Greta Thunberg at the Parliament Image Credit- European Parliament

Are Climate Change Predictions Actually Hurting the Cause for Environmentalism? Would Pollution Be A Wiser Focus Than Climate Change?

Greta Thunberg is now the face of the environmental movement. The sixteen year old Swedish dynamo seems to shun partisan politics; in her native country, politics is not an either/or proposition; parties in the Riksdag and/or European Parliament draw from eight different ideologies, including the Christian Democrats, Liberals, Green Party, Swedish Social Democratic party, Moderate Party, Sweden Democrats, Centre Party, and Left Party. So, it’s no wonder that when she arrived at the shores, literally, of our nation, she took American by storm, and stunned and puzzled most of us.

While wholeheartedly supporting environmental causes, Thunberg in no way supported the Green New Deal, or American Democrats or Liberals. I’m sure the likes of Bernie and AOC were flabbergasted, and more than a little hurt or insulted. However, this is sensible. Here in the USA, we frame environmental causes as Liberal, in fierce opposition to Conservative ideology. And, this is plain wrong, according to the impassioned Greta:

“No matter how political the background to this crisis may be, we must not allow this to continue to be a partisan political question. The climate and ecological crisis is beyond party politics. And our main enemy right now is not our political opponents. Our main enemy now is physics. And we can not make ‘deals’ with physics.”

Greta Thunberg at the Parliament Image Credit- European Parliament

Greta Thunberg at the Parliament Image Credit- European Parliament

It’s clear that keeping our air, water, soil, our plants and animals, our very biological existence intact, cannot be ignored. Over the decades, regulations have made coal power cleaner, and innovation has fostered increasing efficient solar panels. Extinction of flora and fauna is not politics, it’s fact. And, we’ve enacted some legislation to stop that, changed some practices, but it’s not enough.

Note that Greta uses the term “ecological crisis.” This is also quite wise, and not just for a sixteen year old. Over time, the crises we humans have created, from dioxin in the soil to lead in the water, from disappearing coral reefs to landfills leaking leachate, are diverse, and cannot be summed up with a simple catch phrase. In the political cartoon by Rick McKee, entitled “Actual Climate Change Pronouncements by Scientists: A Brief Recap,” the artist and creator cleverly demonstrates why pronouncements and predictions only serve to weaken the argument that the environment requires immediate attention. Regardless of his political intent, this remains true.

Actual Climate Change Pronouncements-by-Scientists. A Brief Recap by Rick McKee

Actual Climate Change Pronouncements-by-Scientists. A Brief Recap by Rick McKee

“Wherever I go I seem to be surrounded by fairytales. Business leaders, elected officials all across the political spectrum spending their time making up and telling bedtime stories that soothe us, that make us go back to sleep. These are ‘feel-good’ stories about how we are going to fix everything.” These words of Greta Thunberg ring true; each generation seems to think it’s solving everything that’s amiss, while creating yet other issues, and ignoring still others.

Of course, it’s more intelligent to focus on the issues, rather than trying to roll all our environmental ills into an easily understood idea or meme. In reality, it’s complex, and requires a complex solution. Back in 1970, scientists believed an ice age was headed our way. Later, scientists arrived at precisely the opposite conclusion. Either way, there’s no question that particulate matter decreases the lifespan of millions of people worldwide. Or, that pollutants from refineries, such as benzene, are known carcinogens.

School Strike For Climate Change. Image Credit: Daniel Arauz CC

School Strike For Climate Change. Image Credit: Daniel Arauz CC

It serves only to weaken the overall cause of helping to preserve our environment to frame the discussion in terms of a single issue, whether it’s global warming, climate change, or anything else. That only too easily becomes a political debate, and of course, once an issue is politicized, it’s removed from it’s real context, the reality that the world’s ecosystems are closed, and that what we do now affects us all later.

That’s not to say that climate change isn’t real; the climate is certainly always in flux. How much of that is human-created? Frankly, it matters little, as the incremental pollution of the Earth is not up for debate. Smog and haze over the world’s cities is very real; just ask residents of New York or New Delhi, and you’ll hear firsthand accounts of how disgusting the air is, how soupy, thick, and unbreathable the cities sometimes are.

At one time, the only industrialized areas were Europe and America, and a few other random spots on the map. But as more and more economies gear up for industrialization, it’s now an issue on every inhabited continent. Pollution is the big issue here; making it about anything else, and we’re just falling into the trap of adversarialsm, of politicizing an issue that effects all life on Earth. Rather than divide, we should try to include.

This week, as adolescents and children worldwide gather to help raise awareness during Climate Week, it’s best to keep in mind that climate change, while significant, is a straw man argument that can be attacked, politicized, and ultimately dismissed. Worldwide preservation of the ecosystem cannot. Generation Z is far more aware than people of past generations. It’s important that they do not fall into the traps and snares laid for them, following Greta’s example of keeping this a nonpartisan issue. And, I would argue, keeping the specifics of climate change out of the equation, as that’s just another issue that will generate more talk, more debate, and less action.

Pollution is real. Extinction is real. Climate change may well be just as real. However, for the benefit of actually accomplishing real change, it’s probably best to avoid making this the sole focus of discourse, and instead bring the discussion back to the specifics: deforestation, elimination of habitat, as well as pollution of the oceans, rivers and streams, as well as the air we all breathe, and the soil that’s the foundation of every food chain in existence.

While there’s no debate that the forests of the Earth are our planet’s lungs, and fewer forests and more greenhouse gases mean more CO2 and runaway climate instability, there are too many grey areas that can be easily dismissed or called into question. In reality, we’re lucky to live in a time that permits life to thrive on the surface of our planet, unimpeded. There’s no way that 6+ billion people, generating pollution, will not take its toll on this delicate balance. Rather than trying to argue the specifics, focusing on why renewable energy choices help promote clean air and water, seems best.

Imagine a world with no combustion motors. With clean renewable energy. That would mean a lot less loss of health for the world’s population. That’s not a fantasy, that’s pure medical fact. Straying too far from these basics will just muddy the waters, and that’s just what those wishing to disregard the environment probably relish. Predictions may be ignored and denigrated. Solid facts about pollution cannot.

18 Comments

  • Nancy P Nancy P says:

    Yes Blaine Wise it would be wiser. LOL

    Seriously, thi is a great article and I think you made some good points. But I do think Climate Change is OK because it just says that the climate is not going to stay the same.

    That much science knows already.

    • Avatar the burger queen says:

      “But I do think Climate Change is OK because it just says that the climate is not going to stay the same. ”

      Nancy this is too confusing

      what exactly do u mean

      climate change is not an issue or the term is ok

  • Avatar the burger queen says:

    wow this girl looks like she could use a hamburger fries and chocolate shake

    not a good poster child for vegans

    and she’s 16 wtf looks more like 11

    • Avatar Luis Santiago says:

      This girl is off the hook. She needs some kind of help. Clearly she’s got some big issues and climate change is only one. Her other issues? Probably a lot more immediate. Like malnutrition. Who else on here is 16 and looks like their 10? Not eating b/c of climate change is loco. Yes its real. Yes we need to end fossil fuels. But nobody and I mean nobody is going to tell me I can’t have milk and butter and chili con carne. Not your business. Thank u very much.

  • Avatar NOT a priveledged white girl says:

    I don’t agree with this Greta girl. I mean I am 100% for the Green New Deal (Go AOC Go AOC) b/c it created jobs & helped the environment.
    And it is realistic, not like Greta says. It goes in steps. We’re at step one.

    BUT I love TED talks and watch them all the time and Greta gives a talk called The disarming case to act right now on climate change.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2QxFM9y0tY

    at 4:39 in the video she says.

    “no talks about global equity…rich countries have to have zero emissions…so that..poorer countries can heighten their standard of living by building..roads,schools, hospitals, clean drinking water…”

    wait, what? So you mean that we have to have zero emissions while countries with a BILLION people like India can go on burning fossil fuels to make us equal?

    That’s like shooting us in the foot before a race. Not that we are competing with India or Nigeria but b/c our economy won’t be able to keep up.

    If its zero emissions it has to be for all countries and not just “rich” ones where we have so much poverty. Do you ever see L.A. and the tent cities there? Greta talks like a priveledged white girl, sorry to say.
    Then wont even MEET with AOC or Berny Sanders.

    People of color should she’s ignoring OUR plight of poverty right here in the U.S. I can’t go along with her. Not everyone can afford a sailboat yacht with a hired captain to get around. Again, anyone can say PRIVELEDGE?

    • Avatar Pooja M. says:

      This girl is passionate. That is admirable. But she is wrong. All countries must act to change bad habits equally. Not just one or twenty.

      “And that is So that people in poorer countries can heighten their standard of living by building by building some of the infrastructure we have already built. such as roads,” she said.

      “How can we expect countries like INDIA to care about the climate crisis,” said Greta.

      India already HAS roads!!!!!!

      And MASSIVE pollution!!!!!!!

      Ever travel to New Delhi????

      Don’t!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yx7Ar21_Q1I

      As you can see in video we have air thick like soup. India is part of the problem. Nigeria is part of the problem.

      Actually, the rural areas of India that shunned urbanization are the solution. Maybe she has it wrong. More roads means more pollution not less.

  • Avatar Cranky says:

    ” the Green New Deal (Go AOC Go AOC) b/c it created jobs & helped the environment.”

    Sorry, kid. The Green New Deal is only a proposal!

    It hasn’t done anything for anyone just yet.

    Facts. Get them straight or you sound just like her!

  • Avatar truthteller 506 says:

    https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1176339522113679360

    Donald J. Trump
    ‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump

    Donald J. Trump Retweeted WIRED

    https://twitter.com/BoursiquotAnge/status/1176607566459232258

    She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!

    Ange Boursiquot
    ‏ @BoursiquotAnge
    Sep 24
    Replying to @realDonaldTrump

    She’s a lost child. Being used by the left in order to push this climate change hoax.

  • Avatar Henry says:

    All this is well and good, but as I see it, it’s rampant unchecked over-development that’s destroying ecosystems and causing extinction. I’ve lived on the island for over sixty years and I’ve seen this place transformed from a wilderness of woodlands and fields, to rows of homes and strip malls.

    If we keep destroying natural habitats, even if we shift 100% to solar, we’re going to solve very little because these wild animals and insects and birds won’t have any place to live.

  • Avatar Greta's Fan says:

    They keep making Greta look mean and ugly. The media keep choosing stills from videos that just make her look so gross and crazy.

    I think she spoke intelligently. Everyone is reading into her words with their own biases. They keep trying to say she’s “put up to this” and is like a stooge for other people. That seems false. She seems genuinely concerned.

    Oh, and, BTW, I’m not even into politics. I just appreciate nature and the fact that the girl has a point.

  • Avatar Montclair Dude says:

    Someone is killing off life on earth. That much is clear. It doesn’t matter if it’s on purpose or not.

    Fukushima has already put out the equivalent radiation of a nuclear war. As ecosystems die from all combined causes, so shall we.

    And nobody’s talking about the BIG gorilla in the room: Automation. There aren’t going to be any jobs very soon! Or, very very few…

    The billionaires will survive the mess that’s being created. Even when a steak is $5000 and water is $500 a gallon, the wealthiest among us will be able to afford it.

    Everyone else? There will be mass migration, starvation, and a lot of suffering for many others. Not looking so good for the majority of people.

    You and I won’t be here. But no one will need us to fix their cars, prepare them meals, etc., anyway.

    It’ll all be robots and the people who can afford to weather any future crises.

    Maybe there’ll even be the tech to fix the environment and repopulate it with all the animals and insects that go extinct. Tech to clean the oceans, air, and land.

    A globe like a giant wildlife reserve for a few people. :*(

    • Avatar Adalyn Kaufman says:

      Montclair Dude,you are one smart cookie.

      Robots willb e a big issue.

      Read this:

      Are You Developing Skills That Won’t Be Automated? by Stephen M. Kosslyn on hbr

      https://hbr.org/2019/09/are-you-developing-skills-that-wont-be-automated?utm_source=pocket-newtab

      The article says that EMOTION is key. Do you do a job that requires EMOTION? If so, you’re in luck. If not, you’re stuck, baby!

      • Avatar dump the kool aid down the sink says:

        Total BS. There are going to always need to be skilled technicians and programmers. I’m not buying this. In fact, I see it as an emotional argument, not at all rooted in fact or analysis.

        I know, you’re going to say robots will build robots and computers will make computers but it’s not so simple. Creativity and innovation are still the domain of fuzzy human logic. True, new computers cna do amazing things, but people still have more to offer than just emotional connection.

        Stop trying to scare the kids. This is bunk.

    • Avatar Nilsen Jones says:

      So who is killing life on Earth?

      WE ARE!!!!!!!!!

      Generations of polluters. Generations of over-consumers.

      Greedy enterprise.

      Not thinking or caring about consequences.

      As long as me my wife and my kids are OK…

      But what about your GRAND KIDS??

  • The WASP The WASP says:

    I have mixed emotions about this girl Greta. First off, she’s a darling. The media is shameful to say so many bad things about an adolescent. She clearly has her heart in this fight.

    But I don’t agree with her. I mean, I do and I don’t. It’s complicated. Protecting the environment is great. But chiding everyone like they’re children is wrong. I’m sure she, being a teen, would hate it done to her. So, her approach is flawed, I think. But the kids love it! My daughters idolize her and have her pic on the wall in their bedroom. Maybe it’s a generational thing?

    I grew up in the 80s/early 90s. We weren’t socially conscious. So maybe her urgency is something today’s kids relate to. I really don’t know.

    I do know that I can see the smoke coming over from Linden and it’s typical NJ smog. No way can that be good for my family or yours!

    -The WASP

  • Avatar GreggFubre says:

    Теперь буду знать

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