I opened my news feed this morning and there it was, staring me in the face. Again. The Sci-Tech section of CTV, telling me “greenhouse gas levels are climbing to record high.” To be honest, my eyes almost skipped the headline looking for something more interesting. As a young Canadian, I’ve been bombarded with climate science my whole life. In the back of my mind there’s always a vague sense of unease surrounding things like rising sea levels and the impending threat of runaway greenhouse effect– but I’ve been desensitized.
I’ve been desensitized because climate change has always been a part of my life. In third grade, my very first sleepover was on Earth Day. Twenty little nine year olds, curled up in blankets, laughing because we turned all the lights off– but we felt proud. By shutting off all the lights for an hour and playing our games in the dark, we were “helping.”
As long as I can remember, I’ve put a sweater on instead of turning up the thermostat. I try to buy environmentally-friendly brands. I use cloth bags and do my best to recycle. I do all of this subconsciously. Even if I’m not always thinking about the fact that most of the world’s rainforests have been destroyed, I’m still taking small actions– because climate change has always been a fact of life.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that turning off the lights during a sleepover isn’t going to save the world from the effects of climate change. Putting on a sweater isn’t going to save us. Bring my own bag to Sobey’s? Not going to save us. At this point, only major changes on the parts of governments and private corporations are going to save us. That’s a fact: but it’s not universally accepted.
Climate change, something that has always shadowed my life, has become a debate. Even though climate change is scary, it’s always been constant. It never occured to me that people could believe that it isn’t happening. The constant has been called into question.
In a 2012 tweet, Donald Trump wrote, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Donald Trump is now the president of the United States of America. The systematic denial and undermining of climate science was a pillar of his campaign– over and over he repeated and perpetuated the idea that climate change was a creation, a lie being told to the public that only he was brave enough to denounce. Really, he represents a group of people who could be making a difference and protecting the environment– wealthy individuals who are both government and corporate elite. Donald Trump and others like him take no action to reverse the damage done to our climate, and are determined even to intentionally reverse what little action has been taken.
This past summer I had an out-of-body experience. I was driving the Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier National Park, Montana. This road hugs the edge of a cliff– I could have spat out my window down into the valley. At the highest point, I was 6 646 feet above sea level. Per the name of the park, there were glaciers between the mountains we drove through.
It was easy to see where the glaciers had been. The sheer force of ice and water had carved the mountain range I was driving through, and I could see the outline where these behemoths had come to rest. Except they were no longer at rest. The glaciers were literally melting, the water running down the mountainside, right before my eyes. Like the water down the mountain, tears streamed down my face. I was haunted. I was fiercely angry. How can people look at the terrifying, dying beauty of something like a glacier, which until the industrial revolution had gone unthreatened for millennia, and say that humans have no part in its destruction?
Climate change isn’t a political issue. Facts aren’t political. Facts just are. Denying climate change, denying the fact that our planet is slowly dying, and denying what that means for humanity, is like denying that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. There should be no debate about whether or not we should legislate against the corporations and governments that are tearing apart our planet. We should, as Shia LaBeouf once said, “Just do it.”