Happy Saint Patty’s Day! I hope you’re wearing green and celebrating in style.
Today we’ll discuss the last 50 years of activism in environmentalism – after Earth day and the National Parks were founded, after books like My First Summer in the Sierra or the Silent Spring were published to promote environmental conservation or to prevent companies from dumping harmful pollutants into our drinking water – what happened next?
In 1988, due to record heat waves, devastating droughts, and new information about global warming that was already impacting our way of life, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was founded. Since the start, the IPCC has provided robust reporting and methodologies on measuring global warming and it’s impact on an ecological, scientific, political, social, and economic level. Today, the IPCC “is a panel of 195 member countries” and their latest report provided the science needed to create the Paris Climate Agreement (https://www.ipcc.ch/documentation/). While this is an impressive body of work, it’s not the only thing countries have been doing to secure a better future. The United Nations (UN), has held twelve major international conferences since the first one which was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, with the purpose of committing “Governments to address urgently some of the most pressing problems facing the world today” (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/milestones/unced). These conferences bring together international leadership as well as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with the goal of identifying sustainable development all over the world – so it’s not only collecting knowledge on how to slow global warming, but also on how best to tackle development in the near future to mitigate our collective carbon footprint world-wide.
Beyond governmental bodies, “student groups in the US and later the UK and around the world began pressuring universities to divest from fossil fuels” (https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/important-moments-climate-history-in-photos/), and they were having some real-world impact, because “by 2014, 837 institutions and individual investors had committed to divestment,” (see original link, along with additional source from the Guardian, here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/08/fossil-fuel-divestment-a-brief-history). According to this same link, climate change activist have cropped up all over the world – from the largest nations forming landmark agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol in order to “mandate the reduction of greenhouse gases,” to smaller nations such as the “Pacific Climate Warriors from the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tokelau, and the Solomon Islands [whom] joined a flotilla blocking boats using the Newcastle coal port in Australia — to highlight the role of Australian coal exports in warming the planet and impacting their lives” to art in Venice and even Fashion week in London (https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/important-moments-climate-history-in-photos/). It seems as though climate change activism is more prolific globally than I’d previously thought! And while there are certainly tons of activists and scientists that deserve recognition, one name in particular stands out among the crowd – Greta Thunberg – whom at the age of fifteen, “went on her first school strike, sitting alone outside the Swedish parliament to protest inaction on the climate crisis” (https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/important-moments-climate-history-in-photos/). She’s certainly made a name for herself in this space, as students around the world also began taking part in the strike, and since then, according to the same link, she “has been joined by the likes of Vanessa Nakate in Uganda, Aditya Mukarji in India, Alexandria Villaseñor in the US, and tens of thousands of others.” For a few more examples of some of today’s youngest global climate leaders, check out the following link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/5-youth-climate-activists-leading-climate-fight-earth-day which outlines how some celebrated Earth Day 2020, even amid the global pandemic!
Though it’s certainly not inclusive of everyone in this field, this long list of environmental activists is truly an inspiration to anyone who has thought of getting involved but wasn’t sure how, or whether their contribution might actually make a difference. Whether you’re conducting a neighborhood cleanup, advocating for protected lands to become a national park, convening with other global leaders to discuss the science behind climate change, or adding solar to your rooftop – your contributions are notable, and greatly appreciated. What are some other ways we could help reduce our carbon footprints? Only time and innovation will tell.