Not just about Paris

Photo c) Robert A. Jonas
Photo c) Robert A. Jonas

On the eve of the U.N. climate talks in Paris, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide took to the streets to join the Global Climate March. Here in western Massachusetts, 200 people gathered in Amherst and an even larger group assembled nearby in Northampton, all of us calling for decisive international action to keep 80% of current fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

 

 

With Philip and Betsy Mathews on the Amherst Common, in front of Grace Church; photo c) Robert A. Jonas
With Philip and Betsy Mathews on the Amherst Common, in front of Grace Church; photo c) Robert A. Jonas

I was the opening speaker at the November 29 rally on the Amherst Common. The crowd included young and old, families, college students and retirees, an 8-foot tall Polar Bear puppet and a little boy in a brown bear suit. We shivered in the cold night air, but our energy was high and our resolve was strong.

A much bigger, regional rally is planned for the day after the conclusion of the U.N. talks. Please join me on the Boston Common on Saturday December 12, 1:00-3:00 p.m. for a Jobs, Justice, and Climate Rally that will bring together a wide range of interests – labor, immigrant rights, faith, racial justice, economic justice, and climate justice groups – as we build an unstoppable grassroots movement to stabilize the climate and create a more just and sustainable society.

Below is what I said last night at the Amherst rally.


Photo c) Robert A. Jonas
Photo c) Robert A. Jonas

I am filled with gratitude as I look into your faces. We stand together tonight in the center of town, under the stars, to express our longing for a safe, just, and sustainable future. All eyes are on Paris tonight. West of here, across the river, another group has assembled in Northampton. South of here, down the road, other people gathered this afternoon in Springfield. East of here, across the state, a group is gathering in Boston. Around the world, in every direction, from Beirut to Barcelona, from Ottawa to Melbourne, thousands of events are in progress, as people from every walk of life turn their hearts and hopes to the U.N. climate negotiations that begin tomorrow in Paris.

Photo c) Robert A. Jonas
Photo c) Robert A. Jonas

We know that the situation is urgent. We have only a short amount of time in which to avert a level of climate disruption that would render the world ungovernable and possibly uninhabitable within the lifetimes of our children and our children’s children. To cite just one example of where we’re headed if we don’t change course, a few weeks ago the World Bank – hardly a leftist organization – warned that unless we rein in greenhouse gas emissions quickly, climate change will drive 100 million people into extreme poverty – extreme poverty – within the next 15 years. Just think about the human suffering and social upheaval that this would engender worldwide.

We know we can do better than that. And we refuse to stand idly by and to let business as usual continue to destroy human communities and unravel the web of life.

Photo c) Robert A. Jonas
Photo c) Robert A. Jonas

So tonight we join with people around the world to pray for a climate deal in Paris that is ambitious, one that finally gets the world on track to stabilize and lower its carbon emissions.

We also hope for a deal that is fair, one that protects the most vulnerable and low-income populations from the most devastating effects of climate change.

But you know what? This is not just about Paris and it’s not just about tonight. The agreement that comes out of Paris is not going to be enough, by itself, to keep the world below a 2 degree centigrade rise in temperature above preindustrial levels, which we need in order to avert catastrophe.

That’s where you and I come in. Whatever happens in Paris, we’re here for the long haul. We’re not going away. We’re going to keep fighting for a future that runs on clean energy like sun and wind. We’re going to keep fighting for a society and an economy that leave no one out. We’re going to keep building political will and moral pressure until we get this right. As Pope Francis reminded us in his encyclical, the cry of the Earth is intimately connected with the cry of the poor. We hear that cry. We share that cry. And we intend to answer it, by divestment and direct action, by voting and lobbying, by making personal changes in our lifestyle and, perhaps, by engaging in civil disobedience.

A new world is on the horizon, a world that is safe, just and sustainable. We intend to act like midwives, helping that new world to be born. We pray tonight for the climate talks, but those talks are just the beginning. Those talks are just the start.

Photo c) Robert A. Jonas
Photo c) Robert A. Jonas

 

 

 

3 Responses to “Not just about Paris”

  1. David Romain

    I am a retired community college instructor of Physical Geography and I support your enthusiasm over Climate Change. My real concern is that too many interested folk do not seem to appreciate the subtle difference between trying to stop global warming and trying to stop doing the things that humans have been doing to create the mess we are in at present.. The planet is in a natural phase of warming. We can’t stop that, even if we tried. The subtle difference is that approaching this dilemma with the attitude that we can stop, or fight this “disease”, is that we continue to preserve this compulsion we have of trying to improve nature. We might just find a way to control nature. But nature is in charge and we are confirmed spectators. What nature needs us to do is pause, take a deep breathe and get in line to work WITH NATURE to ease the burden our current lifestyle is imposing on the planet! We desperately need to focus on revising our lifestyle to become more in tune with nature. We in the US desperately need to take some basic geography courses in adult school, or your local community college. We cannot help Earth, until we get to know how Earth works. Then we can understand how to live in harmony with Earth and that will do more to help the situation, and/or learn how to best live with the mess we have already created. I welcome responding comments!

    Reply
    • mbj

      Thank you, David, for your thoughtful comment. I share many of your concerns, such as your awareness that human beings need to find a way to live in harmony with Earth. A lifestyle based on heavy consumption, waste, and burning fossil fuels, is ultimately not sustainable. As to what is causing the current rapid rise in our planet’s average temperature, I’m going to have to go with NASA, NOAA, the world’s various academies of science, and virtually all climate scientists, in saying that the planet is warming almost entirely because of human activity (e.g. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/page4.php). Unfortunately human beings are not just neutral spectators when it comes to nature — we are very actively making profound changes in the ways our planet operates, from acidifying the oceans to melting the polar ice caps to pushing massive numbers of species to extinction. That effect is so profound that some scientists say that we have entered a new geologic era, the Anthropocene. So I agree with you that we need to get to know how Earth works and to focus on revising our lifestyles (and our economies).

      Reply
  2. Dan Breslaw

    Margaret & Jonas: We were in NYC, hoped to get to one of the gatherings there, but life and family got too complicated. Thanks for holding the candle, shivering, etc. on our behalf. Missed Wen’s book talk in VT too, (that was Monday), but the lesson of climate change is that we are all linked no matter where on this earth we are standing.

    Amazing how many even among our friends still see this as a worthy cause but distant and marginal. A week in the big apple made this clear. Which only means that it’s good to keep talking about it, even though that requires patience and at times seems hopelessly futile and repetitive. It’s water wearing away stone.

    You guys are an inspiration. Keep on trucking. Dan & Jude

    Reply

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