Let’s Not Get Distracted: Climate Change is Still the Biggest Threat

The world is up in arms – as it should be – about the chaotic and damaging path that the new US President is taking. It is terrifying but we saw it coming. Leopards don’t change their spots, as they say. Who is pulling the strings, who makes the decisions? There are a plethora of theories and a lot of commentary. And it’s been super distracting – I, too, have been caught up in the ‘resistance’ as they say, because I don’t want to look back 40 years from now and regret having stayed quiet in the face of what can only be called blow hard fascism.

But it’s true, also, that half of what goes on in the White House is meant to distract us from the bigger picture issues. Where 10 days ago my Twitter feed was 90% climate change-related information, I’d be surprised if 10% of my feed today had the same content. It’s all fine and well to resist Trump (and Bannon and Conway and and and…) but don’t let it distract us from the greatest threat of all – climate change. Maybe we’re looking at a future with curbed rights (here’s hoping not) and more hatred (my eyes are bleeding as I type this) but at the end of the day we still need a planet to live on.

And when it comes to climate change, the biggest challenge isn’t knowing what to do or how to do it – it’s getting the everyday person to understand just how critical the situation is and to act – to change even one behaviour to help make life on earth a bit more sustainable. Like, when I was living in Kosovo, I’d have near aneurysms because people would wash their cars daily and water the sidewalk. Trust me, I’d prefer dirty cars and dusty sidewalks over no water – which is what happened. Summer 2007 we literally ran out of water. Because people didn’t understand that water isn’t a renewable resource. In Asia, be it Thailand or Indonesia or Cambodia, seriously, I don’t need a plastic bag for my tic tacs. And you can fill my reusable shopping bag full please. Don’t get me started on disposable water bottles. To those in North America – explain to me the value of a monster truck SUV when you live in the suburbs. Emissions aside, those things are a nightmare to park.

Climate change may be in large part due to emissions but human activity is also very dangerous – we choke our ecosystems with garbage, we are unbelievably irresponsible with the resources we have at hand. And the problem is because we don’t educate. We need to force people to understand just what’s at stake and just how near we are to the tipping point.

Adults are difficult to sway (attested to the endless ‘discussions’ with my otherwise well-educated parents). Children seem to understand what’s at stake better. Just look at the success Bangladesh is having with raising awareness on disaster risk reduction by targeting school children. For some reason, adults will listen to children’s advice, but not warnings from government. Whatever works, I say.
Climate change is a massive, scary, complex issue. Which is probably why so many people try to ignore it. Sadly, in this case, that won’t change a thing (we could ignore Trump, though. It would drive him crazy!). While governments negotiate rules and regulations and large scale actions, we, as individuals, need to do our part to educate our families, friends and communities about the risks of inaction. We need to decide as individuals, households and communities what actions we can take – large or small – that will contribute to less pollution and more responsible use of our diminishing natural resources.

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