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Together, Or Not at All
A day late, but I wouldn't say anything about the dollar
On Sunday, the weather finally broke in NYC. After what felt like endless days of high humidity and temperatures that felt like they were in the hundreds, Sunday’s weather was perfect. Warm, but not hot, with a light breeze and comfortable humidity. I went upstairs to sit on my roof with my coffee. After breakfast and chores, I went back upstairs for a few hours before my evening activities. I had appetizers and wine outside with my family. Finally, summer felt enjoyable again.
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As uncomfortable as the weather in New York the past few weeks, it was just one example of how the climate crisis has exacerbated our extreme weather. In Florida, water temperatures reached 100 degrees and Miami-Dade county faced 22 straight days of excessive heat warnings or advisories. In Arizona, people are getting burned when they fall on the ground. In CNN, Jen Christensen reports that over 5000 heat records have been broken across the U.S this year. And across the world July 2023 is on record as the hottest month ever.
Of course, this is not just about the disintegration of my favorite season, about uncomfortable picnics and disrupted vacations. There are over 100,000 people in shelters in New York, shelters that are poorly ventilated and air conditioned and already incredibly stressed by a lack of funding and by accusations of mismanagement. Last summer’s heat wave in Europe can be linked to over 60,000 deaths. Droughts and floods, fires and heat waves exacerbate famine and displacement, conflict and violence all over the world. The climate crisis is not on its way - it’s here.
Meanwhile Republicans in Congress threatened to default on the national debt if they weren’t allowed to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, which in addition to reducing inflation, also was the biggest investment in addressing climate change in history. Rather than invest in clean energy and environmental protection, and infrastructure projects that would actually create jobs in addition to addressing climate change, many would rather we increase fossil fuel production, repeal regulations that protect the environment and mitigate damage, and allow companies to increase profits at the expense of sustainability. It’s enough to make your blood boil in time with the oceans.
But here’s the thing - we can do something about it. And in so many ways we are.
In part because of sustained activist pressure on legislators in Congress, we were able to pass the Inflation Reduction Act which will reduce emissions in the U.S. by 40% by 2030. Polling suggests that significant majorities think we should continue to take steps to become carbon neutral by 2050, and climate activism through organizations like Sunrise Movement, the Citizens Climate Lobby, and 350.org. In 2022 solar energy storage was up 34%, and with investments from the Inflation Reduction Act that number will continue to grow. It’s not enough, but it is progress, and progress is important.
In a piece in the Guardian last week, Rebecca Solnit writes, as she so often does, about the importance of hope, not as a balm but as belief in possibility and the commitment to pursue it.
“You can feel absolutely devastated about the situation and not assume this predicts outcome; you can have your feelings and can still chase down facts from reliable sources, and the facts tell us that the general public is not the problem; the fossil fuel industry and other vested interests are; that we have the solutions, that we know what to do, and that the obstacles are political; that when we fight we sometimes win; and that we are deciding the future now.”
The only purpose of certainty is to absolve ourselves of action. If we know that the future is hopeless, why would we bother fighting for it? If we know that we will succeed, we can coast on our own surety. Hope is not certainty. Hope says that we can win, not that we will.
The climate crisis will be addressed together, or not at all. On a global scale, this looks like pushing our government to stay committed to the Paris Climate Agreement and to work with other wealthy countries not only to use that wealth to reduce emissions and expand clean energy, but to support less wealthy nations fighting for their survival. Nationally, this means fighting to elect people who will fight for us, who privilege the health of our planet and our society over corporations, no matter how much money their state receives from oil and gas revenue. But it also means making personal changes - eating less meat, taking advantage of tax credits to make our houses and buildings more efficient, and taking public transportation. Not suing the next state over for their congestion pricing.
The whole point of government is to pool the resources and resilience of people and use it for the common good. Together, we can make huge strides for a livable planet where we all can thrive. But not if we don’t fight for it.
Here’s how you can help fight the climate crisis:
The special election in Ohio is one week from today. If Issue 1 passes, it’ll make it much harder for citizen-led ballot measures to address climate change. There’s still plenty of time to phone bank. Sign up here.
Citizen Climate Lobby has actions you can take on their website. They make it very easy to contact Congress and spread the word about important climate actions. You can find more info here.