Columns / Discourse / October 1, 2014

People’s Climate March: Ideas for reform

The 21st of September saw almost 400,000 people take to the streets of New York to demand climate justice, calling on world leaders to take a more committed step towards a sustainable future as the dangers of global warming become increasingly evident. The march was the largest demonstration staged for climate justice yet and will be a testimony against both the idea that we are now mired in apathy, and against the leaders of the world and leading corporations that are continuing to look the other way.

More than anything, the protest was a culmination of the frustrations of the people at hearing leaders of the world (read: Obama) drone on and on about their concentrated efforts at cutting down the emissions of greenhouse gases. There has been progress, yes, but it will require more than a snail’s pace to make sure half the earth is not inundated by water.

The U.S. remains one of the leading greenhouse gas emitters in the world, and the problem is now more systemic than anything else Ñ electricity consumption even by a homeless man is twice the global average of electricity consumption per capita (source: MIT). This is because the consumption of electricity is built into the social fabric of life here in the United States. Think of the last time you went a day without using a coal-powered electric device Ñ even hiking trips wouldn’t make the cut, given the wide array of electronic devices that go along with it. The idea here is to not make an instant and sudden transition into sustainable energy; the idea is to cultivate an environment which both minimizes the consumption of electricity and encourages you to be environmentally conscious in your decisions.

 Toward that end, I feel that Knox can certainly do better despite all its efforts already. There needs to be mandatory sessions of environmentalism and a social system of positive reinforcement when someone takes the environmentally friendly route. Along with that, there needs to be discourse on how to break away from the status quo and move more toward sustainable sources to power life on campus.

Central to any argument against climate change has to be the role of the big power companies that have hegemony over the supply of fossil fuels to the entire world. These corporations stand to lose millions of dollars once the ‘carbon bubble’ bursts and it becomes next to impossible to fuel life with the use of fossil fuels. They have been on a warpath to delay this inevitability, and so it was no surprise that protesters targeted the big corporation in their campaign to ‘Flood Wall Street.’ It was widely accepted at the protest that the destruction of the climate and capitalist greed go hand in hand. The fact remains that these corporations hold huge sway over the government by means of lobbying, and that isn’t something that’s lost on the ordinary citizen.

The corporate hegemony over energy is something that should be scrutinized much more closely than it has been, given the fact that any systemic change in society’s consumption of energy will require their cooperation. To what extent that will be available is a matter for governments to work out if they are truly serious about not letting the earth choke out on toxic fumes.

The climate march has come and gone and Wall Street has been flooded. It’s still a surprise to see how little of its impact has translated into the student body and the faculty here at Knox. If we are to make sure that this does not become just another protest for us to recall over drinks, then there needs to be proactive action in mobilizing awareness towards it. Let’s stop for a second and realize that our planet is living on borrowed time. Is it really necessary, then, for your iPad to be fully charged at all times?

 

Ahmad Ibrahim

Tags:  change energy Flood Wall Street Knox People's Climate March reform sustainability

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