What’s the Deal with This “Climate Crisis”?

Featured image: Adrien Taylor on Unsplash. Audio: recorded with Voice Recorder by quality apps, edited in Audacity.


4 for Now

First things first: yes, it’s real. I could quote a bunch of stats at you, but let’s talk tangibles.

When was the last time the sky was orange in the middle of the day?

San Francisco after the Labor Day fires. Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Only one other time in recorded weather history have five tropical storms headed for the U.S. East Coast at once.

Remember Australia burning earlier this year?

“Photo from TV Dec 31 fire Australia 20% of Australian forests burned” by Melanie Lazarow is marked with CC PDM 1.0

And the polar ice caps are still melting.

“File:Endangered arctic – starving polar bear edit.jpg” by Andreas Weith is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

How did we get here?

Much like our other systemic problems, it’s easier to point fingers at individuals. My neighbor isn’t recycling. My brother doesn’t use reusable shopping bags. Plastic straws! Sure, these contribute, but not as much as…

Big oil. Data from the World Resources Institute shows that the energy industry accounts for 73% of global greenhouse gas emissions. That includes transportation, electricity and heat, manufacturing, and other forms of energy.

Big ag. While this may not seem as bad, agriculture accounts for 11.8% of global emissions. And no, this isn’t all cow farts. It’s all the animals raised for food, and the practices and products used for both animal and plant agriculture.

And don’t write off practices like deforesting the Amazon Rainforest, which account for 6.5% of global greenhouse gases.

Those are big industries, and with governments behind them, they’re powerful, too. They won’t change, so we’re doomed, right?


What We Can Do

While voting isn’t the end-all be-all, combined with other efforts, it’s one way to show your representatives what you stand for. Vote for candidates—at all levels of government—who will work to pass environmental protections.

Put pressure on lawmakers. Sure, write or call your congress people. But also contact your state governor, attorney general, mayor, and city council people. They all have power to change your community. They just need to know what you want and that you’re going to hold them accountable.

You can also put pressure on companies. Protests, boycotts, petitions, and letters are all effective ways of getting their attention and showing them you’re serious about saving the planet.

More of an artist-type? Make art. Tell stories or share your viewpoint through images, words, or music.

Also, as Adwoa Addae recently said on the What We Need Now podcast, we need to “sit and cry and scream.” She explained that we need to let ourselves feel the rage, fear, guilt, and shame around our actions (or inactions). And we must learn how to communicate and purge these feelings so we can focus on what we need to do without sacrificing our emotional health.

And I need to say it, because a lot of white folks don’t consider it: don’t contribute to the erasure of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks. Listen to them when they talk about their experiences and what they’re doing to address the climate crisis (and other issues).

Native Americans inhabited this continent for at least 15,000 years before Europeans showed up. Climate change only started accelerating in the 1800’s. We got here in a little over 200 years. If that’s not a sign we need to look at what we’re doing, I don’t know what is.

4 for Later

  1. Explore the Vital Signs of the Planet on NASA’s Global Climate Change website. You can view graphs showing carbon dioxide levels, global temperature, arctic sea ice minimum, ice sheets, and sea level.
  2. Camille T. Dungy on our Climate in Crisis. (15-minute read) Camille talks about poetry as an instrument of change and taking local action.
  3. Interview with Layel Camargo on Old Mole Variety Hour on KBOO. (18-minute audio; the 2:30 minute video heard near the beginning is on Instagram).
  4. Celebrating Indigenous Resistance and Protectors Around the Nation by Kaitlin Grable. (about a 6-minute read) Includes links to several Indigenous activism groups for more info.