The Climate is Changing and So Must We


(Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

Most people have acknowledged, at least to some degree, the detrimental impact humans have made and continue to make on the environment. However, our response to the issue of climate change does not extend much past this acknowledgement.

Every few months a new climate report is released, each more dire than the last. Yet these reports only enter our discussions as small talk. A collective “did you read the latest predictions about sea-levels risings” is said distantly between sips out of a Venti-sized plastic cup, before moving on to more pleasant discourse about the flowers blooming. Climate change is a truth that is as unpleasant as it is easy to ignore.

That it is. Until it isn’t. The latest report released by a UN panel of scientists states that the Earth is predicted to warm 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2030. In order to limit temperature increases beyond that, we would need to go carbon-neutral by 2050, requiring the largest and most extensive energy transition in human history.

To be clear, this transformation would not halt the impacts of climate change, but rather stave off the most detrimental of them. The inevitable 1.5 degree increase in temperature will still lead to a 70 to 90% decline in coral reefs, a decrease in food availability and an increase in the intensity of natural disasters. This is better, however, than the 99% decline in coral reefs and massive food shortages and subsequent migrations predicted with a two-degree increase in global temperature.

In 20 years, we will no longer be able to talk about climate change between sips of coffee, for there might not be much coffee to drink. These are truths that we can choose to ignore now but that will hugely affect our reality moving into the future, truths that question the ethicality of our generation bringing children into the world, truths call into that question the existence of New York in the coming years and truths that cast serious doubt on the survival of the human race.

In response to these facts, we are obligated to make massive changes in the way we consume. Buying a reusable straw, or remembering to ask for a no-straw lid from Starbucks 50% of the time, is not enough.

Each and every one of us should be making a concerted effort to decrease our carbon footprint. That includes significantly decreasing our consumption of animal products, using a reusable cup every time we buy from a coffee shop, purchasing most of our clothing second-hand, voting for candidates that place climate change reform among their main policy goals and opting for cafeteria food to avoid using bulky plastic packaging.

If you do not care for cafeteria food, learn to. If you forgot your reusable cup, skip the coffee. If you really like the taste of meat, like it less. We can no longer pretend that the changes needed to slow global warming can occur without sacrifice, or that somehow our affinity for caramel macchiatos takes precedence over future generations’ ability to eat. Sporting fashionable save the bees tee-shirts and retweeting images of trash in the ocean does not constitute environmentalism.

To say you are concerned about climate change while failing to alter your actions in a way that reflects this concern is to take part in a dangerous and ubiquitous hypocrisy. Remind yourself that our comfort now is not worth large-scale suffering in the future.

Now, I am not going to say that the individual changes made by people reading this article will fix the problem. Unfortunately, the entirety of Fordham’s student body transitioning to a vegan, zero-waste lifestyle is not enough to halt or even significantly slow the impacts human activity is having on the Earth. In fact, this transition, if coupled with no broader changes would solve nothing.

The earth needs a global shift in legislation that severely limits the use of fossil fuels and natural gases, as well as decreases food waste and the consumption of animal products. I am begrudgingly aware of the enormity of the climate problem as well as the profound changes needed to fix it.

However, knowing that you cannot single-handedly save the planet does not mean you do not have an obligation to make ethical choices, especially when the largest hindrance to these choices is convenience or preference. Caring about the Earth does not mean rescuing it, but rather performing actions that contribute to a broader societal shift: a shift in which climate change is viewed accurately, that is, as one of the greatest threats humanity currently faces.

We have power as consumers and voters to normalize plant-based diets, to discourage plastic use and to shame politicians that are not doing their absolute best to combat this Earth-sized dilemma.

It is only in a society where it is unacceptable to abuse the planet that it will stop being abused; it is only in this type of community that we can ever hope to save future ones.

To do nothing is to accept the current and dire predictions, passively awaiting their arrival. So for the climate’s sake, skip the burger, walk the ten blocks instead of Ubering and stop pretending that it is not your responsibility to help.