How to stop feeling powerless in the face of climate change

JOYCE FEGAN3: How to stop feeling powerless in the face of climate change
Extinction Rebellion climate activists Oscar Mooney, Susan Breen, Cormac Nugent, Paul McCormack Cooney and Manuel Salazar during a protest over the climate crisis at the Department of Climate Action and the Environment in Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney.

Individuals have the capacity to generate momentum in the climate change crisis. Power is vested in the people and not in transient political careers.

Why is it that the rich always manage to escape the consequences of their actions while the poor must bear the brunt of them?

Two things happened this week.

Another damning report on our impending "climate apartheid" was published, and not by a 16-year-old girl with plaits, but by such revered adults as Bill Gates and the CEO of the Word Bank.

The other thing that happened this week was that Donald Trump got approval from the US Supreme Court to implement his latest immigration restrictions.

What does that mean?

Trump's restrictions mean most Central American migrants won't be able to apply for asylum when they reach the US border.

You know, the way most refugees flee and look for asylum when they reach a foreign land? Footloose and fancy free college students apply in advance for J1 VISAs for their summer of fun.

But refugees usually just bolt, leaving families, ageing parents and even children behind them.

So how is a climate report in anyway connected to Trump's latest hate-filled policy?

Every year, about 500,000 people from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA), flee to Mexico and America for survival. Causes include extreme gang violence, abject poverty and instability - some countries have been destabilised further by US interventions going back 40 years.

But there is another reason people flee - climate change.

Harvests have been ruined by extreme weather events, such as droughts when it should be be raining, and flooding when it should be dry.

With entire harvests, or annual salaries wiped out, families have been left destitute and with no other option but to abandon their plot of land and head north.

Meanwhile Donald Trump pulls his own country out of the Paris climate agreement - an accord that even war-torn Syria and dictator-led North Korea have signed up to.

Trump has also vowed to cut off all foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador because of what he describes as their failure to curb the flow of migrants north.

The US President beats his chest about increasing fossil fuel production and American jobs, and protecting US sovereignty, while vulnerable nations get to suffer the consequences of his reckless climate actions.

In the next three decades, the World Bank estimates that 1.4m people will flee their homes in Mexico and Central America because of climate change.

Blocking them doing so, while also continuing to indignantly destroy a planet that belongs to all of us, is a logic that only Trump could ever get away with - one where he depicts himself and his country as the real victim. He's not. He is the aggressor-in-chief.

The new climate report published this week, was produced by the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), led by 18 nations.

As well as having contributions from Bill Gates and the CEO of the World Bank, Kristalina Georgieva, there are contributions from the former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and environment ministers from China, India and Canada.

What does the report say?

It say that a trillion-dollar investment is needed to avert a "climate apartheid", one where the rich escape its effects, but the poor do not. One could guess that Trump knows this, and he's not a climate-denier, he just does not care.

About that trillion dollars - the cost of doing nothing will be far, far greater than not making that world-saving investment.

The report also says it's not about the money. Is it ever? The greatest obstacle is not the cash, but a lack of "political leadership".

What is needed now is a "revolution", and a level of "political leadership that shakes people out of their collective slumber".

I do not believe that we are in a collective slumber. Individual efforts are visible everywhere. It's political and business leadership that is severely lacking. And we aren't going to get leadership from the US right now, never mind Donald Trump.

As for businesses - some are making big strides.

Take independent businesses like Ireland's Happy Pear with their compostable food packaging, versus big food giants like KFC where customers have one on-site choice - to lob the contents of their tray, some recyclable, some compostable, into one general bin.

Again the smaller guys take action and fight for survival, meanwhile it's business as usual for the big fish.

But all change starts smaller and real change starts down in the grassroots.

What are you doing next Friday?

Next Friday, adults around the world, are being asked to join the global School Strikes For Climate movement.

There will be events happening all around Ireland, including a march at 12pm from the Customs House arriving at Leinster House at 2pm. According to Irish Doctors for the Environment, the protest is for anyone "concerned about climate breakdown".

Again, I'd wager that it's not a slumber the public are in, but more of an overwhelming paralysis.

What could little old me do in the face of such reckless behaviour from global leaders? But powerless is exactly how someone like Donald Trump wants you to feel.

Only we are never powerless. If you're over 18 and live in Ireland, you have a vote.

Look at what happened in our European and local elections - we gave the Green Party their biggest victory ever, with 49 candidates taking seats at local councils all around Ireland.

For Europe we gave two of our 11 seats to Green Party candidates.

Next Friday, if it's not realistic for you to up sticks from your desk, hospital round or classroom, take action in another way.

Instead of striking, strike up a conversation with a colleague about recycling, think about one single change you could make in your own home - and remember that collective change at a local and individual level can lead to universal change on a global level.

In Ireland, a general election is likely right around the corner and politicians follow trends.

All the other parties saw the electorate's appetite for green in May, so let that inspire them to put some sustainable policies on the table for when the next election rolls around.

It's the same for enterprise, if you like what you see in your local coffee shop, let laggards in industry know that you enjoy spending your money with sustainable businesses.

Businesses follow your money and politicians do not elect themselves, you do. We are never powerless.

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