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Saturday, August 13, 2022

Addressing The Environmental Crisis Is About More Than Recycling

Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Bill Fletcher, Jr.

By  Bill Fletcher, Jr.

NNPA  Columnist

Forgive  me, but I am scared

Any  reader of my columns knows that I pay fairly regular attention to the matter of  the environmental crisis.  But over the last few weeks, the news has become  more unsettling.  Greenhouse gases continue to spread across this planet.   While there appears to have been a slight slow up in the increase over  North America, in many other parts of the planet that is not the  case.

I  was at the New York Museum of Natural History the other day and visited an  exhibit dealing with climate change.  Part of what they showed was the  decrease in ice on the North Pole.  The visuals were very dramatic.   With all due respect to any reader who remains in denial, it is impossible  to argue that the climate is not changing.  What scares me is the question  of whether the situation has gone beyond the point of no return.

To  the extent to which we address the environmental crisis, we all have to realize  that it will necessitate changes in the way that we look at life and look at  this planet.  Not only does our economic system teach us to believe that  the planet is one giant garbage bin to dump on as we see fit, but it also  teaches us to believe that it is our right and privilege to use up all the  resources and all of the life in the planet in order to make us feel a bit  better.  We are reaping the result of that at this very moment.  An  economic system that insists that we must continue to consume every natural  resource imaginable and not pay attention to the impact on other life on this  planet is a system that has us driving down a one-way street at 100 mph.   And did I mention that it is a dead-end street?

In  order to think about addressing the environmental crisis we have to recognize  that we must go beyond recycling, though that is important.  We have to put  ourselves in the mindset of a nation at war.  Let me give you an example.   When the U.S.A. entered World War II, there was a dramatic shakeup in the  way that virtually everything was done.  Women entered factories en masse,  and as a result, childcare centers were set up attached to the factories when  only a few months before it was alleged that neither of these things could be  done.  Certain products were no longer available because of the war effort.   The slogan attributed to President Roosevelt summarized the new thinking:   ”Is this trip really necessary?”

In  the years since World War II, there has developed a complacency about resources.   The massive introduction of plastics and disposable items has decreased  our sense of the need to preserve resources.  And certainly the expansion  of the use of automobiles has changed everyone’s view of free time.

That  said, we find ourselves at a critical moment where resources are running out and  environmental pollution is killing off entire species, and quite possibly  killing off humans.  To address this, we need the same sort of  reorientation we experienced in World War II.  Science must be devoted, not  towards armed drones and NSA snooping, but the creation of energy-saving  technology.  We must wean ourselves away from artificial pesticides through  the development of new treatments or the use of more traditional approaches.   Trees need to be planted on a grand scale and water preservation  technologies must be developed.  The list goes on.

Now  is the time for us to make those difficult choices, but then again, is there  really an alternative?  Driving down a one-way street at 100 mph never  impressed me as either fun or rational.

 Bill  Fletcher, Jr. is Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the  immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.


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