MIND NUMBING NUMBERS
By Jeff Stark
Getting a handle on environmental issues requires having some access to and familiarity with numbers. In order to deal with global warming we need to know how many units - tons, or pounds or some other generally accepted means of measuring - are produced every day, every year, every decade. Without knowing the numbers, the relevant facts, it is hard to convince people of the need for action. Numbers are also universal. A gallon of gasoline, or better yet, biodiesel, in Portland, Oregon is exactly the same as in the Isle of Portland in England. Because of this we can communicate globally and share our information, opinions and ideas with our fellow global citizens.
For those of us who are interested in and involved in environmentalism the numbers that are most important are those that are derived from science. Climate science is a well established discipline. It features scientific data generated by a combination of relatively low-tech data gathering such as daily reading and reporting of temperatures. In some cases the scientific data record goes back to 1850. In other cases, such as satellite imaging of global weather patterns, the methods are much more complex and expensive. Either way the key is following the scientific method and producing and sharing valid data. By and large we trust science and accept the data as presented.
Unfortunately, we must also understand that numbers can be manipulated, revised and enhanced or just plain changed. Reports can be misquoted or withheld, data can be manufactured without reference to how they were obtained, recommendations can be ridiculed and rejected strictly for political reasons. Perhaps worst of all, every four years the US goes through a process that can select a new ruling party. When this happens more often than not decisions and policies that the departing party made leave with them. Thus we are faced with starting from scratch, a process that rarely produces more that mindless arguing and finger-pointing.
For example, we are now facing, in the United States, another paralyzing and powerful political season. As this is written, in January 2020, we do not know the outcome of our impeachment exercise. However, we definitely do know that whatever result we do experience, we will have to mount a massive response to, among other crises, global air and water pollution. According to the World Health Organization, a decades long effort by the United Nations, " … nearly two billion people currently use fecal-contaminated water." At the same time, the same source reports that "Nine out of 10 people around the world breathe polluted air and an "alarming" 7 million people die each year from air pollution."
These are truly mind numbing numbers, difficult to believe and understand. This is particularly true here in the US because the assault on our political lives, when combined with the daily environmental news is a potent pairing.
WHAT WE CAN DO
Now more than ever we need to band together and share not just information, news and numbers. If we want to be effective, and we truly have no choice, we must act.
For those of us who need some inspiration (and who doesn't?) watch inernational teenage ecowarrior Greta Thunberg hit back at Trump on climate change
With all of this in mind it seems clear that we need an all in effort, a social, political and community movement with a common purpose and goal. We also need to know that we all need to take charge of our organizations and efforts while recognizing that effective leadership will be absolutely vital.
One of the most dynamic organizations dealing with community efforts to defeat climate change is the US Climate Action Network. They have created a vital network for 175+ organizations active on climate change. One of those organizations is the Citizens Climate Lobby. This is an organization with over 170,000 citizen volunteers, in chapters in all 50 states. They are leading the campaign to pass a climate change bill that could reduce the production and/or release of greenhouse gases in the US by 40% in ten to twelve years. Click here for information on how to support this important effort.
For an authoritative WHO review of drinking water issues CLICK HERE
Air pollution affects more than 90% of the world's children. CLICK HERE for information.
How many people on this planet drink polluted water: CLICK HERE to find out.
For information on National and international organizations dealing with polluted water issues CLICK HERE.
For those of us in search of becoming active in environmental work -- Here is a list of 15 organizations fighting to save our oceans.
EARTH JUSTICE, a long-time environmental organization gives us a way to fight for clean air.
The Climate Realilty Project, founded by Al Gore, offers training programs to individuals and oragnizations who want to engage in environmental education and action.