THE COURAGE TO CHANGE
A Call to Our Law-makers and Communities for Bold Action in 2021
By Artemisio Romero Y Carver and Castille Aguilar
What if we told you this: You have nine years to live. What would you do? Would you march on with your daily routine? With your same attitude toward life? With your same priorities? Or would you have the courage to be impacted by this prognosis and change the way you live? In 2020, the world’s leading scientists issued a warning in the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report. The researchers found that “human-caused” carbon emissions needed to be cut by nearly half of 2010 levels by 2030 to stave off the worst effects of climate change.
“Worst effects of climate change?” It’s hard to imagine what those might be. Worse than the species die-off we already are seeing (as many as 200 species of plants and animals per day, according to the comprehensive report on biodiversity)? Worse than birds literally falling from the sky? Worse than the catastrophic wildfires that ravaged the West this summer — displacing thousands of people, destroying ancient old growth forest ecosystems and decimating wildlife populations? Worse than the devastating superstorms that destroyed communities in the South — costing millions in damages?
Scientists have given us a prognosis and a timeline. “Rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are required to limit the possibility of irreversible environmental damage. Global temperatures have already risen an average of 1 degree Celsius above levels before the Industrial Age. Scientists warn that further warming will cause positive feedback loops that will lead to ecosystem collapse — acidification of the oceans, die-off of forests, melting of the Arctic, and drought and desertification that will lead to massive food shortages.
Studies show New Mexico is warming at faster rates than the global average temperature rise. Our rivers already run dry. Our forests already are diseased and dying. Our home already is threatened. What will we do? Remember back — just one year ago to January 2020 — when COVID-19 seemed like a faraway threat in some faraway place. The idea of having to wait in food lines curving around grocery store parking lots seemed an impossibility. Think back to the normalcy we all experienced — the everyday hustle and bustle of modern-day capitalism. Even with all of its ethical contradictions, things were moving along on a regularly charted path.
Now breathe in the sweeping changes the coronavirus has forced upon us — changes and losses we have had to accept in just over 10 months. The loss of life. Isolation and social distancing. Changing our daily habits to prioritize health and safety in ways we never imagined. Massive deployments of resources, new protocols and huge demands placed on our health care system, grassroots networks of mutual aid and massive government spending packages.
We are capable of change. We are capable of courage. Our hearts may often feel like they are going to explode, but together we are capable of facing loss, of processing grief, of resilience and of healing.
This year is an opportunity for us to move forward with courage.
Our climate deadline is now just nine years. But change is in motion. The political landscape is shifting. Thanks to the hard work of organizers and voters throughout the country we have a new administration that we must push to create transformative policies. The cultural landscape is shifting, too. We have the opportunity to reckon honestly with our country’s continuing history of colonization and systemic oppression, and to face the reality that we need a radical re-creation of our society’s economic, social and political systems.
So as we work to address the climate emergency, we need to not only restructure our energy systems — but our entire society. We have the courage to do so. We believe you do, too. Artemisio Romero y Carver and Castille Aguilar are members of YUCCA (Youth United for Climate Crisis Action) a youth-led organization fighting for climate justice. Learn more at yuccanm.org.