By Michelle Austreich
In my (not often very humble) opinion, climate change is the last thing on earth we should have reservations about tackling. Especially because, literally, failure to act and come up with a concrete resolution will lead to our demise as humans. If being terrified into action isn't really your preference, don't worry, that was just an appetizer I was trying out.
In reality, somehow, discourse runs freely about hoaxes and priorities, and the lack of agreement on the basis of party lines is still somewhat shocking to me. We all know it shouldn't come as a surprise but sue me for wanting my government officials to actually care about our future and not just about lining their own pockets.
To be brisk, Biden is probably not the hero we all want him and honestly need him to be, and while that is disappointing on many levels; this is why YOU should care about climate change now. Just because he has appointed John Kerry as his 'climate czar', and because of this we have rejoined the Paris Agreement, it does not mean that we are in the clear. The real danger lies in our complacency, and just because it looks like progress might happen, do not sit back until you are sure.
The emergence of Biden as victorious over Trump marks an important turning point, but not fully taking advantage of the opportunity to implement lasting change would cut the celebratory sentiments short, if they have not already been. I know we are busy with our own lives, and it is always easiest to focus on yourself on a granular level, as opposed to societal issues in the same way. I ask you, implore you, to stick your head outside of your own existence, and attempt to grasp the bigger picture, just for a second. Maybe it will put you at ease to know that I am not perfect, or maybe it will just piss you off. I know I have no authority to lecture at you and give you a list of reasons why you should change how you see the world and your place in it, but just bear with me. Don't look at this as a negative thing, instead, realize how phenomenal it would be to look back and realize that we did something big here. Although the situation is most simple to frame as a tragedy, I, too, remain optimistic that the more we raise awareness and have these conversations, the stronger our odds of actually taking action. After all, where would be if not for an unlikely shred of optimism?
We do not have the power to heal the world as we know it in a short period of time, but we can fatally wound it and cause damage that is irreversible, with our negligence. How we classify the warming as "bad" does not actually exist in any real way - trying to prevent an additional couple degrees of warming is not a magic threshold that we need to follow; any further warming will lead to unruly economic hardship and exacerbated inequality. Our health, our water, our agriculture, and our people are at risk - is that not enough reason for you to care? We are simultaneously the most powerful and the most vulnerable that we have ever been, and it is this paradox that erodes first. We are all intrinsically selfish, and why not just look out for yourself if it means that you or your family will be better off? I think we tend to forget that we are not the only species on this planet, and just because we have deemed ourselves the most important, does not mean that nature is obligated to agree. Our wasteful means of existence has already had devastating impacts on wildlife, and continuing to live as if our actions have no consequences except on ourselves is the most harmful fallacy.
Commitments to flashy arenas and blanket statements from large corporations, oil and gas included, are nice, but in essence, empty. I'm asking for your commitment to a radical change in your own life, and you may interpret that as you wish. The power of the people is mighty, but even better, the power of an individual is uncapped. Do not wait for others to come and save you; be the damn change yourself.