“Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to ‘tell it like it is.’ On the basis of this obligation and the graphical indicators presented below, we declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.”
So begins a report published November 5 in the journal BioScience. The publishing of the report is the news, not the content. We’ve actually known this for at least fifty years. Maybe that is why the November 6 newspaper did not have any mention of this pronouncement that we face possible extinction on the front page. We are in ecological crisis; the actions of the affluent in the world are endangering all of us. By virtue of where and how I live, I am a part of the affluence that lies at the heart of the cause of this crisis.
We all must act as ecologically minded citizens; we each have a responsibility to observe the wider impact of our daily habits. Unfortunately, the actions of one person, or even a significant segment of the affluent, cannot solve this crisis. Societal and global coordinated action is required. An aspect of our individual action should be denying access to leadership those that hide behind ignorance, denial, or cost to act. No other issues matter in the end if we (or most of us) cannot survive in the limited places left containing potable water, farmable land, and stable enough weather and climate to sustain human life. This is no longer an existential crisis. If action is not taken, this will affect people alive on the earth right now. Ignoring this crisis is impossible. I can only describe doing so as sociopathic. Willfully doing harm to others for one’s own gain cannot be described in any other manner and such individuals should not be provided decision-making power. Cost cannot be an excuse to act, because the cost of not acting will be much higher. I’m not speaking metaphorically, I’m considering actual monetary costs. What will the cost be for dealing with billions of individuals becoming refugees due to climate change? For wars over water and places with breathable air?
Mitchell Thomashow wrote a generation ago:
The ecologically aware citizen takes responsibility for the place where he or she lives, understands the importance of making collective decisions regarding the commons, seeks to contribute to the common good, identifies with bioregions and ecosystems rather than obsolete nation-states or transnational corporations, considers the wider impact oh his or her actions, is committed to mutual and collaborative community building, observes the flow of power in controversial issues, attends to the quality of interpersonal relationships in political discourse, and acts accordingly to his or her convictions. The ecologically responsible citizen recognizes that he or she lives a life in nature, in conjunction with other people, in the common interest. Where does one practice this approach to life if not in the common domain?
It is now a matter of deciding if your ecological identity is one that is destructive to the ecosystem and therefore ultimately self-defeating or one built on a reciprocal relationship with each other and the ecosystems supporting all life and therefore renewing to all who call this biosphere home.