Good People Doing Good Things — Greta Thunberg

After the Parkland school shooting last February, we saw many of our young people step up to the plate and become … well, the adults in the room, quite honestly.  They declared they had enough of adults being so stupidly in love with their guns that they were willing to sacrifice the very lives of these young people, and in nearly the blink of an eye, these young people became activists for meaningful gun regulations.

On Monday night, our dear friend Colette sent me an email with a suggestion that I look into another young activist fighting for a cause that we should all be fighting for.  Her name is Greta Thunberg, she is 15-years-old and lives in Sweden.  Greta is, as the Parkland kids were, being the adult in the room.  Her cause?  Climate change.

“Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.”

It takes a lot of courage for a teenage girl to make such a statement, and she is spot on!Greta-2Greta is the daughter of Svante Thunberg, an actor, and Malena Ernman, a well-known opera singer, both people of conscience, as you will see.  Greta developed her special interest in climate change when she was nine years old and in the third grade.  As she tells it …

“They were always talking about how we should turn off lights, save water, not throw out food. I asked why and they explained about climate change. And I thought this was very strange. If humans could really change the climate, everyone would be talking about it and people wouldn’t be talking about anything else. But this wasn’t happening.”

Nine years old, and she had better sense than many world leaders today.  She began researching climate change and has stayed on the topic for six years. She has stopped eating meat and buying anything that is not absolutely necessary. In 2015, she stopped flying on airplanes, and a year later, her mother followed suit, giving up an international performing career. The family has installed solar batteries and has started growing their own vegetables on an allotment outside the city.Greta ThunbergAll of that would be enough, in my book, to dub her a “good person”, but it is barely even the tip of the iceberg.  Fast forward to mid-August when Greta Thunberg went on strike.  That’s right … she went on strike, refusing to attend school until Sweden’s Parliamentary election on September 9th.  Every day, Greta sat quietly on the cobblestones outside parliament in central Stockholm, handing out leaflets that declare: “I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future.”

When people tell her she should be at school, she points to the textbooks in her satchel …

“I have my books here. But also, I am thinking: what am I missing? What am I going to learn in school? Facts don’t matter anymore, politicians aren’t listening to the scientists, so why should I learn?”Greta-3As word of Greta’s protest spread, so did the protest itself.  At last count, more than 20,000 students around the world have now joined her. The school strikes have spread to at least 270 towns and cities in countries across the world, including Australia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the US and Japan. Greta is amazed by the rapid spread of school strikes for climate around the world: “It proves you are never too small to make a difference.”

Greta has since returned to school four days a week, but on Fridays she pursues that which is closest to her heart these days, her activism, her attempt to wake us all up, to help us save ourselves.  Every Friday, she and others sit outside Parliament to raise awareness amongst legislators and passersby.  I may have forgotten to mention that Greta is autistic and has both ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and Asperger’s Syndrome, all of which makes it very difficult for her to speak to other people, yet look at what she has done in spite of her obstacles!

This Monday was the opening of COP24, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change being held for twelve days in Katowice, Poland.  Greta Thunberg held a press conference.  The sound quality is poor on the video, and I tried to find a better one, but no luck, so instead I am providing a transcript of her speech.

Greta-COP24For 25 years countless of people have stood in front of the United Nations climate conferences, asking our nations’ leaders to stop the emissions. But, clearly this has not worked since the emissions just continue to rise.

So, I will not ask them anything.

Instead I will ask the media to start treating the crisis as a crisis.

Instead I will ask the people around the world to realize that our political leaders have failed us.

Because we are facing an existential threat and there is no time to continue down this road of madness.

Rich countries like Sweden need to start reducing emissions by at least 15% every year to reach the 2 degree warming target. You would think the media and everyone of our leaders would be talking about nothing else – but no one ever even mentions it.

Nor does hardly anyone ever talk about that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, with up to 200 species going extinct every single day.

Furthermore does no one ever speak about the aspect of equity clearly stated everywhere in the Paris agreement, which is absolutely necessary to make it work on a global scale. That means that rich countries like mine need to get down to zero emissions, within 6–12 years with today’s emission speed, so that people in poorer countries can heighten their standard of living by building some of the infrastructure that we have already built. Such as hospitals, electricity, and clean drinking water.

Because how can we expect countries like India, Colombia or Nigeria to care about the climate crisis if we, who already have everything, don’t care even a second about our actual commitments to the Paris agreement?

So when school started in August this year I sat myself down on the ground outside the Swedish parliament. I school striked for the climate.

Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can “solve the climate crisis”. But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions.

And why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly mean nothing to our society?

Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground.

So, we can’t save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.

So, we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again.

We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.

This young lady has courage beyond what I could have even begun to imagine when I was her age — or even now, for that matter!  She is an inspiration to so many others who have joined her in the good fight.  Every Wednesday I write this post about ‘Good People Doing Good Things’ … Greta Thunberg is by every measure a good person, and she is doing good things, not just for a few people, but for every living, breathing organism on this planet.  She is doing what our leaders haven’t the courage to do.  She is doing what none of us have the courage to do.  She is trying to save our lives.  I hope that the people with the money and more importantly, the power to do something listen to Greta and her words of wisdom, for all our lives depend on it.  If future generations stand a chance, it will be because of young people of conscience like Greta Thunberg.  Thank you, Greta.

Many thanks to Colette for this suggestion, and also for a number of emails containing links to information and video!  There is much more I could write about Greta Thunberg, but in the interest of time and space, I have included a few links below, for those who would like to know more.

Greta Thunberg: “Sweden is not a Role Model”

Greta Thunberg speaks in Katowice: ”Our leaders behave like children”

Greta on Twitter

Putting 2 + 2 Together …

A few of the recent headlines …

Heat Wave Grips Northeast U.S.

Dangerous Heat Wave Hitting U.S. Over Fourth of July Weekend

UK Weather Forecast:  Summer 2018 To Be Hottest Ever

Town Hit By Major Freak Flooding in the Midst of a National Heat Wave

And the list goes on.  In my city, it has been over 90° F (32° C) and with heat index factored in, has hit 104° F (40° C) for the past four days. A check with The Weather Channel shows that there is very little, if any relief in sight at least through July 15th, another two weeks.  The average temperatures here in the two hottest months, July & August, are typically 86° and 87° with rarely more than 3-4 days over 90°.  I remember a few years that there were no 90-degree days all summer!  Humidity has been between 56% – 99% for the past several days.climate map eastern usFunny thing about all of this, though … nobody seems to be too concerned beyond the inconvenience of being uncomfortable, having trouble breathing and/or sleeping, and worrying about seeing next month’s electric bill.  I haven’t once heard mention of that forbidden phrase … climate change. I haven’t heard any others express my own concern, that this is how summers will be from now on.  For the past two winters, we have barely had any snowfall.  Last year saw a record number of intense hurricanes, including three Category 5 hurricanes, Harvey, Irma & Maria, that together caused over $281 billion in damage!

When Trump took office on 20 January 2017, he had already made it known that he believed climate change was a “hoax invented by the Chinese”.  He then nominated Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Pruitt had already sued the EPA thirteen times while he served as Oklahoma’s Attorney General!  And now, as EPA Administrator, he has climbed into bed with the fossil fuel industry, hidden his agenda from the public eye, falsified records, spent taxpayer monies recklessly and on personal items, engaged in unethical activities and in short, been one of the most corrupt cabinet members in history!  The one thing he has not done, is address the most serious issue facing our environment, climate change.

In June 2015, Trump announced that the U.S. would cease all participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement, saying that “The Paris accord will undermine [the U.S.] economy, and puts [the U.S.] at a permanent disadvantage.”  In keeping with that philosophy, he has rescinded, via ‘executive order’, a large number of regulations and safeguards that were put into place to regulate CO2 emissions, water standards, chemical toxicity, wildlife and national park protections, and the list goes on.

Now, it is not my intention to say that because Trump has given free rein to coal and oil companies, that is the reason we are sweltering.  However, I do say that unless this nation, the only one on the globe that is not remaining in the Paris Accord, takes responsibility for doing its share to take care of the planet, we will continue to see the effects that we are seeing and they will only continue to multiply.  The predictions of the climate scientists are being realized even sooner than they anticipated.

Despite the losses of life and property during last year’s hurricane season, despite the nearly unbearable extended heat wave both in the U.S. and across the pond, people seem to be oblivious.  I don’t see people leaving their cars at home, taking a bus or walking to their destination.  The lady across the street from me even starts her car and drives her bag of trash to the dumpster at the end of the street!  And no, she is not disabled, but is more ‘abled’ than I am, while I walk my trash to the dumpster! The end result is that people are much more concerned with things such as jobs, the economy, health care, taxes and other things that they can see affecting their own lives on a day-to-day basis.

This explains in part why it has been so easy for the current bunch in Washington to pull the wool over the public’s eyes about climate change, for it is seen as having more long-term than immediate effects, and also the science is not well understood among those of us who are non-scientists.  One has to take much on faith, believing that the men and women who have the education and have spent most of their lives studying the earth and environment know of what they speak.  And, of course, part of the resistance to climate change is the convenience factor, for once you acknowledge that human behaviours are destroying the environment, it is hard to argue against changing those behaviours.dinosaurAnother part of the reason that people are failing to sit up and take notice, I think, is that lackadaisical attitude that “somehow things will work out … they always do”.  I imagine the dinosaurs believed much the same once upon a time, eh?

It is encouraging that some states and cities in the U.S., as well as some corporations are taking matters into their own hands and taking steps toward being more environmentally responsible.   It is encouraging to see that in 2017, renewable energy sources accounted for about 11% of total U.S. energy consumption and about 17% of electricity generation.  But it isn’t enough.  The U.S. is not only letting its own citizens down, but is letting every man, woman and child on the globe down, for this is a global problem, not a local one.  The U.S. has emitted more planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any other country.  Yet while we are a big part of the problem, we refuse to be a part of the solution.

This summer’s high temperatures and humidity will lead to increased energy use as air-conditioners run non-stop in homes and businesses.  People will drive their cars more, rather than walk, and run the a/c in the car, thereby using more fuel … more polluting fuel.  What does it take to wake people up to the fact that we are very likely bringing about the extinction of the human race, and unlike the dinosaurs, who did not have the ability to control their fate, we have a choice.  Perhaps we cannot force Donald Trump to care about the earth, to care about our survival, but we can get the knuckle-draggers out of Congress and elect people who care enough to do something.  AND … we can do something.  We can combine trips so we drive less, turn our thermostats up (or down in winter), turn off lights, conserve energy in any way possible.  It may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the energy used by factories, office buildings and big trucks, but every little bit counts.  WE MUST WAKE UP!!!

A few informative links, if you’re interested:

Hillary Clinton – On the Issues (Part VII – Climate Change)

“I won’t let anyone take us backward, deny our economy the benefits of harnessing a clean energy future, or force our children to endure the catastrophe that would result from unchecked climate change.” – Hillary Clinton, November 29, 2015

hrc-climateYesterday I wrote about climate change supporters, interferers and deniers.  Today I shall take a look at what Hillary Clinton’s plans are in the area of climate change.  This is such an important issue, and yet it is such a complex issue that it is difficult to summarize in a nutshell.  Hillary’s platform includes the following:

  • Defend, implement, and extend smart pollution and efficiency standards, including the Clean Power Plan and standards for cars, trucks, and appliances that are already helping clean our air, save families money, and fight climate change.
  • Launch a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge to partner with states, cities, and rural communities to cut carbon pollution and expand clean energy, including for low-income families. Read the fact sheet here.
  • Invest in clean energy infrastructure, innovation, manufacturing and workforce development to make the U.S. economy more competitive and create good-paying jobs and careers. Read the fact sheet here.
  • Ensure safe and responsible energy production. As we transition to a clean energy economy, we must ensure that the fossil fuel production taking place today is safe and responsible and that areas too sensitive for energy production are taken off the table. Read the fact sheet here.
  • Reform leasing and expand clean energy production on public lands and waters tenfold within a decade.
  • Cut the billions of wasteful tax subsidies oil and gas companies have enjoyed for too long and invest in clean energy.
  • Cut methane emissions across the economy and put in place strong standards for reducing leaks from both new and existing sources.
  • Revitalize coal communities by supporting locally driven priorities and make them an engine of U.S. economic growth in the 21st century, as they have been for generations. Read the fact sheet here.
  • Make environmental justice and climate justice central priorities by setting bold national goals to eliminate lead poisoning within five years, clean up the more than 450,000 toxic brownfield sites across the country, expand solar and energy efficiency solutions in low-income communities, and create an Environmental and Climate Justice Task Force. Read the fact sheet here.
  • Promote conservation and collaborative stewardship. Hillary will keep public lands public, strengthen protections for our natural and cultural resources, increase access to parks and public lands for all Americans, as well as harness the immense economic potential they offer through expanded renewable energy production, a high quality of life, and a thriving outdoor economy. Read the fact sheet here.

Ms. Clinton’s plan is comprehensive, complete with ideas of how to achieve her goals.  Since it is impossible for me to cover it all here, please do take a few minutes to click on the links to the fact sheets, as they contain a wealth of information.

wind-turbineMy concern is not with Ms. Clinton’s platform, per se, but rather with her ability to get legislation through a Congress in which, at last count, 170 elected representatives in the 114th Congress are deniers of the science of climate change.  That is 56% of Congressional Republicans and 39% of Congress in total!  I seriously considered naming each and every one in this post, but there is a great website that lists them all by state, includes a brief statement summarizing their views on climate change, and even has an interactive map. Please take a look and see where your own Senators and Representatives stand.  List of climate change deniers in Congress 

As we have seen during the past eight years, Congress has no compunction against sitting on their collective butts playing video games while significant and important proposed legislation falls by the wayside.  Given the current environment of hostility toward Ms. Clinton, I cannot imagine that her policy proposals will fare any better unless this November brings about a significant change in the structure of Congress.  Even with that, Ms. Clinton’s biggest challenge in this area is going to be finding ways to motivate Congress and the citizens.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 65% of Americans think climate change is a problem that the government needs to address, including 84% of Democrats and 43% of Republicans. 57% of those polled said they would pay at least $1 more on their monthly electric bill for climate action, including 29% who would pay $20 a month more, and 20% who said they would pay as much as $50 more!  On the flip side, 42% of the respondents said they were unwilling to pay even $1 for such policies. Other results of the survey were:

  • 54% of Americans (67% of Democrats and 46% of Republicans) favor federal regulations that would reduce U.S. coal use,
  • Only a quarter of Americans are confident that the U.S. will meet its obligations under an international climate agreement reached in Paris last December, but eight in 10 say the country should still try to meet those responsibilities.

The bottom line is that a majority of U.S. citizens do see climate change as a critical issue and are willing to make some sacrifices to address the issue.  This, I think, is what Ms. Clinton will need to use as her foundation, and build on it by finding ways to motivate and inspire people to send a clear message to Congress that they want action.  This will be Ms. Clinton’s greatest challenge when it comes to developing cleaner energy and working toward our global environmental commitments.

climateCurrently, 27 states, most with Republican governors, are challenging Obama’s Clean Power Plan in court. They say the lower emissions levels it would impose are an undue burden, despite the fact that most are already meeting the new standards, or close to meeting them.  In the words of Cynthia Coffman, attorney general of Colorado, “We don’t have anything against clean air. That really doesn’t factor into my decision to say the federal government has gone beyond its legal authority.” Just like anything else, if the states stepped up to the plate, if they had taken initiative to reduce carbon emissions, develop renewable energy sources, then we would not need to impose regulations at the federal level.  The states have had ample opportunity, yet they have failed.  We cannot continue to ignore this problem, to engage in partisan game-playing, while we are destroying the earth.

Briefly let us take a look at Mr. Trump’s environmental proposals. As with several other issues, he does not have climate change listed on his campaign website, so we will have to look at what he has said:

  • Trump rejects the scientific consensus on climate change
  • “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
  • “You want to have clean air, clean water. That’s very important to me.”
  • Trump issued an energy plan focused on promoting fossil fuels and weakening environmental regulation
  • Trump promised to “rescind” in his first 100 days in office a variety of Environmental Protection Agency regulations
  • Trump has specifically pledged to revoke the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the United States rule, which he characterizes as two “job-destroying Obama executive actions.”
  • Trump has vowed to revive the U.S. coal economy and re-open old mines.
  • Trump implied that the regulations on hairspray and coal mining are both “unwarranted” and incorrectly asserted that hairspray use in a “sealed” apartment prevents the spray’s ozone-depleting substances from reaching the atmosphere. (You’ve really got to think about this one for a minute, folks!!!)
  • Trump pledged in his May 2016 speech on energy policy to “cancel the Paris climate agreement”.
  • “We’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.”

buffoonHow can anybody fail to see what a dangerous buffoon he is?  Every one of his statements on climate change and environmental issues are a reflection of a lack of education, as well as a lack of concern for the planet we live on and for future generations.

dead-earthEach of us is responsible for our environment.  We must all do our part, but more importantly, we must do so collectively. No longer can we avoid the realities that mankind is destroying the environment and pretend we don’t see. While it will not happen tomorrow, next week, or even next year, at the current rate, eventually the earth will no longer be able to sustain life.  The earth was not created only for us to have fun and make monetary profit, it was created to sustain life. Ms. Clinton’s goals are a major step in the right direction, but she cannot even begin to implement them without us.  It is our responsibility to take climate change seriously, and to demand that our elected representatives do the same.

A Pricey Cartoon and a Madman

I had a really good cartoon by Tom Toles of the Washington Post that I planned to share with you this afternoon.  Having spent the last ten years of my accounting career in the publishing industry, I am ever conscious of copyright law, so I always try to cite or footnote passages I might use from a publication, and I request permission directly from the publisher if I want to use a lengthier portion of an article.  So, I requested permission to reprint Mr. Toles cartoon on my blog, and here is the answer I received:

“Hi Jill,

Thank you for your request.  We charge $35.00 USD + a $12.00 service fee for blog use.  Let me know how you would like to proceed.

Best regards, Raegan Carmona

Raegan Carmona

Manager of Permissions

Universal Uclick”

Needless to say, I am not sharing the cartoon with you, however if interested, you can find it at this link: Toles cartoon  (Note that I can post a link for free!)


So, on to other things.  On 22 April 2016, President Obama, along with leaders of 176 other nations, signed the Paris Agreement, an international agreement within the framework of the United Nations, to limit the effects of global climate change by controlling greenhouse gas emissions, among other things.  It is complex and would require an entire post or two to explain the details, but for now, suffice it to say it is a step in the right direction toward preserving our environment.  Among some who claim that climate change is a hoax, the Paris Agreement is not popular, but they are a very small minority.  Today, 97% of all scientists agree that global climate change is very much real, that climate-warming trends over the last century are almost certainly a result of human activities, and that it is essential that all industrialized nations take part in developing policies and technology to help prevent further damage to our atmosphere.

Yesterday, 26 May 2016, Donald Trump gave a speech in North Dakota in which he said, in part:

“President Obama has done everything he can to get in the way of American energy. He’s made life much more difficult for North Dakota, as costly regulation makes it harder and harder to turn a profit. Millions of jobs, and trillions of dollars of wealth, will be destroyed as a result. That is why our choice this November is so crucial. Here’s what it comes down to. Wealth versus poverty. President Obama’s stated intent is to eliminate oil and natural gas production in America. His policy is death by a thousand cuts through an onslaught of regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency’s use of totalitarian tactics forces energy operators in North Dakota into paying unprecedented multi-billion dollar fines before a penalty is even confirmed. America’s incredible energy potential remains untapped. It is a totally self-inflicted wound. Under my presidency, we will accomplish complete American energy independence. Imagine a world in which our foes, and the oil cartels, can no longer use energy as a weapon. But President Obama has done everything he can to keep us dependent on others. A Trump Administration will develop an America First energy plan. Here is how this plan will make America Wealthy Again: American energy dominance will be declared a strategic economic and foreign policy goal of the United States. America has 1.5 times as much oil as the combined proven resources of all OPEC countries; we have more Natural Gas than Russia, Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia Combined; we have three times more coal than Russia. Our total untapped oil and gas reserves on federal lands equal an estimated $50 trillion. A Trump Administration will focus on real environmental challenges, not phony ones.

 

“Here is my 100-day action plan:

We’re going to rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions including the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.

We’re going to save the coal industry and other industries threatened by Hillary Clinton’s extremist agenda.

I’m going to ask Trans Canada to renew its permit application for the Keystone Pipeline.

We’re going to lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas

We’re going to revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies. These technologies create millions of jobs with a smaller footprint than ever before.

We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.

Any regulation that is outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers, or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped. We will also eliminate duplication, provide regulatory certainty, and trust local officials and local residents.

Any future regulation will go through a simple test: is this regulation good for the American worker? If it doesn’t pass this test, the rule will not be approved.

Policy decisions will be public and transparent. They won’t be made on Hillary’s private email account.”

(For full annotated transcript of his speech, follow this link) Trump speech 26 May – North Dakota

Amazing, isn’t it, that in one brief speech, riddled with lies and misconceptions, he just vowed to destroy every positive step that has been made toward protecting and preserving our planet?  He plans to explore for oil and gas on lands where such processes would threaten wildlife and ecosystems, re-invest in coal mining and production, increase the burning of fossil fuels.  His ‘statistics’ have all been proven false, and his policies, as they are stated, would hasten the destruction of our ecology and the environment of the earth.  Given that the majority of nations across the globe recognize the dangers posed by greenhouse gas emissions and have banded together, via the Paris Agreement, in an effort to halt further destruction of our earth, for Donald Trump to pull out of the agreement would certainly not gain us any friends in the global community, and would make the U.S. the subject of scorn and derision. There are complexities that would make it difficult to simply withdraw from the Paris Agreement, but not impossible. Such an action would be a tremendous setback.(Note that, while he claims he will ‘cancel’ the agreement, that would be well outside his power, as he has no control over the other 176 nations who signed the agreement)

Time and space do not permit me to print the entirety of Trump’s speech in North Dakota, nor to address his various lies and misstatements, but this is as serious an issue as any facing us today, so I urge you to use the link above to read it for yourself.  U.S. citizens absolutely must see that Trump is indeed a madman who simply cannot be allowed to become president of this nation!