Written by Najwa Jamal
This is a letter to myself, and more importantly, to whoever is listening.
Horror. Panic. Anxiety. Will I live to see my children grow up in a world consumed by climate-caused destitution? A world full of poverty, food shortages, environmental decimation, a complete and utter obliteration of all things as we know? I face these questions every day, but, this problem is not about me. It is much bigger than me, than you, than us. Climate change is happening now, and there is no longer time for us to sit back and let someone else clean up the mess we caused.
But who is the “we” in these questions? Who is responsible for the potentially irreversible effects that are damaging our planet, our home today? Is it mankind altogether? The government? Us as citizens? Was it simply a side effect of growth and progress? At what cost did we reprioritize our society above our planet?
This is no longer an issue that can take a backseat on our agenda. It cannot become white noise in a sea of screams for justice. Our planet needs justice NOW. The unprecedented effects have become increasingly apparent and are reaping social and economic havoc everywhere. Extreme rainfall in Nigeria, ravaging wildfires in California, rapid heating of all our oceans’ temperatures, heat waves in Pakistan, and fatal earthquakes in Indonesia. These disasters have negatively affected food systems worldwide – more and more people are losing the ability to farm. With each week hundreds of human beings and animals are displaced from their homes, or become one of the many numbers reported in natural disaster fatalities. Reconstruction of infrastructure has become a regular and costly operation now as natural disasters destroy cities across the world seemingly every month.
After researching this topic, it became apparent to me that the average person is not wholly to blame for climate erosion: “A mere 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global climate emissions.” Only 100 companies are responsible for almost three-quarters of the emissions responsible for polluting our air and eroding our ozone. To make matters worse (and they’re already pretty damn bad), Americans have a president at the head of our country who believes climate change is not real, perpetuating the same environmental negligence that has brought us eerily close to a point of no return. I am unsure of what else can be done to make apparent to policy-makers in the government that our Earth’s future is in their hands.
I find myself trying to remedy our environmental ailments with the little things around me, attempting to close a deep hole with a band-aid. I wake up, look at the news, and I am immediately slammed with headline after headline, detailing the apocalyptic end to this planet—a road paved with poverty, coastlines receding, water levels rising, and rising temperatures. I am haunted, stuck. I do not know how to even approach a solution grand enough to save our crumbling world. Regardless, it’s clear that how we live now is not sustainable, and I know that now more than ever I need to be persistently vocal about demanding change. I need to keep screaming. However, my screams land on deaf ears, they’re drowned out by corporate interests and political inaction, and I continue to sink into the all-consuming quicksand of our environment’s impending death.
What can I do? What can I do when the corporations, the monopolies, the politicians, the groups of people and entities truly responsible, the ones who hold the most power to change the circumstances simply refuse to see the warning signs, refuse to acknowledge the ways in which they are perpetuating the slaughtering of the world? My avoidance of straws and plastic bags combined with remembering to turn off my lights and conserve water, and the carpooling system I’ve created barely scratch the surface of the problem. I may not know how to start, but I know that big problems require big solutions – what the world needs, at this point, is more than minute-to-minute efforts spearheaded by groups bathing in profits from unsustainable production. There is no more time for us to stand around idle.
Corporations may be responsible for the stage of depletion our planet is currently in, but corporations are at their root human creations. People alike, regardless of geographic location or any other variable are the beating hearts of corporations—some of which are more deadly than others. Yet, on the most fundamental level, we as humans are united in the simple truth: that we are all responsible for what we have done. To deflect blame onto corporations is to evade this truth, and displace the agency we took in ruining our home. Even if we don’t make immediate dollars through Earth’s greatest pollutants, we have to acknowledge the benefits we reap every day. We have to face the need to replace life as it is now—the expanding need for convenience in the west, the idle and uninformed way of life many of us often live, and most importantly, the belief that we cannot control governments that we brought to power ourselves.
Certain politicians may refuse to believe this, but this is the bare truth. Far too often we have been disappointed by the very people we give authority, and forget that we have a certain privilege in being able to redirect the team that leads us. Politicians and corporate leaders are people, too, and we are all responsible for our climate—now and forever—if we do not act. There really is no more time to fix the vicious cycle we have put in place. In less than 100 years, the distinction between human and animal will be revealed as a farse, and many of us will have no home to return to. We will be submerged. Populations will be starving. Families completely displaced and forced to move. Whole groups of people will be unable to continue agricultural production for subsistence. We are reaching the point of transition between guarantee and projection. We have everything to lose—our lives, our rights, our well-being—if we cannot at least acknowledge this is the reality which we inhabit now.
We as humans are all responsible in one way or another. I am by no means a professional or one to dictate what should be done or how we should feel. But a massive line has been crossed. Keep screaming—call your local representatives and ask, demand to know what they’re doing to change the tides in your area. Exercise your privilege of time and ability: volunteer to keep our parks and bodies of water clean, to preserve our otherwise rapidly depleting home. Use your voice to fill the void. Find strength by involving yourself in the fight against crippling climate change.