Today is the 45th anniversary of the first Earth Day. It’s a time to draw attention to climate change and other environmental threats to the planet. That is a good thing to do but the planet doesn’t need all the help, we do. Instead of using economic arguments to explain the harm of climate change, we need to lead with the very real human costs of climate change.
In a post at Thinkprogress, Joe Romm wrote:
Arguably, concern over the earth is elitist, something people can afford to spend their time on when every other need is met. But elitism is out these days, at least for everyone but the 0.01 percent and the Supreme Court. We need a new way to make people care about the nasty things we’re doing with our cars and power plants. At the very least, we need a new name.
How about Nature Day or Environment Day? Personally, I am not an environmentalist. I don’t think I’m ever going to see the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I wouldn’t drill for oil there. But that’s not out of concern for the caribou but for my daughter and the planet’s next several billion people, who will need to see oil use cut sharply to avoid the worst of climate change.
With 7 billion people going to 9 billion, much of the environment is unsavable. But if we warm significantly more than 3.5°F from pre-industrial levels — and especially if we warm more than 7°F, as would be all but inevitable if we keep on our current emissions path for much longer — then the relatively stable environment and climate that made modern human civilization possible will be ruined, probably for hundreds of years (see NOAA: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe). And that means misery for many if not most of the next 10 to 20 billion people to walk the planet.
So I think the world should be more into conserving the stuff that we can’t live without. In that regard I am a conservative person. Unfortunately, Conservative Day would, I think, draw the wrong crowds.
The problem with Earth Day is it asks us to save too much ground. We need to focus. The two parts of the planet worth fighting to preserve are the soils and the glaciers.
It kind of reminds me of national forest policy that use to prohibit any clearing of debris and brush from the national forests. The logic is that all of that “trash” is used by animals and other organisms to live. The argument given is we should leave forests as natural as possible. What seemed to be missed is all the trash on the forest floor is perfect fuel for wildfires. Reducing the trash might cut down on the length and intensity for forest fires that seem to be getting worse each year.
The life cycle of a forest includes fire that clears out the old debris and some trees to make way for more trees and growth.
I agree with Romm. We need to focus on a few places that have to be saved and not try to save everything. Soil and glaciers would be a good start along with water.
Happy Earth Day everyone!