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Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Call for Youth Action - Climate Change: The Challenge and Opportunity of Our Lives!

Dear young citizens of the world,

Today, we are faced with both the challenge and the opportunity of our lives: climate change!

Dr. Martin Luther King spoke these prescient words in a speech not long before his assassination:

"We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time [and] life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. ... Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words 'Too late.'"

We must ask ourselves, will those two tragic words be the epitaph of our modern civilization as well? Will we have the foresight and courage to act in the face of impending (or indeed already ongoing) ecological crisis and global climate change? Will we seize the opportunity this crisis presents and stride forward into a sustainable future, or will our chapter in the book of time come to yet another pathetic close with the words, 'Too late'?

On the eve of World War II, Winston Churchill spoke these words, and they are as relevant to the impending crisis facing our generation today as they were to the gathering storm facing our grandparents' generation:

"The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close," he said. "In its place we are entering a period of consequences."

Today, we have already entered a period of consequences.

Global warming is already beginning to effect the places we know and love.

Here in Oregon, where I live, climate change has emerged as the most significant threat facing Oregon's environment. Northwest climate experts have already linked global warming to rising sea levels on our treasured Oregon coast, more frequent and severe wildfires in our forests and a 35% decrease in spring snow pack in the majestic Cascades. Moreover, as warming continues, Oregon faces increased incidence of both torrential rainstorms and floods in the winter and spring and droughts in the summer months.

The story is the same throughout the world as climate change threatens the environment we both treasure and depend on.

The occurrence of global warming is now “unequivocally certain,” according to a recent United Nations report representing the consensus of over 2,500 of the world’s leading climate experts, including representatives of 193 nations. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report concludes with greater than 90% certainty that human activity is the main driver of rising global temperatures and the corresponding destabilization of the earth’s climate systems. The global warming naysayers have been soundly disproved.

We now know enough about global warming that there is no reason why we do not have the responsibility to solve it.

Experts suggest that unless we act within this decade to drastically reduce green house gas emissions 80% by 2050 or experience the unstoppable and severe consequences of global warming.

We now stand at a unique moment in human history. The decisions made today about the threat of global warming will shape the world of tomorrow.

That future belongs to us, the youth of today, and it is up to us to ensure that this problem is addressed now and not left for our generation to grapple with years down the road!

What we desperately need now is comprehensive climate change legislation to rein in global warming pollution and to make the substantial investments in research and development of the clean energy technologies that our generation will need to 'de-carbonize' the planet and solve the threat of global warming. And we need that legislation by 2010 at the latest.

That's our window of opportunity, and it's closing fast! If we miss it, we will no longer be talking about avoiding climate change, but instead about mitigating it's consequences - that is, we will be forced to figure out how to live in a world where one third to two thirds of the species we now know will have gone extinct, a world with sea levels several meters higher than today, a world where droughts, floods and hurricanes are both frequent and severe, a world were millions if not billions of people lack drinking water because the glaciers and snowpack that once fed their rivers have dissapeared.

It is up to us -- the members of this young generation coming to age in the early years of the 21st century -- it is up to us to decide what kind of future we wish to live in, and to fight to ensure that that future is realized. This is both our greatest challenge and our greatest opportunity!

It is we who will live tomorrow with the consequences of the actions, or inactions, of our leaders today. What will we decide? What will we demand of our leaders? What future do we wish to inhabit?

Make up your mind, make your voice heard, and make a difference!

I just became a contributing blogger at It's Getting Hot in Here - Dispatches From the Global Youth Climate Movement blog, and this is my first post for the blog. I'm excited to join this blog, which has emerged as the premier forum for discussion, networking and collaboration for the growing youth climate movement.

Too often, those of us who are passionate about this issue and are working to make a difference feel as though we are alone. The It's Getting Hot In Here blog is proof positive that is not the case!

The contributors and readers of the blog are all working towards a common end, and youth across the globe are joining together into what is becoming a powerful voice for change.

We are a movement, we are not alone, and together we will change the world: for ourselves and for generations to come. After all, nothing less than life as we know it is at stake!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is fantastic! I absolutley love the parallels to Dr.Martin Luther King Jr.'s ideas. I believe that this world (especially this nation) needs to make a 180 degree turn around. I also beleive that we cannot use force: like Dr.King believed in non-violent protest, I think we also must maintain the moral high ground. This fight for protection and restoration of our environment cannot be an attack on our own humankind; it cannot be a small group proposing a single program; rather, it must be a united worldwide movement! This makes our job hard, true. But I believe it is not impossible! Especially after reading Jesse's words above. We already have such dedicated people working to change our way of thinking, I know we cannot (and must not )fail!