The Earth is burning. From the annual Bay Area wildfires (which are ongoing) to the Arctic blazes (which have burned unimpeded since May), year after year of record-breaking temperatures have led to destruction and catastrophe. Add Hurricane Laura into the mix, and it’s no exaggeration to say that we’re being forced to confront the reality of climate change: the Earth is dying, and we’re running out of time.
The catastrophe our planet is currently undergoing is not a coincidence. Our environment has been increasingly straining to keep up with our global culture of consumption and capitalist production, and this pressure on the Earth is contributing to the exacerbation of these natural disasters.
2020 is likely to be the hottest year on record; 2019 was the second-hottest, and the 2010s were the warmest decade ever recorded. As global warming worsens, so does the probability of increasingly detrimental natural disasters and extreme weather conditions. A UCLA study published earlier this year determined that “climate change has doubled the number of extreme-risk days for California wildfires,” and has caused temperatures to rise 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1980, and precipitation to drop 30%.
As seen in the 136,000 California residents — mainly those in Northern California — who were evacuated in the wake of the August wildfires, climate change is an issue urgent to our community.
Our fundamental priority should be to try to leave the Earth a better place than we found it, both for our own sakes and the wellbeing of other people around the globe, but also for the generations who will come after us. We need to be more conscious of what we are consuming and throwing away. On an individual level, adopting a vegan diet is widely understood as one of the most effective methods to decrease one’s individual carbon footprint, but you don’t need to completely alter your dietary habits — even eating a little less meat and dairy helps.
But while an individual’s commitment to living sustainably helps to delay the progression of our environment’s degradation on a small scale, we at the Foghorn want to emphasize that the largest offenders are the corporations who, despite being bombarded with scientific research on how their pollution and consumption is destroying the environment, continue to blow through the Earth’s resources with more concern for their profit. After all, 20 fossil fuel companies alone are responsible for a third of all carbon emissions. While climate change is by no means an easy problem to fix, it is currently being actively ignored by the people with the most power to help combat the crisis.
We must hold legislators accountable for consequences that others have to suffer — especially since it will be the poorest and most vulnerable who suffer first — and pressure them to create and enforce federal policies that would require corporate polluters to curb their waste, pollution, and carbon output. We need to rally for legislation that has our planet’s best interests in mind rather than prioritizing the generation of capital — such policies and initiatives include the Green New Deal, an overhaul of our current energy grid, and a carbon tax.
Ultimately, our recent hurricanes and wildfires are consequences of our planet’s climate change crisis, and we as its caretakers need to do something to correct it. While we are unable to reverse most of the damage we’ve already inflicted, and natural disasters are thus inevitable, it is extremely important to prioritize preserving the beauty and bounty of our Earth. Wide-reaching, systemic action will have the largest impact on effectively combating climate change, but our individual lifestyle choices play a meaningful role as well. If you or someone you know have been affected by the California wildfires or Hurricane Laura, the CDC has resources to learn more about safety procedures in light of COVID-19.