But the truth of the matter is that, while I've done what I could in the context of my primary political and life commitments, I've seen this as one of a number of major issues, like racism, corporate exploitation, sexism, war, health care, workers' rights, etc. I haven't felt that it needed any special priority.
As the new year begins, however, that has changed. My major new year's resolution is to become more directly involved in helping to build a massive and activist movement as quickly as possible on the issue of global warming or, to be more accurate, catastrophic climate disruption.
This is not just another issue. It is an absolutely central one. There is widespread agreement in the world scientific community that unless we dramatically shift from the use of fossil fuels to the use of clean and renewable energy, we are facing a truly apocalyptic future. Among the likely consequences:
* The Hadley Center, a major climate research laboratory in Britain, recently said that, "by 2040, most of the world's forests will begin to die." (1)
* The near-disappearance of arctic sea ice. "It is 40% thinner than it was forty years ago." (2)
* "Climate change would probably exacerbate hunger and poverty around the world. . . People who are highly dependent on farming, fishing or forestry will see their livelihoods destroyed." (3)
* We will see heat waves worse than the one last summer in Europe that killed upwards of 35,000 people.
* Hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe storms will become more frequent and deadlier. May, 2003 brought 562 tornadoes to the United States, 163 tornadoes higher than the previous monthly high of 399, set in 1992.
* Island nations in the South Pacific are already seeing the drastic effects of global warming as the sea rises. Many small nations face disappearance under water.
* "Results of a major study showed yesterday that more than a million species will become extinct as a result of global warming over the next 50 years." (4)
* "New research in Australia suggests that the amount of water reaching the rivers will decline up to four times as fast as the percentage reduction of rainfall in dry areas. This, alongside the disappearance of the glaciers, spells the end of irrigated agriculture." (5)
* The melting of the glaciers and arctic sea ice could lead to a shutting down of the Gulf Stream, "which bathes the UK and northwest Europe in warm water carried northwards from the Caribbean" (6) And because the Gulf Stream is the "engine" powering what is called the "Great Ocean Conveyor. . . a twisting, swirling current that wends through all the world's oceans," (7) "the possibility exists that a disruption of the Atlantic currents could have implications far beyond a colder UK and northwest Europe, perhaps bringing dramatic climatic changes to the entire planet." (8)
This is much more than "another important issue." It is hard to describe it as anything other than the major issue of our day. Can you get more basic than the survival of life on earth as we know it?
We won't be able to move from a world of massive inequality, racism, war and poverty to a world of economic and social justice unless we who are pro-justice activists-ALL of us, not just those who are part of the environmental movement--prioritize this and move quickly to build a powerful, visible, broadly-based and unified movement in the United States to make this an issue the rulers and their parties must respond to. And 2004 is very much the year to do it. Such a campaign is a natural for those of us who understand how tied in the Bushites are to the oil and coal companies and who are working to mobilize the largest and broadest vote for democracy, peace and justice in November.
The American people are with us on this issue. "A survey in 1999 found that 62% of the public favored renewable energy over conventional sources. . .The Sierra Club in a similar survey showed 80% supporting change." (9) We need a sophisticated, multi-tactical, emergency campaign to save life on earth, one which involves everything from door to door campaigning to full-page ads in major newspapers to a massive march on Washington in the fall to persistent pressure on Congresspeople, including non-violent sit-ins at their offices if necessary. Such a campaign could begin to turn that public opinion into concrete legislation to shift our tax money from the subsidizing of oil, coal and nuclear into a crash program to move rapidly towards the use of clean and renewable energy sources and to conserve energy through the retrofitting and weatherization of all our homes and buildings.
Such a program is also a massive jobs program. It provides a strong argument against the plans for on-going war and empire building in pursuit of control of oil in the Middle East
It is "anti-terrorism" program in that it can move us towards "energy independence" and out of the Middle East. It can also help lay the basis for an international plan to transfer clean energy to poor countries. "Virtually all developing countries would love to go solar; virtually none can afford it. [A $300 billion a year] fund could come from a small tax on international currency transactions, which total $1.5 trillion every day. A tax of a quarter-penny-per-dollar on those transactions would yield about $300 billion a year for wind farms in India, solar assemblies in El Salvador, fuel cell factories in South Africa, and vast solar-powered hydrogen farms in the Middle East." (10)
Perhaps Earth Day this April could become the public launching point for such a campaign, rather than an opportunity for polluting corporations to "swallow the ecological crisis and regurgitate it as a PR opportunity," in the words of Vermont environmental activist Doyle Canning.
We need to act as if the possibility of a decent future for our children and their descendants is dependent upon what we do this year and the next few years. Because it is.
Ted Glick is the National Coordinator of the Independent Progressive Politics Network (www.ippn.org), although these ideas are solely his own. He can be reached at futurehopeTG@aol.com or P.O. Box 1132, Bloomfield, N.J. 07003.
Other Articles by Ted Glick
1) Ross Gelbspan, interviewed in the February, 2003 Z Magazine