It’s no secret that the global transition to low-carbon economies is behind what scientists say is the pace needed to avoid the worst consequences of Earth’s warming. As ice sheets in Greenland, glaciers in Switzerland, and the ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctic are melting more rapidly than first thought, scientists are likely underestimating what’s needed to get out in front of the problem.
Based on the evidence, we know with certainty that big changes are coming. Yet, governments and industries are incredulously slow in responding—assuming, of course, they choose to do anything at all.
The reasons why the community of Earth is behind the curve are many and complex. Poorer nations taking the brunt of rising oceans and melting glaciers can’t afford to do what needs to be done—whether to protect their environments or harden community infrastructures to withstand what nature throws at them.
Then there are the entrenched interests of fossil fuel companies and others with the money and political power to thwart efforts geared to speed the transition to clean power sources like solar and wind and adopt less energy-intensive building designs and agricultural practices.
Oil and gas companies have gotten rich from selling their supplies. Whereas they talk about a carbon-free future and their intention to lead the revolution, they want to continue peddling the products that have made them and their shareholders rich—at the expense of nature and the rest of us.
Then, too, there are the politicians like ex-President Trump, Texas Governors Greg Abbott (Texas) and DeSantis (Florida), Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO), and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who have made the needed transition a centerpiece of the culture wars that have cleaved the nation nearly in half.
According to Sebastian Gorka, a former adviser to ex-President Trump, the biggest threat to America is its own brand of socialism. He believes the Green New Deal (GND) is a communist foot in the nation’s door. He calls the GND a watermelon— “green on the outside, deep, deep red communist on the inside.”
“They [the left] want to take your pickup truck, they want to rebuild your home, they want to take away your hamburgers. This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.” (Gorka)
It’s not as if Mother Nature isn’t giving us a preview of what’s to come. She’s offered up record droughts and increased the frequency and intensity of storms, leaving billions of dollars in damages in their wake. Do we hear her now?
Add to the emissions of global economies the environmental consequences of wars. Putin’s forces blew up the Kackhovka dam and hydroelectric power plant as part of his terror war on Ukraine.
The breach of the dam set off a chain of environmental horrors. It’s estimated that “at least 150 metric tons of oil and countless volumes of chemicals have leaked out into the Dnieper River en route to the Black Sea. More will join it from flooded gas stations, factories, and sewage facilities.”
In addition to the contamination of wells and the Black Sea, species specific to the area have been wiped out. Fresh fish populations have been radically reduced, and toxins have contaminated fertile fields. Bombing buildings is bad for the environment. When buildings are turned to rubble they release pollutants and particulate matter into the air and contaminate soils. In a war zone, air pollution is likely to result in more deaths than bombs.
We’ve already tasted the dystopian future in cities forced to breathe the burned air of forest fires thousands of miles away. Changing weather patterns have turned fertile lands and mountain slopes into wastelands. Multiple studies have concluded that rising temperatures “will bring drought, increase the range of diseases, and kill large swaths of the insects that pollinate coffee plants.”
Half of the coffee fields around the world could become unproductive by 2050. Closer to home for the US, the National Academy of Sciences “suggests that that number could be as high as 88 percent in Latin America.” Is it so surprising that tens of thousands—hundreds of thousands—of Central and South American farmers are on the march for a better future? Climate-related migrations are just beginning. Can you hear them now?
A survey by the Lancet of 10,000 young people (aged 16 -25 years old) across ten countries found that nearly 60 percent of them were very or extremely worried about the impacts of climate change on their future. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed were at least moderately concerned.
A young person’s worrying about the consequences often leads to anxiety, stress, outright fear, sleeplessness, and “associated feelings of betrayal rather than reassurance.” Whatever your feelings are about climate change, it’s important not to dismiss those of coming generations.
Children and young adults aren’t unaware of the science of climate change; calling them “snowflakes” or dismissing them out of hand is going to work less and less. No one likes being ignored—or, worse, ridiculed. Neither does anyone like feeling helpless.
So, what’s a kid gonna’ do? Increasingly, they will get arrested for blocking highways and streets at rush hour, gluing themselves to buildings and floors, and undertaking more physically dangerous and legally risky acts of civil disobedience like closing valves on pipelines. Can you hear them now?
Greta Thunberg no longer sits outside government buildings holding her signs. She and others like her have moved up the protest ladder. In October, Thunberg and 26 others were nabbed outside an oil and gas conference by the London constabulary for unruly behavior.
It seems they refused to stop chanting “oily money out.” Not very catchy, I must say. Neither the conferees nor the “posh Mayfair neighborhood” they were in wanted to hear it—so off to the hoosegow with them. Thunberg has been arrested several times—twice in Sweden alone—and either detained or removed from protests in Norway and Germany.
In April 2023, protesters from the “Letzte Generation” (Last Generation) glued themselves to Berlin roads, causing massive rush-hour backups. Climate activists have similarly halted traffic in Washington. The group Declare Emergency demonstrated “in hopes of urging President Joe Biden to declare a climate emergency.” Having been caught in that particular mess, I speak from experience when I say it was a real pain in the derriere.
Of course, that was the objective. Can you hear them now?
A spokesperson for the group said they were “disrupting people’s lives today in hopes that we can mitigate more serious destruction down the road. Because that’s the trajectory we’re on right now.” She also believed that “those who don’t like her tactics will eventually come around, just as the general public now reveres once-unpopular civil rights pioneers.”
Environmentalists have also been known to do things that do more than make motorists late for supper. The eco-left has spiked trees with metal pieces that can seriously injure a logger using a chainsaw.
In France, a protest by Les Soulèvements de la Terre (Earth Uprising) against a dam led to violent clashes with the police, leaving hundreds injured and two in comas.” Although some thought the police response was disproportionate, the French government has seen fit to “delegalize” the movement.
The French Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin has called the demonstrators eco-terrorists. “No cause can justify the especially numerous and violent acts called for and provoked by this grouping.” However, stopping the group of more than 115,000 will not be easy—because it has no leadership structure lone wolf actions—some of which will be more radical. Many of which will target projects such as reservoirs, highways, and industrial agriculture.
Youth activists see environmental sustainability as a constitutionally protected right. It’s the primary contention of the suite of lawsuits now before domestic and international courts. They also equate what they’re doing to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. I think a more accurate comparison is with the anti-war effort in terms of how far demonstrators and activists are willing to go to be heard.
What’s left when polite conversation gets you nowhere and the political power structure refuses to rise to the occasion or brushes you off as commie sympathizers? You take to the streets. Can you hear them now?
So, the next time you’re stuck in traffic because some d**k eco-snowflake glued themselves to the highway, think about why they did it. You can quibble about their tactics but not their intentions or sense of urgency.
This article is also published on the author's blog. illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.