Redefining Climate Change: To Seize The Opportunity Of A Lifetime, One Must Act In The Lifetime Of The Opportunity

Climate change is this generation’s most urgent sociopolitical and ecological challenge. If the dangers are left unabated, impending peril may very well mature into mortal wounds. It will be the death of society and life as everyone knows it. Perhaps, historians will look back at this period as a learning experience, analyzing the mistakes made during the post-apocalyptic post-mortem of the last (right now – current) civilization. The effects of climate change could either be society’s downfall or the beginning of a social renaissance.

This might seem hyperbolic, but the silent threat of climate change is at everybody’s doors. It is a gentle knock that crescendos into a shattering thud. Like an unknown visitor, it threatens to shake the very foundations of everyone’s real and metaphorical homes.

In a busy house, with depressing news playing loudly in the background, siblings fighting, and a baby screaming, whose job is it to answer the door when climate change comes knocking? Questions of who should bear the most responsibility to combat this global phenomenon are shrouded in ambiguity. Should those most affected pay most of the costs for action against it? What types of projects get identified as climate change related? Which of them should receive funding? Why should one government, municipality, or community be obligated to implement environmentally friendly and sustainable development if others do not?

Such questions are directly tied to a bigger one: “Why should climate change matter to a person, their community, or anyone at all?” To best answer this, one has to first understand why this is a pressing concern, demanding everybody’s full and immediate attention.

In Climate Change: Ecological Or Sociological Threat? people read about this ongoing global event research that demonstrates threats as an issue of resource management practices (RMPs) rather than isolated environmental disasters. This is not to say that environmental disasters do not pose any danger to society or to the delicate balance of exotic and large ecosystems. Rather, it points to the forms of intervention against climate change and how past and present RMPs contributed to the suffering caused by rapidly changing ecosystems.

Resource management practices (RMPs) mean to describe the larger part of social space, including the decision-making processes of any cultural environment. This includes the norms and ways of thinking of people as individuals, communities, and the many other roles they play on the wide stage called society. It also takes into consideration how they delegate decision-making when they construct mechanisms and institutions of society to meet the needs of cities, towns, communities and other groups of people.

2008 marked the first time when over 50% of the planet lived in urban areas rather than rural ones. That same year, the UN projected the number to be nearly 70% by 2050. The increased demand for resources and reduced supply of energy, food, fresh water and other resources and infrastructure to these areas confirms that people will have to take drastic action soon.

Climate change represents the world’s sixth and potentially fastest occurring mass extinction event, seeing the loss of 30-50% of all species on Earth. More importantly, it means that this unwanted visitor will come shaking the foundations of society when it places more tension on an already strained system of government and self-governance. Critical challenges brought by the aforementioned global event do not rise from environmental or ecological transformations, but rather from a sociological system which does not intervene when required with just solutions.

The silver lining comes from looking at climate change as the opportunity of a generation. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a wonderful example of why people should stop fearing this global phenomenon, with its 18 modest targets ranging from eliminating poverty to investing in industry, innovation, and infrastructure, as well as developing peace, justice, and strong institutions. Understanding RMPs and sustainable developments lets one see the role they have in reducing the negative impacts of climate change. Moreover, the SDGs include a wide array of policies and actions which most would benefit from.

Climate change can lead towards new levels of interagency cooperation and community-based involvement and addressing this locally and globally can build social infrastructures, technologies, and industries that will achieve a much desired and more equitable and just future for everyone involved. Most importantly, it emphasizes the diverse range of skills that everybody can offer in this fight.

Each and every person gains greater importance in their daily lives when they can conceive themselves as leaders and equal members of society in this battle against climate change, developing a more sustainable future. It begins with all levels of society accepting and respecting the value that people provide to their communities and each other, including the overworked and underpaid teachers and healthcare workers; students and entrepreneurs who explore innovative ways to fund education and conduct exciting research studies; expansion of diplomatic efforts abroad as well as discussing indigenous and human rights issues at home. All in the name of finding more effective forms of sustainable development.

In order to build this future, one must develop new ways of participation in their communities. If they see climate change as a complex issue which demands a holistic solution, they can begin to move discussion in a more creative and interactive direction. One which everybody can be a part of.

Indifference to this issue poses a unique health and safety hazard to all. It has potential to mean the extinction of 30-50% of all species on this planet, human beings possibly too. Not caring about climate change forfeits the chance to better oneself and the community. This is a clear opportunity for the average citizen to get excited and involved locally and globally at any level they desire. In the fight for a sustainable, more peaceful, and just world, climate change matters because everyone has a role to play in finding positive and effective solutions to combat this threat.

Brian Vinet

Brian received an honours BA and Certificate while studying Anthropology and International Studies at the University of Saskatchewan with special interests in International Security, forms of intervention, and Trauma.