Seasoned citizens (seniors) should support the weeklong global walkout/student strike for climate action beginning September 20th, #climatestrike, by attending local events. Millions of students, workers, seniors and ordinary people like you and me worldwide will walk out of their schools, leave their jobs and homes, to urge political leaders everywhere to act now, to begin planning and implementing the transition to an energy system based on electricity derived mainly from renewable energy and not combustion of fossil fuels.
Our new vision is this: By mid-century, we can heat and cool our homes, power our vehicles and transportation systems, and run our factories and cities without burning fossil fuels.
The hottest years on record have ALL been in this decade, and we are beginning to see accelerating effects of climate change. The Earth’s climate is a nonlinear system, meaning that it has tipping points, points at which the cumulative effects of many smaller changes can lead to massive disruptions. Melting of major ice sheets in Greenland, the subject of President Trump’s recent obsession, and in Antarctica will raise sea levels to levels unprecedented in millions of years. We are completely unprepared for this coming time of rapid and massive disruption in earth’s air, water, and land systems.
Warming from continuing annual increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, now at 415 parts per million, more than 50 percent above pre-industrial levels and the highest in at least a million years, and in other potent greenhouse gases such as methane (more than half of it from fracking of oil and gas) will further cause “runaway” effects, such as the visually obvious melting of glaciers worldwide, which affects water supply in rivers that supply drinking water for most Asian countries. Warming temperatures are already melting vast regions of Arctic permafrost, releasing even more methane into the atmosphere than oil and gas extraction.
Isn’t it time to realize that we’re smarter than this, that we really can change our mainly hydrocarbon economy to one based primarily on renewable resources of sun, wind and water, and that by mid-century we can make major progress toward radically decarbonizing our economy, our cities and our lifestyles? Most of us who study what’s going on realize that we need to start today to implement solutions?
As a student participant in the first Earth Day celebrations in 1970, I’ve lived a long time and I have something to say about the legacy that, as elders, we will leave behind for our children and grandchildren. The first Earth Day attracted nearly 20 million participants, representing about ten percent of the U.S. population. I helped organized my own campus, Caltech, and other campuses throughout California.
But the first environmental laws were not partisan affairs. In 1969, President Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act 1970; in 1970 Governor Ronald Reagan signed the California Environmental Quality Act. It didn’t take a partisan brain to recognize that Americans valued clean air and clean water and that it required some governmental action to make the necessary changes. In the same way, it shouldn’t take a partisan brain today to recognize that global climate change not only affects all of us, but that it’s accelerating and putting our food supply, water sources, and cities increasingly at risk.
Let students take the lead on September 20th; they’re going to have to live with a warming and less habitable earth far longer than most of us. But let’s support them. If you have time and concern about our collective future, especially if you’ve lived long enough to appreciate the benefits that the first environmental movement brought to all of us, take an hour or two on September 20th and show your gray and white hair at a climate rally near you. Let young people know, “we’ve got your back,” the same way that our elders did for me as a young environmental activist at the first Earth Day.