On March 13, 2019, the United Nations released its sixth Global Environment Outlook report and to no one’s surprise, the news was disheartening. “Time is running out to prevent the irreversible and dangerous impacts of climate change,” the report states. It goes on to forecast the impacts that a lack of action will have, including increased global temperatures beyond bearable limits, major species extinction events, severe air and water pollution, increased diseases and land degradation making food sources increasingly scarce to feed an ever-growing world population.
The first of these reports was first issued in 1997, and in the 22 years since then very little has been accomplished to reverse the human caused degradation of the Earth and its ecosystems. It would appear that our leaders are either unwilling, or unable, to implement the changes that are critical to the sustenance of human life. As time moves forward we are getting closer and closer to a “tipping point” – a point where action is no longer enough to prevent catastrophe. Even if scientists cannot agree on exactly when that tipping points exists, nearly 100 percent agree that is does exist.
Please continue to read to the end – it is not all doom and gloom. I want to make a quick pivot to some inspiring news. On Friday, March 15th, 2019, tens of thousands of students from around the world in over 100 countries took matters into their own hands and staged a Climate Strike, walking out of their classrooms to raise awareness about the growing climate crisis. A pessimist may believe that this was a stunt to avoid class time, but in fact, in nearly all cases the action of these students was supported by the teachers and faculties of their schools – after all, teachers are, by their nature, invested in the future – they certainly aren’t motivated by their paychecks. While I am sure that there were many that viewed it as time off, I am firm in my belief that the vast majority of them were participating out of a mounting desperation to enact change. Most of them will statistically be living beyond that tipping point.
So, take heart. Not enough of our current leaders have the vision or courage to make the difficult changes that are needed, but if our leaders of the future are embodied in these students, then we do have a fighting chance to change our course. We can learn from their example. We must.
On a related note, I strongly recommend watching this TED Talk video featuring Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen climate activist who started the Climate Strike as an individual action less than a year ago, and it has now spread around the globe. She has been nominated by the Swedish Parliament for the Nobel Peace Prize.