The Time is Now, The Choice is Ours
Updated: Feb 10
Hey internet folks! This is a speech I wrote a while ago that I felt like sharing. It is a little more optimistic than I would like but that is so that it is doesn't scare the audience. Thanks for reading!
I don’t remember the first time I heard about climate change. What I do remember is this deep feeling of fear and dread. Because my preteen brain knew that this was going to be a battle. I started researching the greenhouse effect, ways I could do my part, how long we had left according to climate reports. I wanted to become a climate scientist to save humanity. I found a local zero waste grocery store and asked my parents if we could go there. My mom and I fought about climate change all the time. When she bought meat in plastic from the supermarket, I put photos of washed- up whales full of plastic on the fridge. When she bought from fast- fashion brands like H&M, I stopped buying clothes.
In other words, I became deeply passionate about climate justice. But what do we mean when we talk about the climate crisis?
We need to define the climate crisis, not in order to contain or diminish it, but to lay the foundation of shared understanding. The UN defines climate change as ‘long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns,’ which we know are caused by an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. And we also must discuss sustainability, because meeting the needs of today and balancing the needs of tomorrow is no longer possible. We can’t survive on our so- called ‘needs’. We live in a world that is unsustainable.
In fact, our world is so unsustainable that to ensure we have a future as a species on our home planet, we have to tip the scales in the other direction. We must change our so-called ‘needs’ if we want to have a future. It is too late to meet the current definition of ‘needs’ and and sustain a habitable planet.
Climate change is not a blame game, it is about creating a behavioural change so big that we bring our overconsuming, unsustainable, unequal world to a halt.
So first we must understand our current society’s tipping point, before we change our projected future.
We can stop this crisis, or at least delay it. If we put our minds to it, we can create a society that benefits all. But, most of us don’t. At least, most of us don’t want to when it comes to changing our behaviour, our lifestyle. We think it’s unfair for us to make sacrifices for the survival of our species because it reduces our luxury and our comfort. We have to change our ways.
Firstly, our society is built on the history of colonisation, exploitation, and greed. Greta Thunberg wrote in her book Our House Is on Fire that we live in a society that values ‘social competence, appearance, and money.’ How do we gain those things? By having money. How do we get money? By digging up fossil fuels and producing greenhouse gasses, by working for companies whose practices are unsustainable, all so that we can spend our disposable income on emitting greenhouse gasses. We have built a world where to be desirable is to emit fossil fuels. Social media is all about lifestyle: celebrities and private jets, concert tours, air travel, sightseeing, overconsumption. But is anyone really satisfied with our society? No. Depression, suicide, and crime are on the rise, as are anxiety, burnout, and stress. The point about sustainability is that society is not functioning, people are not functioning, and we can’t continue this way.
Furthermore, in a world governed by media, the climate crisis is not covered enough. Ted MacDonald reported in March 2022 that in 2021, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox broadcasted 1,316 minutes of climate change coverage. That’s 1.2% of broadcast coverage or about 2 and a half seasons of Friends. I don’t need to explain that there is not enough climate change coverage. It is self- evident. But what this means is that not enough of the population knows about climate change. And that’s not even accounting for climate misinformation. Media simply does not think that we care about the climate, and our current behaviour indicates this.
There is a mountain, and the human race is on the top. We deem ourselves to be far superior to all other life on this planet so that we can continue to exploit our mother earth. We stand on top of the decisions that have got us to this tipping point. It is our decision now that matters. If we knew there was a train coming, and we were standing on the tracks, why would we watch it accelerate towards us? Why wouldn’t we get off the tracks? As soon as possible.
This is where we stand. We are heading towards a world of at least 2 degrees warming. On the 4th of November 2016, the world watched as politicians signed the Paris Agreement. After flying hundreds, even thousands of miles to Paris, politicians committed to reducing greenhouse gasses to below 2 degrees warming above pre-industrial levels. While they clapped and cheered and celebrated, I was upset. I care deeply about the climate, and the people who live on this earth, and not meeting the Paris Agreement by accelerating towards over 2 degrees of warming sounds like injustice to me. If we reach 2 degrees of warming, we will lose millions of people. According to a report in Yale Climate Connections in 2021, at 2 degrees of warming, the Arctic ice would melt ‘once every 10 years.’ We would also lose 99% of coral reefs. Hundreds of millions of people will be displaced, and pandemics will increase in frequency. Food scarcity would increase. We reached 1 degree in 2015, and we can stay here, on a habitable planet, if we change.
Furthermore, we choose with our actions the world we create for future generations.
Climate change is a behavioural issue because as reported by Owen Humphreys in The London Times on July 12th 2017, ‘one transatlantic flight’ reverses 20 years’ worth of recycling, and we choose with our behaviours how much carbon we emit. We could reduce our meat consumption. We could reduce our plastic waste. We could reduce food waste. We could make conscious decisions when making purchases. We could buy a hybrid or electric car when making a next car purchase. We could be #onthe ground, and not fly, because we know that the higher the emissions are released, the more damage it does. This is a collective issue that requires a collaborative solution.
It is not up to business alone, it is not up to government alone, it is not up to individuals alone. It is not about anarchy, that is not what climate change activists are suggesting when we say that the system is broken. The system is broken, but we still need a system. Otherwise, the richest 1% will continue in their ways, whilst the third world is dying, and then it will be too late
Moreover, the solution is collaborative. It requires all individuals, governments, and corporations to take action. In his Ted Talk, Chad Frischmann, from Project Drawdown, states that giving girls in developing countries access to education is the 6th best solution to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, at 59.6 Gigatons. As more girls are educated, more people can innovate and collaborate, and fertility rates decline. When fertility rates decline, less greenhouse gas emissions are produced. We must do more than little eco- tips. We must create drastic change. We must throw our agendas out the window and work on solving this crisis through interorganisational, multinational, and individual means. We must use all technology available to us to stop this thing. Because if we don’t take drastic action soon, it will be too late.
Therefore, we must drastically reduce our emissions to stay below the two degree warming threshold. In an article written on ABC Australia, Bridget Brennan and Kirstie Walker write that ‘two Torres Straight Islanders are suing the Commonwealth’ for failing to reduce the risk of climate change that threatens to wipe out Torres Straight culture. We must prevent the extinction of culture and identity. Change does not have to be drastic for us to stay below the two- degree warming threshold. We can invest in safe public transport run on renewable sources. The power is in our vote. We can stop subsidising fossil fuel production. The power is in our collective voice. We can buy less stuff that we don’t need. The power is in our consumerism. We can make changes as a world in our behaviour. The power is in a movement.
We can change our projected future. The power is in each of our hands. The society we live in is unsustainable. It has brought us to this tipping point. We can end this and stay below the two- degree threshold. I have the power. You have the power. We have the power. It is scary, but there is so much we can control. We are on the verge of a sustainability renaissance if we are conscious in how we spend our money, if we lobby for the right policy, work for equality, and remember that we have to act now. “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid” says Audre Lorde, famous poet and activist. We have the power to set in motion the changes that lead to a better world. The power lies within each of our decisions.