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A Change in Climate Change Action

Just last month, it was announced by the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii that carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere had exceeded 400 parts per million, but questions were raised on why there was not a significant response by governments or even the media on such an alarming milestone. Climate change is one of the biggest issues that humanity will have to face in order to sustain themselves for the long run. However, the reaction of officials in the US is not to curb it, but how to live with it.

The Associated Press reported on the shift being “a message that was once taboo among climate activists.” Now, pragmatic solutions by officials will be done through new plans, agreements, investments and adapting. As the AP placed it in their release:

The conversation is no longer solely about how to save the planet by cutting carbon emissions. It’s becoming more about how to save ourselves from the warming planet’s wild weather.

It was Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement last week of an ambitious plan to stave off New York City’s rising seas with flood gates, levees and more that brought this transition into full focus.

After years of losing the fight against rising global emissions of heat-trapping gases, governments around the world are emphasizing what a U.N. Foundation scientific report calls “managing the unavoidable.”

Additionally, the Obama Administration – especially considering his pledge to “do more” for climate change in Berlin a few days ago – has accepted this as the acceptable solution to climate change:

Discussions about global warming are happening more often in mayors’ offices than in Congress. The Obama administration and local governments are coming up with thousands of eye-glazing pages of climate change adaptation plans and talking about zoning, elevation, water system infrastructure, and most of all, risk.

Obama himself remarked in his State of the Union address this year that “we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late”, though this recent action seems to show that it is too late for any work to be done. However, it also must be noted he additionally stated that “my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.” Adapting to climate change should not be a solution while it is being sped up based on the needs of profits.

Even with one of the worst economic slumps in history, the situation over climate change should be something that hundreds of thousands of people should be fighting against, but only 50,000 people showed up at a rally against the Keystone XL pipeline in the capital during February. Moreover, a majority of Americans support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, while also acknowledging the existence of climate change. How could this happen even as environmentalists push the dangers of making the Keystone XL pipeline?

The danger is that environmentalists sometimes forget there is more to do when convincing the public that the Keystone XL pipeline is dangerous, even on the topic of jobs. Forgetting this and making Obama “do the right thing” when it comes to environment concerns treats the movement as a single-issue group, rather than an much needed third party. When speakers at the rally spoke to Obama to make the right decision while he plays golf with oil executives, there is a major problem with the direction of the movement.

There has been great work done on behalf of such organizations in spreading the message such as the Sierra Club announcing earlier this year they will doing non-violent civil disobedience or numerous protests across the country against the Keystone XL pipeline. I especially love reading the Sierra Club’s magazine since it is highly informative. But when such action seems to not be picking as much steam as it desperately needs, it’s time to ask if the movement should be redirected into some other source.

The reality is that Obama’s government continues the agendas of both previous administrations and big businesses without any hesitation. Why ask someone to change when they clearly prosecute whistleblowers, but not bankers or war criminals?

The reality is that environmentalism is connected to the overall life and sustainability of humanity. Nafeez Ahmed of the Guardian wrote an article that referenced a Defense Department paper on the connection between environmentalism and other issues:

The DoD’s Quadrennial Defense Review  recogni[zed] that “climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked.”

Additionally, he mentioned that it was not surprising “that increasing privatization of intelligence has coincided with the proliferation of domestic surveillance operations against political activists particularly those linked to environmental and social justice protest groups.” Perhaps most striking was that:

Similarly, FBI documents confirmed “a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector” designed to produce intelligence on behalf of “the corporate security community.” A PCJF spokesperson remarked that the documents show “federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”

Officials have taken this direction in a system where they can use it to their advantage while doing little as possible in order to stop climate change from continuing at an accelerating rate. If anything is to be learned through this, it is that the change is not limited at the state and federal levels. Rather, it is the power of people in the streets that makes sure action is done regardless of who is in charge.

As Frederick Douglass once remarked:

“If there is no struggle, there can be no progress…Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

Environmentalists have power with many other frustrated folk who are also working for the benefit of people in general. The lack of a major challenge to the two parties in the United States is a disadvantage for environmentalists and other activists as well. While solutions provided by environment groups are interesting, the lack of connection the entire population of the US will prove to be a major consequence if nothing is done.

Note: It’s my first time posting and it was difficult for deciding what to write about first as it took me about a week to decide. Hopefully, it doesn’t take me too long to decide on what to write about as I did for this piece. Thanks for reading!

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Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan is a freelance journalist in Queens, NY and written for publications such as The Nation, In These Times, Truthout and more.