A Traveler’s Plea on Climate Change

22 Jul

It’s rare that I post about political and social issues on this blog, but I really feel that I should post this. The climate talks in Paris are approaching in December, and as a traveler, I feel that it is vital that we preserve the beauty of our planet and maintain the beautiful human cultures that depend on it.

So here is my plea:

Are more humans good or evil? Some would argue that humanity is a fundamentally flawed and evil species. Others would argue that humanity is a fundamentally good species, but that human minds can be corrupted, and that the holders of powerful positions over human society are more likely to be corrupted by their power. Others don’t think it’s a possible question to answer. But regardless of any opinion on the issue, I do truly believe that many travelers, when abroad or at home, are continually reminded of the beauty of human culture and interaction that exists across borders.

Humanity is, above all, what it makes itself into. It is the smiles of tourists as they take photos, collecting memories to share with friends back home. It is the kind old man and woman who live, retired, in a cabin in the countryside. Humanity is one and many of the passengers on the bustling, hectic subway system of New York city. Humanity is the college student, hoping to have a successful future career. It is the scientist. It is the engineer. It is the writer. It is the sports player. It is a multifaceted species, a diverse and beautiful thing.

Humanity is also war and suffering. It is genocide. It is poverty. It is misery. It is the destroyed hopes of the citizens of a troubled nation. It is the angry, non-violent protestor who gets brutally attacked by police. It is the troubled outcast, with little or no hope to integrate into society.

To focus on the faults of the human condition is a tempting path, and at times necessary. Certainly, we must dwell on the past to learn for the future. We must build and visit memorials, we must read our history books from the perspectives of the oppressed, not just the powerful. We must understand, collectively, that certain things in history must never be allowed to happen again.

But as the defining narrative of our time period, pessimism is a dangerous tool. The news is depressing, makes you and I feel powerless, people who believe we are only distantly watching the political scene, unable to change what happens in society and the world.

When I think about the threat of climate change, I wonder how future generations will remember our generation. If nothing is done about climate change, people, struggling on a baking planet, will remember today’s people as having believed propaganda about climate change supposedly being fake. But they won’t just remember those who encouraged the denial of the issue. They will remember the bystanders, the ones who sat there watching the news, but not doing anything about it. They will remember that family who believed they cared about the climate, but still brought a new SUV. They will remember those who care about nature, but experience it while on vacation based a big, energy-consuming house at a ski resort. They will remember you and I, saying “well, who cares?”, when a “hipster” tells us not to buy beef from a certain company.

Humanity is not a species that’s worth allowing to have a miserable future. We built the Pyramids, created the works of Shakespeare, sent a man to the moon, and developed a global communication computer network. And our standard of living is arguably higher than previous generations. The middle class has risen outside the western world, and child mortality rates have gone down globally. Violent crime and war, despite what we hear in the news, has statistically declined considerably since the 1950s. Humans been nasty to each other at times, but all in all, we’re in this planet together. We, as people, have a duty to our species’ future.

I want our great grandchildren to be able to have the beautiful experiences that people can have. To be the tourist seeing a foreign country, to able to be the college student who has a good career ahead of them, to enjoy our national parks. to listen to music, to cheer for sports teams, and to enjoy good music and good food. When I have those experiences today, I tell myself, our planet and our species is, without a doubt, worth saving. Please, do what it takes. Save our planet.

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