By Sandra Storey / Special to the Gazette
When I saw the photos of dry, barren Mars—courtesy of NASA’s latest rover early this year—I started feeling nervous. When the scientists said that the presence of water under the surface indicates there was life on the planet a billion or so years ago, a chill went up my spine.
If life on another planet could disappear, it could vanish from ours, too. I was overcome by a stronger sense of foreboding than I’ve ever had before.
Many news outlets have been pointing out the dire situation of our planet after the crazy weather this summer featured giant forest fires, record-breaking heat, drought, heavy rains, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes around the country. As those extremes harm people, their property and the earth, they are already costing billions to deal with. July was earth’s hottest month on record.
Governments have come up with various goals for dealing with the carbon emissions that cause climate change. Massachusetts wants to move towards green energy and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Boston has a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, as well. President Joe Biden announced in April that the U.S. goal is to reduce carbon emissions to 50 percent of 2005 levels by 2030.
Those goals, if met, would come too late to prevent additional climate extremes. A great deal of destruction has already been done. Losses from emissions and other pollution by then will have multiplied.
We need to wake up our government, large businesses and institutions! It’s February, 2020 in pandemic time. The plague of climate change has arrived. We have to start creating monthly, yearly and five-year goals as well as long-term ones for major climate improvement. We have to spend lots of money quickly as we’ve done to battle Covid-19. We are in a life and death battle for each person and for the entire planet.
The New Yorker ran a frightening cartoon on Sept. 17 by Sarah Kempa. Two women, drinks with straws in their hands, are sitting in front of a weather map on TV showing weather extremes in different parts of the country. One woman says to the other: “I don’t think reusable straws are going to be enough.”
Neither is promoting electric cars until there are a lot more charging stations around the country. Neither is putting paper, cardboard, plastic, and glass in a bin that says “Recycling” when much of what we put there doesn’t get made into something else.
It is wonderful that private people, with government support, are taking actions to help the planet. But we need government and institutions to do much more to make our contributions worthwhile. And their actions need to be big.
Our response to the pandemic offers a good model, because we and our planet are threatened with extinction from climate change, too. When vaccines were approved, no one said it’s too expensive or too difficult to manufacture enough or vaccinate millions of people around the country.
Government did it, and quickly, with cooperation from the private sector, because it was necessary for our survival. We need to also realize that we have to help and cooperate with other countries for the environment, too. The contagions of a virus and of a sick planet spread to affect everyone.
A report issued by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released on Aug. 9, stirred up lots of attention when it stated that the world is warming at a faster rate than previously thought.
Jamaica Plain offers a vivid example of rapid climate change. Ice skating took place on frozen Jamaica Pond in winters until around 1925, when the ice became too thin to support skaters. That is a dramatic change in a short time. Now there’s seldom enough ice to support anyone because of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions here. The rapid warming of New England due to the increase in the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean has also caused our speedy climate change, experts say.
Individuals can check the amount of air pollution here by subscribing to the Air Quality Index issued by the state based on the person’s ZIP Code on a daily basis from http://www.airnow.gov. The email service warns if pollution will be moderate, or “unhealthy for sensitive groups” the next day(s). Most weather reports don’t contain that important information at this time.
So, what else can people in JP do at this crucial point in history, besides living in a way that helps the environment? We can contact or check the websites of our U.S Senators and our congressperson, state senator, state representative, candidates for mayor and city council and ask them what policies and legislation they support and how we can, too.
We can join or volunteer with one of the many local organizations and efforts that work against climate change and for climate equity. Two of the many such organizations are Boston Community Action Network (bostoncan.org) and Green Energy Consumers Alliance (greenenergyconsumers.org).
Despite the climate nightmare we are witnessing, we can’t give up hope. We have to dig in and work as hard as we can to persuade government to make fundamental changes in our behaviors and the infrastructure that supports them—now. Our planet’s ability to support life of all kinds for billions of years must be more than a dream. The name of the Mars rover this year is Perseverance.