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Why the Fight for Climate Feels so Brutal Right Now

By: Nora Germain

Twitter can be a pretty rough place. There’s plenty of discord and arguments, but sometimes it can also be a place of comfort and solidarity, especially when it comes to the climate. “Climate Twitter,” as it’s affectionately known, is a passionate, buzzing international community of ordinary people, scientists and organizations that I have come to rely on for an accurate and sometimes painful update of what is happening around the world as a result of climate change. This information is vital to helping everyone prepare for the future, especially when it comes to making big decisions like where and when to buy a house.

As we look ahead to 2022, the situation feels very brutal to me. We are now on our way to 2030, we have witnessed another failed COP summit, Senator Joe Manchin’s singular vote has almost surely blocked planet-saving and lifesaving climate legislation from passing in America (among other crucial things in Biden’s BBB bill), and on top of all that, a new report came out showing the Thwaites Glacier could break at any time, causing a half a meter of sea level rise or more.

Amongst all of this chaos and dysfunction, greed, sloth and predictable holiday consumerism, we as the human people, especially the younger ones, are facing a 2022 that does not give us too many robust reasons to be hopeful on climate. That’s before we even discuss Covid and all of the inequities and pain points involved there. 

There are many small and potential points of hope, though, and if we string enough of those together we can create some semblance of an optimistic outlook. I’m talking about rewilding London’s parks and a couple billion going into solar in this or that firm and so on. 

Yes, those things are important. Yes, they are crucial and worth doing, but we still have not solved the incredibly difficult task of actually ending the fossil fuel industry, amongst other mammoth and urgent tasks. We haven’t even scheduled an end to it. In fact, we still subsidize it with $11 million dollars per minute while we hear from politicians that the cost of saving this planet for our kids is too high. Even the richest man on Earth, Elon Musk, agrees that fossil fuel subsidies should end, which he mentioned at a recent shareholder meeting.

There is also an element of spiritual brutality to this situation, when one contemplates the value and the beauty, the intelligence and complexity of life on our world, how rare it is in a cosmic sense, and the speed at which we are destroying it. It’s incredibly stupid, it’s incredibly cruel, and we might not survive our own actions. 

Beyond that level, there is also a scientific brutality, one that has to do with things like physics and biology. We can put billions and trillions into EV’s and wind and everything we want but we still don’t know how to create a new arctic once the ice has melted. We cannot create a new Amazon after it’s burned (hint: it takes millions of years of evolution), and we cannot restart the ocean circulation system once it shuts down. We don’t know how to fix these things so, logically, we better not break them in the first place. 

There is also social brutality. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview recently, “Some of us are actually going to have to live on this planet in 50 years.” This is a fact that many politicians and business leaders seem to forget. It’s all good and well to think about how things will be in 2030, although the picture isn’t very rosy. How about in 2070? Or 2090? Are we confident about those years as well?

Here are two recent tweets that really nailed this sentiment. Here’s one from Extinction Rebellion that is criticizing the fossil fuel industry. “If the situation was hopeless, their propaganda would be unnecessary.” One more reads, “Born too early to explore the stars. Born too late to explore the planet. Born just in time to save Earth.” 

Is it all pointless? Are we all done for? I don’t know. Nobody does. There is some good news, and I know people want to hear that right now, too, so here’s an example. Costa Rica, a longtime leader of climate action and a country that actually has the guts to save its own environment, has expanded one of its marine reserves to nearly 30x its previous size. This is how it’s done, folks. This is how you save the planet.  This decade can be the one in which we regenerate nature, end the fossil fuel industry, stop millions of people dying from air pollution and turn our extinction crisis around – or it can be the exact opposite. Climate defeatists want everyone to believe that America can’t help solve this crisis, that it’s “up to everyone else,” that even if we stopped emitting now, it would be pointless, and that there’s nothing here worth saving. That is all false. We may be in a brutal fight for the planet now, but there is still a lot worth saving, and trust me – if we do the right things now, the people and animals of the year 2070 will thank you. Many of us will still be here, and we won’t forget.

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