For decades scientists have warned us of the dangers and the causes of climate change, but those who are in control of society, both politically and economically, refuse to respond. Year after year they hold conferences to discuss the problems and meanwhile the Earth’s temperature increases, creating environmental crises around the world.
Why hasn’t there been a real response to this threat? The answer is simple – Profits! The fossil fuel industry – coal, gas and oil are among the most profitable industries in the world. They have been the foundation of this system of capitalism since it began. And now everything – from the production of energy, food, plastics, drugs and transportation is linked to fossil fuels. Tens of trillions of dollars are invested in this system of production. And despite the devastation and threat to life as we know it, those in power will not and cannot stop it.
Their power, their wealth and their lives are tied into defending their investments and the profits reaped from the exploitation of labor and the resources they claim. We cannot look to them or the system that has caused these problems for solutions.
The burning of coal is a good example of this disregard for life. Coal is recognized as a major polluter and a major contributor to global warming and respiratory diseases. Coal plants have been shut down and the construction of new ones halted around the world. But coal extraction continues. Entire mountaintops are being blown up and thousands of acres of land are destroyed to extract coal. Why? It is profitable and that’s what counts to those who are invested in coal extraction. They are given this coal for next to nothing. More than 40% of the coal mined in the U.S. comes from public lands. They take coal from our lands and poison us.
We Must Look to Ourselves
The problem of environmental destruction can seem so huge that we can feel powerless to stop it. But people around the world have taken action. They have stopped the construction of huge dams, stopped pipelines, fracking operations and the shipment of coal and oil in their communities.
We face a similar fight in the Bay Area. Developers are trying to build a coal export port in Oakland. Trainloads of coal, carrying up to 10 million tons a year, would travel from mines in Utah, spewing coal dust along the way, loaded on to ships and finally burned in power plants in Asia.
This can and must be stopped. And people have started organizing. City governments have voted against having these trains pass through their communities. Most Oakland officials have spoken against the port. The Longshore workers union and many others have said “NO” to this coal port. Federal laws may say that states and local governments can’t stop this, but we can.
Their laws protect the rich, not the working people or the health of the planet. The laws of this system allowed corporations to use rivers as open sewers to dispose of waste. Their laws once said that slavery, segregation, child labor and other abuses were legal. But people fought against those injustices and ended those practices.
We can have an impact, in the Bay Area, right now. If the workers at the Port are involved, along with thousands of us, we have the power to shut down the port, to stop the trains, to stop business as usual – if we choose.
We can’t continue to leave our future in the hands of those who have put humanity on the endangered species list. Our lives and our planet are worth more than their exploitative system for profit.
The World We Live In
We live in a world dominated by an economic system driven by the creation of profit for a tiny minority at the expense of all life, human and otherwise. This system is capitalism, and its main energy source is carbon-based fossil fuels. As a result a man-made catastrophe called ‘climate change’ is now unfolding. Those in power tell us they are dealing with it. Leaders of 200 nations met in Paris last December but refused to take action. The question is, what are WE going to do?
What is Global Warming?
Earth’s temperature and climate is regulated by an exchange of carbon, in gaseous form as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), between the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land, and all plant and animal life. This exchange is called the ‘carbon cycle.’ When sunlight enters our atmosphere a portion of solar radiation is absorbed by these carbon-based “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere. They trap the heat from the sun, creating the environment that life evolved in. This is what’s called the “greenhouse effect.” The more carbon in our atmosphere the warmer the planet will become.
The primary energy source today is buried ancient carbon in the form of coal, oil and gas, or what we call “fossil fuels”. Everything, from factories to cars to power plants, runs on this carbon-based energy. The more carbon in the atmosphere, the more heat gets trapped, the more temperatures rise, affecting all the natural cycles of the Earth.
Carbon in the atmosphere is now the highest since the age of dinosaurs, 66 million years ago. As a result, today’s temperatures are the hottest ever in human history.
The Future Is Now
We are living on a planet under conditions that humanity has never lived under before. The Earth is currently 1.5 Celsius or 2.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it has been for all of human history. Even worse, the pace of warming is rapidly accelerating. From the start of the Industrial Revolution until October 2015, the planet’s temperature rose by 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit). However it has taken only four months for the planet to warm another .4 degrees Celsius (.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Climate change is happening now, not in some distant future. Here are just a few of the impacts:
- Changing rainfall and hotter temperatures is devastating agriculture around the world. In Africa alone, at least 36 million people are facing hunger due to record heat and drought.
- Scientists say we could be witnessing today one of the greatest extinctions in Earth’s history. Thousands of species are being made extinct every year, that’s dozens every day.
- Predictions are that the Arctic will be ice-free this summer enough to sail the Northwest Passage, from Alaska to New York. Tickets are now being sold for luxury cruises!
- A large part of 400 towns and cities in the U.S., including New Orleans, New York City and San Francisco are at risk of going under water due to sea level rise in the next few decades.
Our World, Our Choice
We face a choice humanity has never confronted. We either change the system of carbon-based production or face extinction. Those in power have continued with their business of profiteering, ignoring the consequences. The scientific knowledge exists and technological solutions can be developed to solve these problems. Those who do the work have every possibility to use our power to reorganize society – if we choose to. It is a huge challenge but if we organize our power and fight, we guarantee ourselves a chance.
The past may belong to capitalism, but the future can be ours.