March For Our Lives, the protest for common sense gun control, took place 5 weeks after the mass shooting that happened in Parkland, Florida, was one of the largest protests in American History, turning out 1.2 million people in 880 different cities across the United States. People were incensed, moved, and demanded change. I see this same anger as, yet again, we have two mass shootings back-to-back, in Dayton and El Paso. It seems like mass shootings have become a bi-monthly event in the United States.
Do you know what else has been a bi-monthly event? Scary shifts in climate change. At the same time as the Parkland shootings happened, February 2018, scientists in another part of Florida announced that the Everglades were in a crisis. Today the Everglades, the largest wetlands in the world, are nearly dead. The Everglades should be the largest freshwater region housing marine and plant life are need of… well… freshwater. The freshwater needs freshwater! What a conundrum. The lack of rainfall in that area has turned the freshwater into saltwater, making it saltier than the ocean and killing all the living things that needed the freshwater. This has not made headlines or did not get protests. This news did not trend on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
At the same time the shootings in El Paso and Dayton were happening Greenland lost 11 billion tons of ice. If all of the Greenland ice sheet melts, the sea levels will rise 65 meters. This means strange weather patterns nonstop such as floods, tornados and hurricanes. Again Greenland’s rapidly melting ice did bring out protests and the news was not trending on social media.
As our next election approaches people are more likely to vote on gun control than they will aggressive measures to mitigate climate change. Why is this? Could it be that humans need empathy to feel the call of activism? In a 24 hour period between El Paso and Dayton 112 innocent lives were lost to gun violence. In seconds. The stories coming out of the shooting are horrific. Parents dying because they were shielding the baby from the bullets. Empathy is evoked, as it should be, and that is what gets people to care about the issues.
In climate change, there are also innocent victims, that lose everything in a short period of time, in wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. Do they gain the same empathy of people dying of gun violence? Yes, people are quick to mobilize to give things like water, blankets, clothes, and even shelter. Empathy seems to be evoked in climate change and gun violence, as we see the outpouring support to the victims. Still, there is a key difference to the reaction to gun violence vs. climate change, and that is that people fighting gun violence seek long-term solutions. They protest, petition and call their senators get to common sense gun-control laws passed. The general public does not only want short-term solutions when it comes to gun violence. After a climate change event happens the same reaction is not there. There is not the protests, petition and calls to senators to aggressively curb our CO2.
Why the different reaction to climate change? Part of the issue might be just a lack of understanding. People rationalize that natural disasters, well, happen naturally anyway. Is that really climate change? Yes. Period. Any natural disaster today is stronger, and more frequent due to climate change. Every natural disaster today is climate change.
Also most people do not understand the solutions to climate change like they do gun violence, With gun violence banning assault weapons will make a drastic difference. In climate change the answer is more complicated. The solutions that the general public are aware of include switching to solar energy and electric cars. Most people do not realize that the amount of stuff that you own also affects climate change. Every time you buy something new there is CO2 pollution produced in order to make and transport each of your possessions. Curbing CO2 means living with less stuff. This is why my husband and I only gift each other experiences. For my kids I do buy stuff, but I buy used when I can. Most people do not realize that using less plastic also mitigates climate change. Yes, plastic. You see plastic is made from petroleum, so if we need to stop our dependency on petroleum, we need to stop over-using plastic. New research is showing that broken pieces of plastic that are ending up in our oceans are actually rising the world temperature.
While we all understand that when people lose all their possessions in a natural disaster it is a crisis, it turns out owning too much stuff is also a crisis. Owning too much is not seen as ethically or morally wrong, but it should be, when natural disaster hits an area, all the stuff people own becomes a weapon. People cannot walk through flood waters, partly because there’s so much stuff in it. In tornados, the stuff flies around making it a more dangerous situation than it already is.
While climate change may never trend on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, there is hope in a different form. Marie Kondo, the Japenese decluttering expert is getting Americans to declutter. All the hopeless news in climate change sometimes has surprising champions. The crazy Trump-supporting new Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis, actually put a billion dollars towards saving the Everglades within his first month in office! He’s also invested in other environmental restoration in the state, because let’s face it, Florida, the first place go under due to rising sea levels. Some people see that as a silver lining of climate change. Just kidding. I love Miami.
We do free education on how to live zero waste in DC area. If you live in the area please contact us for a talk for your organization. We have seen an uptick in requests for our talks. An educated public will be the best defense against climate change.
PS: Help us get the word out on social media! Please share as well as follow us on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.