Millions of peoples are celebrating Hanukah, Christmas, and other holidays this time of year, the spirit of which is imbued with peace and harmony. The Paris Environmental talks concluded this past week, and the nations that attended did a wonderful thing. They gave a special present to the world. After two weeks, almost two hundred nations finally agreed on a strategy to help put our planet back on a safe environmental track.
It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always pretty. There was plenty of arguing, sulking, shouting, and finger pointing. But in the end, the nations who attended showed the world that despite differences on how to resolve the crisis eight billion people are facing, they were able to hammer out an agreement that involved a lot of compromise. It’s a lesson politicians in the United States could learn a lot from.
We’re far from living in a world that will soon be pollution free. The damage we have done so far will be felt for decades to come. If not one more pound of carbon dioxide is pumped into the atmosphere, the polar caps will continue to melt and the oceans rise, and many island communities will still be faced with the inevitable truth that they will eventually be displaced.
While it is non-binding, what the nations have agreed to among other things is put a cap on the emissions that affect rising temperatures worldwide. In short, the nations agreed to limit the global average mean temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The original target was two degrees. While that half degree may not sound like much, it has incredible consequences. A two degree rise would mean the obliteration of many island nations from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia to islands across the globe.
The higher target the nations were originally shooting for would have been comparable to putting out a house fire with a few buckets of water. We’re so deep in shit, (and my most sincere and deepest apology to anyone offended by the word, but there is no delicate way to sugarcoat this), everyone at the Paris conference pretty much realized for changes to have any real significance and to better protect island nations, the thermostat would literally have to be lowered.
Of course, there are many facets to this agreement with a lot of details to sort through. To complicate things, the expectations for developed nations are not the same as they are for developing nations. How could they be? It’s hard to be fair and just making all nations pay the same price when it’s the developed nations who for the most part caused the mess we’re in.
What’s important is that everyone recognizes the need to take action. This is no time to be in a sinking boat with someone who refuses to help bail or row because of pride, obstinacy or self serving posturing. As Jean Paul Sartre said, “Only the guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.”
You can learn more about the details of this historic agreement by visiting www.onearth.org/earthwire/paris-climate-talks-agreements .
The nations of the world came a long way physically and politically to hammer out this deal. The least we can do is support the underlying concepts behind it. They’re not perfect, but if we wait for everything to be perfect, next year our planet will be in far worse condition. And what untold horrors will we leave our grandchildren and their grandchildren if we don’t have the moral fortitude and foresight to set things right now?
The countries of the world have been blessed with a chance to do something about climate change and pollution on a worldwide scale. The least we can do is redouble our efforts to do what we can in our corner of the world. Let your elected representatives know how important this and related issues are. Do the little things like reusing and recycling. Finally, learn as much as you can about global warming and pollution and ways you can make a difference even if it seems trivial. Your single act united with many others can form a powerful ocean of change.
My wish for you this Christmas is that you find deep peace and joy in reconnecting with Mother Earth and Mother Ocean. Enjoy the Christmas gift from Paris and the hopeful heart that it gives us. Merry Christmas. A belated Happy Hanukah. A blessed Mawlid al-Nabi. And a Happy New Year to nations across our globe. Though many, we are one family.