It’s time to make peace with nature.
Last Friday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on the nations of the world to stop the war with nature. “The climate emergency is fully upon us and we have no time to waste. The answer to our existential crisis is swift, decisive action, and solidarity among nations.” On Saturday, December 12, the fifth anniversary of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, decarbonization goals will be reported to the UN.
When the Europeans landed in the New World they came as conquerors, armed with horses, weapons, smallpox and many other diseases. They found magnificent forests, rivers, and fish, a place where the Lakota and other tribes cared for the land.
In a letter to the Federal District Court opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline, Jon Eagle, Sr., the historic preservation officer for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said, “I do not look at myself as a victim. I am standing on my own two feet, protecting my wife, and providing for my family. The world my family prepared me for no longer exists. I was taught how to live off the land, following ancient protocols that stimulate new growth. Never taking more than we need. And yet, in my lifetime I have witnessed changes to our natural environment that cause me to worry about my children and grandchildren. Will they be able to live off the land like I and everyone before me did?”
We have failed to understand our place on Earth, as caretakers of the most beautiful planet. Why would we pretend to own nature and dismiss the waste, pollution, and emissions from extracting fossil fuels and clearcutting forests?
No economy on a dead planet
We are incredibly lucky to be on such a beautiful planet. But we take it for granted and treat it like dirt.
We sacrifice peace, clean water, clean air, and wildlife for economic growth. The economic “externalities” are not free. Creating emissions and pollution is stealing from the environment that sustains the balance of nature for generations to come.
Last month, a Yale Climate Connections story, “Fighting climate change: Cheaper than business as usual and better for the economy,” made the case that “moving now to combat climate change is cheaper and better for the economy than postponing action.” We can have both, a good economy and a green planet.
State of the climate
In the last four years, we have lost the bright outlook of the 2015 Paris Agreement goals. Leaving the climate agreement “to protect the booming US economy” opened the door for other countries to follow the irresponsible path.
In 2018, Trump defunded NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System which used satellites to measure emissions in the atmosphere. Many CMS projects measured the carbon flux in forests around the world.
The levels of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane keep rising. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas with a higher warming potential than methane, and 300 times higher warming potential than carbon dioxide.
The Earth does not care how we measure greenhouse gas emissions. Pretending methane leaks don’t count in order to burn “natural” gas, selling “clean coal,” and selling our forests to be burned as “clean fuel,” is the road to ecocide.
The GOP gets an F on climate, F for fracking, F for forests, F for a failed administration, and a GOP Congress that won’t admit who won the 2020 presidential election. The Arkansas Congressional Delegation is asleep at the wheel, as our health, democracy, and security are at risk.
Air pollution kills
Several studies have shown air pollution from burning wood increases the morbidity and mortality of Covid-19. Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, wrote a great article last week on the impact on air quality of a proposed “inland port,” an intermodal transit hub that would increase truck traffic and pollution.
Moench says, “Let’s start honestly acknowledging the obvious. More air pollution, more deaths, and a hotter planet will be the enduring legacy of the dirty energy inland port, not more jobs.”