Many environmentalists in the nation celebrated over the weekend in reaction to the addition of bees to the endangered species list. Seven native Hawaiian bee species, which have been dwindling for years, have finally been added to the endangered species list. Although this may seem like bad news at first, this is actually a good sign--now these insects will be protected by law. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision will be effective October 31st.
Many activists have been searching for the protection of pollinators for years. Now, with federal law defending these black-and-yellow creatures, there is a greater awareness regarding the importance of pollinator types. Already, the U.N. has pointed out that “about 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species are facing extinction”, which in turn puts the world’s crops and plant life at risk. Hopefully, with the government now supporting bees, we will see a slow down in the depletion of these important species.
But what about everything else? Have we, as a society, accomplished our one good environmental deed of the day? Or, echoing Michael Pollan’s popular New York Times article from 2008, why bother trying to save a damaged planet?
I, along with 64% of America, seem to agree that the wellbeing of our planet is a growing concern and it is worth fighting for. Climate change has now become a politically-correct umbrella term for a collection of gravely serious ecological issues. Rising sea levels, suffering biodiversity rates, freakish heat waves, and more are all aspects of global warming. Not only is climate change threatening Mt. Everest and the Great Barrier Reef alike, but it is threatening us. You, me, and your children’s children.
Some may shake their head, reason that it will be a problem beyond our time. Tell that to the citizens in California, who have officially undergone five years of intense drought, and are beginning their sixth (the state water year began on Oct. 1st, 2016). Climate change has accounted for approximately 20% of the factors behind the drought, the rest being attributed to human activity and natural cycles. The integral agriculture industry continues to beg for precipitation, but seemingly to no avail.
On October 3rd, Leonardo DiCaprio attended the South by South Lawn festival to discuss climate change with President Obama and Texas Tech atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe. The actor and well-established environmental activist was quick to say, “If you do not believe in climate change, you do not believe in facts or in science or empirical truths.” The panel addressed global responses to global warming. Obama mentioned the positive prospects of renewable energy, but acknowledged that we are still “in a race against time”. Hayhoe pointed out that our basic human needs--food, water, space--are being jeopardized.
One of the topics that arose during the panel was the Paris Agreement, originally passed in December 2015. This piece of legislature, arguably, has been one of the most progressive and relevant propositions in environmental history. The agreement is a plan for approaching climate change in the coming years. It calls for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, greater efforts to maintain global temperatures “below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels”, and improved economic endeavors towards common ecological solutions. This ambitious treaty is planned to be enacted in 2020, provided that it earns its required ratification qualifications. And, according to many ecologists, it needs to be passed.
Just this week, India ratified the Paris Agreement, bringing the supporting party to 62 countries. So far, these 62 nations account for approximately 52% of global greenhouse emissions, and there needs to be 55% of the emissions in order for the treaty to be passed. The world is still looking to other top emitters to sign the treaty. The U.S., which is the second greatest CO2 emitting nation, ratified the agreement in September, followed by China. Most notably, the UN is watching Russia and the European Union. As soon as that additional 3% signs onto the climate change deal, the Paris Agreement will become global policy.
Without a doubt, this type of change is overdue. However, controlling our greenhouse gases is one step in the right direction. In America, the heart of our problem is our stubborn consumerist lifestyle. We take, take, take, and throw away. We have a mindset that prefers bigger and better over frugality. That mindset is laying Mother Earth down on her deathbed. So, as cliche as it may be, I continue to preach reduce, reuse and recycle; I continue to tend my humble backyard garden; I continue to write Greenpeace-worthy articles for hope that I can convince someone that it is worth it. Maybe then, we can save the bees, and everything else too.
Ling is an editor for The Millennial Times.