Guest Post: A Personal Reflection on Climate Change

The following is a guest post by CCL volunteer Brad Sharp

Climate overload. Too much talk. I suggest to anyone reading this, stop now.  This is only an attempt of someone over fifty looking to justify 30 years of what I call Environmental Futurism; fully understanding that human actions are destroying the earth but waiting until the future to do anything about it.

A lot of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s have enjoyed many things such as traveling thousands of miles, living in warm houses and sharing reliable electricity. We were also fortunate to have owned a lot of personal property which mostly ended up in landfills.

Some of us understood that our actions were having a negative impact on the land, air and water and but we never changed our activities other than we began driving compact cars, eating less meat and living in smaller homes. There were others of us who didn’t look at our environmental impact, we just drove large cars, ate a lot of meat and lived in bigger homes. All the time believing the benefit of consumption was a safe, strong economy. Our right. Either way, most of us assumed that the earth was going to absorb the damage from human activities or the earth was going to be saved by some future technologies. We also believed coal, oil, and gas were the only possible sources of reliable energy.

We all lived through the Cold War, Y2K, No Nukes, H1N1 Virus and so many other possible, “End of the World” scenarios. So, it only makes sense that to us we are going to live through “Global Warming” or “Climate Change”.

So what. Why am I crying now? I’ve enjoyed my life. I’m not rich but I’m also not poor. I’m also not someone to stand up in a crowd and yell, “Hey look at me, I got the answers”. However, I did one great thing in my life, I had kids. They are now young adults and asking, “What the hell is going on?”. To them there is no debate as to whether humans are doing damage to the earth’s atmosphere. That debate is long over. Of course we are. The data is everywhere.

“What data?” “Are you sure?” “I’m living the same way I did 30 years ago” is what I thought. Feeling a little embarrassed and very guilty that I have not been paying attention, only a little out of the corner of my eye, I had to respond. How? What? To figure that out, I had to understand the debate for myself. So, I set upon a goal to seek information regarding the climate system and energy management. I did research at least once a day for 30 days. I pulled out a notebook and every day wrote down what one activity I did for that day. The types of activities included: library research, commuting to work with recorded books, conversing with anyone that had an opinion, reading online web sites of environmentalist, climate scientist, government agencies and listening to climate change deniers.  In addition, following my son’s lead, I joined a group, the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL). Their philosophy made sense to me since the group’s mission is to have both Republicans and Democrats work together on a solution to solve climate change.

My life has changed. The information is everywhere. The results are obvious. Of course, if you don’t want to believe, the Internet is full of opinions. I’m sure some opinions are genuinely-held beliefs but I’m also sure many of the opinions are from people paid to troll in web and cast doubt.

At first, I would sometimes think, maybe I was just predisposed to hear the message and believe. I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors. Plus, I’ve always thought that it made sense that the atmosphere, a contained system, is being influenced by the constant burning of coal, oil and gas. This burning has been going on for over 200 years. At the same time we continue to remove forests that would have absorbed carbon emissions from the atmosphere. Plus now there are over 7 billion people on the planet and most of the people want to live the same life I have had. Not viable. Now I had proof, the science is clear. With this knowledge, there is no way for me now to do what I’ve always done.

At first I was manic. There must be a solution; I must save the world now. This is also not viable. Hit a wall. Swallowed up in depression. Failure. Lost 2 months to holidays, election, work, and family health issues. Thought maybe I should just lie on the floor and curl up. Tired of talking to people that are indifferent, not concerned or just don’t believe there is a problem.

So now I had to take a step back and change the focus of my research. The debate is over. Globally we have had the 3 warmest years in history over the past three years. A lot of people worldwide are paying attention. Surprisingly, there is a lot of talk about what steps can be taken. The solutions are in the efficient use of water, gas and electric as well as the use of clean, renewable energy sources.

The truth is many of us are stubborn and absolutely unwilling to change even though change is inevitable. There are many new ways to power our lives without destroying the planet. We will need to work together. There will need to be a process for the re-training of workers from one job market to another. Very large corporations will need to adapt to the new business realities. Large investments in technology are needed. Neighbors will need to accept the look of solar panels, wind turbines and other renewables. This change is going to happen whether we like it or not. This change to investing in efficient, clean, renewable energy will power our economy. It is going to happen sooner or later.  So why shouldn’t we be the leaders?  Why not start now? We must take action for future generations who will ask “What did we do?”

Fortunately, there are positives everywhere. In Michigan, where I live, there are two great examples. The cities of Grand Rapids and Traverse City have very ambitious sustainability plans.  It’s not about big government, it’s about good government; acting for the future now.