It was President Abraham Lincoln that was also thinking of bold action 150 years ago when he said “the dogmas of the quite past are inadequate to the stormy present as our case is new, so we must think a new and act a new. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country”. He was speaking before the US congress about the defining issue of his time, slavery, everyone knew it had to end but no one had the political will to stop it. Remarkably his words ring true today when applied to the defining crisis of our time, climate change.
My own environmental organisation has hosted a number of accounts this year from individuals all around the world to share awareness about climate change; from the shocking effects of coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, to the intrinsic links between deforestation and the agriculture industry and rising sea levels in the pacific islands. Everything that I have learnt and experienced this year has absolutely terrified me.
Shockingly, millions of people are already suffering from the effects of climate change; according to the World Health Organisation air pollution is currently responsible for 25% of all global strokes and 19% of all cancers, one in four deaths are linked to an unhealthy environment. In the UK alone, 40,000 people die prematurely each year because of air pollution (UK government). In the future years, climate change will only exasperate poverty and despair, leading to more extremism, conflict and potentially displacing up to 250 million people by 2050 (UN).
Tracially, we have lost 56% of all our wildlife since 1970, every 15 minutes an elephant is murdered for its ivory, ancient ice caps continue to rapidly melt and today another 200,000 acres of rainforest will disappear forever (UN). The natural world as we know it, is rapidly changing, for the worse.
Like Lincoln in his day, it is now time for bold unprecedented action in order to save our planet. A change that urgently protects our last vital ecosystems, that preserves the rights of indigenous people and speeds up the transition from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy technology. A collective consciousness that speaks from the heart and has the power to unite us all to care about the natural world.
The truth is we all have the power to make a difference in this world and things will only get better if we make it so. “We are the first generation of leaders who have the chance to take decisive action and probably the last generation with the option not to do so.” We must now decide which side of history we will be on.