Welcome to Eclectic: The Environment in the News

It is heartbreaking to me to imagine what future generations will have to do without or struggle against, so that we can indulge in convenience now. My understanding is that the countdown to the year 2050 is, effectively, the Doomsday Clock of climate change, when the negative effects will become severe and irreversible. If I’m still alive in 2050, I will be 76 years old and on my out, while those who come after me will continue living in the world we leave behind. When people ask me why I recycle, compost, or avoid plastics, I answer, “Because I love my grandchildren.” I don’t have any grandchildren yet – my children are still school-age – but I am conscientious enough to assume that these yet-unborn progeny of my progeny will probably want things like air, water, and food.

I know very few people who make any efforts to curb pollution and waste. That may be due to a sentiment expressed in a disappointing story from PBS NewsHour last August: “Many in US doubt their individual impact on fighting climate change.” By contrast, I do believe that ordinary people can make a difference, but as a person who is willing to sacrifice, I feel like I’m swimming upstream, dodging and weaving among a recalcitrant majority.  To be frank, almost every person I talk to about it chuckles cynically when I say that I care and suggest that they should, too. A few go even further to remark that it’s typical of a liberal like me. (I’m not all that liberal.)

The fact is that actual climate scientists – not the amateur, self-educated experts – are providing a grim assessment of our future. Near the end of October, NPR shared two stories of this ilk. In one from a few weeks ago, I heard that, essentially, plastics are not able to be recycled in the quantities we need them to be. (I still carry mine to the collection center anyway.) In another story that ran shortly thereafter, listeners learned that the UN is now calling for “urgent change,” as the current carbon-reduction goals appear to be unattainable. That latter story also shared this:

Within individual nations, the report acknowledges, are more inequities in consumption and emissions. The top 1% of consumption households pollute substantially more than the bottom 50% of households.This is an issue of environmental justice and steep, entrenched economic disparity. Andersen calls for a global economic about-face.

All of us have a role in meeting the goals. Notice that the passage above says “households.” Not corporations, not factories, not governments— households.

We can call each other names, laugh at people we disagree with, and buttress ourselves against change, but the facts remain. One day, we will all – everyone of every political leaning, in every nation on Earth – look at the distressing effects of pollution and waste, knowing that we could have done something to stop it. And when it happens, name-calling, laughing, and denial won’t do any good.

In 2050, my children will be about the age that I am now. They’ll probably be trying to do what my wife and I are doing: maintain a home, raise children, and lead a life of some quality. I hope they’ll be able to, but I fear that they won’t have what they need to do it.

To read more from Foster Dickson’s blog Welcome to Eclectic, click here.

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