“You say you hear us, and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.” –Greta Thunberg at the United Nations earlier this week
Those are strong words from Greta, the young woman from Sweden at the center of the Global Climate Strike last week. It’s time for strong words and stronger action.
Friday’s Global Climate Strike created a sense of urgency, and we need to sustain the momentum generated that day.
The Vineyard responded to the Global Climate Strike with an impressive showing — students from West Tisbury headed to New York City, and others from the high school took off for a rally in Boston. On the Island, there were also plenty of opportunities to lend a voice to the international strike. Students who remained at MVRHS went outside in large numbers to hold signs and urge action on climate change. There were events in Aquinnah, Menemsha, and at Thimble Farm with Island Grown Initiative, and dozens of people rallied at Five Corners, holding signs and chanting for a change in attitudes about our planet. “There is no Planet B,” stated one \particularly poignant sign.
The climate deniers notwithstanding (where do they get their information?), Martha’s Vineyard is particularly vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise. As we reported earlier this month, Dukes County is one of the fastest warming counties in the country, according to data collected by the Washington Post.
In that story, we reported that Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, the Elizabeth Islands, and parts of Cape Cod are crossing the 2° Celsuis threshold — a critical point of reference established in the 2015 Paris accord, where international leaders agreed the earth’s average temperature increases should stay “well below” 2° Celsius to avoid a host of “catastrophic changes.”
The Washington Post report says the Northeast is particularly vulnerable to a weakening Gulf Stream, less cloud cover, and higher temperatures brought on by greenhouse gas emissions.
It seems like every day there is a new study or report pointing to the implications of climate change. On Wednesday, a story in The New York Times said that the world’s oceans are in danger as a result of climate change, which could affect shellfish harvesting, which would be huge for the Island. “Rising temperatures are contributing to a drop in fish populations in many regions, and oxygen levels in the ocean are declining, while acidity levels are on the rise, posing risks to important marine ecosystems, according to the report issued Wednesday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders in policymaking,” the New York Times reported.
There are people, including the current administration in Washington, D.C., who don’t believe there is urgency. They call climate change a “hoax” and ignore the real data. Others see no point to the U.S. making changes when China and other countries haven’t bought in to the need to reduce pollution from fossil fuels.
How is that any way to lead?
We need to do our part and show true leadership on the world stage. Unfortunately, we’re being led by a president who doesn’t believe the science. We’re wasting valuable time.
Preserving the planet shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
The world’s youth are begging us to do something about climate change. Here on the Island, Plastic Free MV has been a leader in getting adults to understand the need to change old habits. Last spring, they convinced voters in three up-Island towns to ban single-use plastic bottles, and this coming spring, they’ll be bringing that idea to the down-Island towns.
The Island is taking action in other ways, through a task force put together by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the Island Climate Action Network.
It’s these types of small steps that will create big changes. We don’t have to do it all at once, but we do have to make dealing with climate change a top priority.
“Right here, right now is where we draw the line,” Greta said to the U.N. “The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
Let’s hope she’s right.