care or they will be voted out? We have to change, and we have to demand change.

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We are not overreacting. We are not on the same path we were 50 years ago. In fact, we are using resources at a staggering pace (nearly quadrupled since 1969), and back then we had Republicans leading the bipartisan effort to create the Environmental Protection Agency because things were already pretty bad.

So when I talk to my uncle (who is from Puerto Rico), and he says is not sure why he should work on the book about his art because we don't seem to care about what this world will be in 30 years, it breaks my heart but doubles my resolve.

My uncle reminds me what creates hope – the things we love. Art is hope. Music is hope. Words and books are hope. Seeing an orca jump out of the water is hope. Watching a river flow around smooth rocks is hope. Laughing with surprise at a brilliant observation by a child you adore is hope. Hearing a reassuring word from a dearest love is hope. Believing change is necessary and standing up for it is hope.

And struggle is hope because all of those things we love are the reason to struggle.


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