For Blog Action Day 2009
Great wisdom – and a reminder of our tremendous, sacred responsibility – is reflected in the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy, which declares: “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”
Sustainability – economically, environmentally, and as it relates to the public health and quality of life – is achieved only when those who propose, advocate for, make, and implement public policy keep in focus the best interests of residents and visitors – now and far into the future.
“This is how we evolved. There was great Darwinian pressure to pay attention to the tiger roaring in front of you. It’s no wonder that we find it hard to concentrate on something like global warming that plays out over decades, not news cycles.” – Bill McKibben
The EPA, and the national science academies of every country that have opined on the matter, have taken a stand on the certainties associated with global warming: The earth’s climate is warming and humans are the cause due to our burning of fossil fuels.
Greenhouse gas emissions are also responsible for the alarming phenomenon of ocean acidification. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and in water are in equilibrium with one another. Therefore, as atmospheric levels increase, so do the levels of CO2 dissolved in the ocean waters, especially in shallow waters where most ocean life flourishes. Dissolved CO2 reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid, which increases the water’s acidity.
According to a 2005 report of the Royal Society of London, in the past 200 years the oceans have absorbed approximately half of the CO2 produced by fossil fuel burning and cement production. Calculations based on measurements of the surface oceans and our knowledge of ocean chemistry indicate that this uptake of CO2 has led to a reduction of the pH of surface seawater of 0.1 units, equivalent to a 30% increase in acidity. This constitutes an enormous threat to much of the life in our planet’s oceans.
One specific Pacific Island is disappearing under rising ocean waters. The prime minister of New Zealand had to give haven to islanders from Tuvalu as floods have made the island uninhabitable.
Global warming results in killer heat waves. In 2003, the August European heat wave broke all records for heat-related deaths.
There were 35,000 deaths, with the death toll in France alone nearly 15,000. A group of British scientists has concluded that the risk of major heat waves has doubled due to climate change. In the US, heat-related deaths exceed those from all other weather-related deaths combined.
Coastal regions, with about half the world’s population, are at enormous risk of massive flooding, as glaciers and ice shelves are melting at rapidly accelerating rates.
For instance, the Arctic Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, 150 feet thick in 1980, thinned to less than half that depth by 2003.
The Kyoto Protocol is not enough to protect us from devastating climate change. High Road for Human Rights will work toward the global community can joining together as it did through the Montreal Protocol, which put in place the policies and practices that significantly limited the release of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the atmosphere and ultimately solved the problem of ozone depletion.
We must unite and act quickly to achieve these same results as it pertains to climate change. Ultimately, the responsibility for mitigating the disastrous impacts of climate change on human rights rests on each of us.
Let us do all we can to assure that the failure to protect the atmosphere, as well as protecting the human rights effected by global climate change, is never again condoned because of a perception of public apathy in the United States – and to do all we can, consistent with our moral values, to express our concern, compassion, and insistence on constructive action in the clearest, most powerful possible terms. Together, through High Road for Human Rights, we can change the wind. We can increase awareness about preventable suffering and work together, through focused organizing, to effectively push for change that will bring about a safer, kinder, more just world.