Dear Planet Earth,
I hope you’re doing well. But I fear you’re feeling a little under the weather.
Firstly, I want to say sorry. Sorry for the destruction that the human race has caused you and continues to cause every day. Pollution, litter, deforestation, over-consumption; the list could go on. I apologise on behalf of the man who will continue to cause a lot more devastation to your precious land and atmosphere: the current President of the United States, a man who should know better. His lack of interest in the environment and climate change is particularly unfathomable considering the almost unanimous agreement of the dangerous consequences of climate change by numerous scientists, societies, science academies, government agencies and intergovernmental bodies.
After the ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement in October 2016, we all thought things were heading in the right direction. It was, after all, the first ever universal, legally binding global climate deal between 195 countries. Their long-term goal is to keep the increase of global average temperatures below 2°C. But now all of that hard work may be for nothing – and the reason begins with a big fat capital T.
Trump’s new executive order ‘Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth’ announced on March 28th is seen by many as a step backwards in terms of green energy and a big slap in the face of Planet Earth. The order instructs every agency of the federal government to immediately review and get rid of existing regulations that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources. i.e. the regulations surrounding the fossil-fuel and nuclear-power industries.
In particular, it directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revise the Clean Power Plan – created by Obama in August 2015 – which was meant to show the world that the US is committed to leading global efforts to address climate change. Helping the US to get halfway to their target of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by a quarter, from their 2005 levels, by 2025. In Trump’s words it is a “crushing attack on American industry”.
Here are some pretty incredible statistics: the plan would, it was projected, result in 870 million fewer tons of carbon pollution released into the atmosphere, as many as 360 fewer premature deaths in the US between now and 2030, and 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children. Surely something worth keeping?
The EPA is rapidly descending into a shambles. Scott Pruitt, the new EPA administrator (and known skeptic of climate change) announced that the agency was no longer interested in even collecting data on the amount of methane that oil and gas companies release. This, from the person in charge of an agency specifically created to protect human health and the environment.
In a recent New Yorker article entitled Trump V. The Earth, Amy Davidson argues that this order is not what Trump calls “an end to the war on coal,” but is in fact a war on the basic knowledge of the harm that coal can do. I would argue that this is the battle cry of a man who wants to recommence the war on our planet – it was far from ending, but it was at least being recognized and addressed. A war which will affect every single one of us. I wonder if he ever thinks about how his actions will affect the world for future generations – the one his son, Barron, and grandchildren will grow up in.
But climate change will not just affect a far-off distant future; it is already impacting the here and now. Just ask the displaced communities forced from their homes due to rising sea levels (global sea level rose about eight inches in the last century. The rate in the last two decades, however, is nearly double that of the last century.) Or ask the people in South Sudan – where drought is a contributing factor to one of the worst humanitarian crises since 1945, according to the UN. In March 2014, TIME Magazine published a report which found that global warming of only 2º C will likely reduce yields of crops like rice and maize as early as the 2030s – much sooner than expected. This is happening in countries that produce barely any carbon emissions, countries with almost no industry or few vehicles. Looking after the planet also means looking after our fellow human beings.
Davidson writes; “For all the talk of American greatness, Trump’s actions regarding climate change represent a historic abdication of leadership.” Particularly as a survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre last year found that around two-thirds of Americans think climate scientists should have a major role in policy decisions about climate matters, more than say that of the public, energy industry leaders, or national and international political leaders. In other words, the American public think climate change is important and want to do something about it.
Maybe Trump could look at the younger generation for inspiration; more and more young people are choosing to adopt daily practices to protect the environment and combat climate change. A survey conducted last year by the European Parliament found that – out of the 10, 294 young adults questioned in the 28 Member States – 63% sorted household waste, 47% reduced their consumption of disposable items and 46% reduced water and energy consumption at home.
Around 7.5 billion people call Planet Earth home. That’s a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of homes to warm. But it is not over-population that is necessarily the main threat to our globe, but over-consumption. As Gandhi once said; “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” By doing small acts to help the larger picture, I believe we can at least try to combat the ignorance of others.
But this isn’t just one long grumble; I also want to say thank you. Thank you, Planet Earth, for your sunrises and sunsets; the orange glow which never fails to mesmerise me. Thank you for the cherry blossom in Spring and the crisp leaves that crunch underfoot in Autumn.
Thank you for your vast oceans; even the freezing Atlantic, which I like to dip my toes into from time to time. For the water that I drink, for the food that grows within you, for the shelter you provide.
Thank you for being so beautiful that I sometimes have to catch my breath. Thanks for the smell of freshly cut grass and the whisper of the wind between your branches; the sound of the birds singing at dawn and the crash of thunder in a storm.
I may not be the greenest person out there, but I do try. Because I know how precious you are. I appreciate your beauty, your strength and your resources – growing up on a diet of David Attenborough documentaries, it was hard not to be awestruck by nature. As Louis Armstrong’s dulcet tones once sang: what a wonderful world.
All the best from your ever-grateful inhabitant,