Copenhagen Is Not the Answer to Climate-Change Action—You and I Are E-mail
Wednesday, 11 November 2009 13:07  |  Written by Marita Prandoni | Blog Entry

Bangladeshi Children photo by Ryan LoboFor all the talk about the climate forum in Copenhagen being an international diplomatic gathering to negotiate emissions allowances and restrictions—the great atmospheric marketplace—it’s really more than that. It’s a scramble to help humanity adapt to and mitigate the harm we’ve created. Poor countries are the first to feel the effects. But eventually wealthy countries will, too. Just as with our global telecommunications network, global warming erases political boundaries. In essence, we are one tiny planet.

It is ironic that the wealthier countries’ carbon-intensive lifestyle is mostly affecting populations that generate the lowest emissions: North African droughts, flooding in Bangladesh, water insecurity in the Andean and Himalayan watersheds, chaotic agricultural conditions in India, and the ocean swallowing little South Pacific islands.

To put the carbon-intensive lifestyle into perspective, here are the current facts: Per capita, an average US citizen emits about 20 tons of planet-warming emissions a year. A typical European emits 10 to 12 tons. An average Chinese person emits four tons and growing.

In the US, we might feel that we’re locked into this system, that we’re held captive by the hungry ghosts that value profits over global social and environmental welfare. To a certain extent, we are trapped. If we do not have access to public transportation, we are forced to drive more. If our power grid is tied to burning coal and we can’t afford a conversion to solar, we are supporting dirty power. Hyper-individualism and the quest for economic freedom have taken us far away from family, so if a parent falls ill, we might need to fly home.

There are many ways in which we are not trapped, however. It requires clear thinking and slowing down to shift to a different consciousness—one that envisions a connection to someone across the world who is bearing the brunt of our daily behavior. The one great democracy that still exists is the global marketplace. As consumers, we have the power to be global citizens.

If corporations can vote with dollars by influencing our policymakers with money, so can consumers. We can choose to work less and buy less, walk or ride our bikes when possible, turn down the heat, turn off the lights, hang out our clothes to dry, eat less or no meat, take the train, and so on. There are billions more of us than there are lobbyists and economic hit men. If we follow our money, we can see the power of our choices and act in beneficial ways.

Yesterday I transported a migrant Mexican dishwasher to an orthopedic surgeon for an evaluation of his severed and horribly deformed bicep, which resulted from a steel dumpster lid crashing down on his arm while he was emptying the trash. When I asked if he liked where he lived, he answered, “Doy gracias a dios que me ha dado esta vida.” I thank God who has given me this life.

So many people in the world are content with so little. It’s time for Americans to find a simpler way to be happy.

Additional resources:
Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded—and What We Need to Do to Remake Them, by John Perkins

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Eco Tip

Unplug appliances when not in use. Your electronics—computers, TVs, phone chargers—use energy even when they're turned off. Stand-by power can account for as much as 20% of home energy use. Save both energy and money by unplugging your devices, or put them on a power strip that you can turn off when they are not in use.  More tips...

Eco Quote

How long can men thrive between walls of brick, walking on asphalt pavements, breathing the fumes of coal and of oil, growing, working, dying, with hardly a thought of wind, and sky, and fields of grain, seeing only machine-made beauty, the mineral-like quality of life?  - Charles A. Lindbergh, Reader's Digest, November 1939   More quotes...