On April 22, 1970, more than 20 million Americans took to the streets to honor the earth and protest environmental degradation in what still remains to be the largest single day demonstration in human history. But the movement hadn’t gained international recognition until Denis Haynes – the national coordinator of the first Earth Day – decided to take it to 141 nations across the globe with the collective effort of his colleagues in 1990. Fast-forward 30 years, the Earth Day now has a larger than life aura with a virtual attendance of over 1 billion people from 193 countries, representing all races, cultures and ethnicities.
As the celebrations surrounding Earth Day has grown in stature, so has the efforts to tackle climate change. But somewhere along the line, many feel that the blending of science and politics has triggered the rise of an opposition, which has eventually led to disagreements surfacing on a global scale.
There is no doubt global warming exists. And it is important that we take strict measures to mitigate it but circulating the dreadful idea that we are all headed for demise in a decade or two is plainly, unacceptable. While political icons are largely responsible for egging this on, it is the media that has actually accelerated this trend. In fact, the hysteria surrounding it is so bad now that ‘thunbergish’ breakdowns from adolescent children are no more a rarity.
A 2019 survey from the Washington Post for instance, revealed that 57% of US School students are deeply ‘afraid’ of the change, while another study done on a global scale incorporating opinions from 28 different countries reported that nearly 50% of adults believed in the alarmist idea of ‘global extinction’.
The situation isn’t any different in Britain. Children are reported to have nightmares about Climate Change and an overwhelming majority of youngsters are already ‘extremely worried’ about the heart-rending headlines, so much so that in the span of an year, Oxford Dictionaries recorded a 4290% spike in the use of the term ‘eco-anxiety’.
Tired of the fear mongering, many environmentalists and climate scientists have come out opposing the apocalyptic approach. Michael Shellenberger, founder of Environmental Progress – an organization that fights climate change and global poverty – blatantly criticizes environmental alarmism in his best-selling book ‘Apocalypse Never’, calling it an ingredient that slows down our efforts to combat climate change.
With global deforestation and plastic induced damage on the decline, the book clearly asserts that poverty, the continued use of wood as fuel, and the consumption of wild fauna are the more proximate issues that need to be dealt with, to resist the change.
Michael also calls nuclear energy the ‘safest’ option to make electricity and believes that the expected sea level rise of 0.6 meters estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is not going to have apocalyptic consequences.
Of course, these are bold claims to make but dismissing them without counter research or consultation would be brutally unfair; especially when they come from an experienced climate activist who was once crowned ‘hero of the environment’ by Time Magazine, the same publication that now lauds Greta Thunberg for her relentless gallantry.
Michael isn’t alone in this pursuit. Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, former director of the Environmental Assessment Institute of Denmark, states that ‘Climate Alarmism’ is a political tool, often used by the media and governments to create a false sense of panic among people with the hidden intention of gaining power and control.
Regardless of the backlash they received for their unrestrained approach, both Lomborg and Shellenberger are happily indulged in the process of uncovering new ways to mitigate climate change and poverty, instead of taking it to the streets everyday. In fact, Shellenberger’s organization has already worked with many renowned climate scientists to prevent emissions increasing the equivalent of adding 24 million cars to the road.
Thankfully, these aren’t the only positive signs.
A 2018 research study – headed by Xiao-Peng Song and Matthew Hanson of the University of Maryland – indicates that there are more trees in the northern hemisphere now, than there was in the late 20th century. The team evaluated satellite imagery from 1982 to 2016 to examine how the landscape had changed over the last three decades, and found that the global tree cover increased by over 7 percent in the last 35 years – an additional woodland of almost 2.24 million square kilometers.
Another report from the World Meteorological Organization suggests that the Ozone layer over the Antarctic is on the path of recovery, and could potentially return to its pre-1980 levels in less than 4 decades. Interestingly, the gap in the ozone layer spotted over the Artic – a hole 3 times the size of Greenland (the largest island in the world) – has now been healed completely.
The other major problem facing humanity at large is death from natural disasters. Although sadly it still kills nearly 60,000 people on average per year, these numbers are nothing compared to the millions of yearly deaths that occurred throughout the last century. In fact, the overall natural disaster death rate has declined by over 99% in the last 90 years – at the exact same time that the human population quadrupled.
All of this is not to undermine the dangers of climate change or to vilify its proponents, but to show how our efforts have borne fruit, at least marginally. The individual and collective efforts to preserve the planet must still go on, but keeping politics out of the way may well be the way to do it.