200,000 people marched in Washington D.C. yesterday in the People's Climate March, according to organizers. Tens of thousands of people also marched in dozens of other cities around the U.S. and the world. It is heartening to see people take to the streets in 92 degree D.C. heat to stress the urgency of curbing climate change.
One striking similarity between the U.S., Russia, and Saudi Arabia is how fossil fuel companies wield outsize influence on political leadership in pushing for oil and gas. One of the most poignant signs at the march was therefore, 'Separate Oil and State.' Another important message is, 'Separate Oil and Religion.'
I noted in my last post how Bill O'Reilly said, “no one can control the climate except God.” This view is held by millions if not tens of millions of faith adherents from many religious traditions, and is one pillar of climate denial. But is this a bedrock theological principle? Not according to the heavy hitters in my religion.
Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi Ashlag, a leading kabbalist (Jewish mystic), wrote that God established the laws of nature in the world, and a person or society that transgresses one of these laws will be punished by means of nature. He likens nature to a judge God established to punish those who violate the laws of nature.
How does this relate to burning fossil fuels into the atmosphere? A law of nature that relates to the climate (according to the vast majority of climate scientists) says that there needs to be less than 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for human society and most other species, to be able to live on this planet. Prior to the industrial revolution, in 1800, there were 180 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere. We are now past 400 parts per million and rising every year. As NASA scientists write, "levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere are higher than they have been at any time in the past 400,000 years… This recent relentless rise in CO2 shows a remarkably constant relationship with fossil-fuel burning, and can be well accounted for based on the simple premise that about 60 percent of fossil-fuel emissions stay in the air." All of us putting carbon in the atmosphere at this point, especially significant amounts, are breaking the law. The law of nature.
One of the leaders of the people's climate movement, Bill McKibben, wrote: "Unless the end to coal and oil and gas comes swiftly, the damage from global warming will overwhelm us. Winning too slowly is the same as losing… I’m looking forward to the next 25 years—the quarter century that will decide whether we make progress enough to preserve our civilizations. Together we’ve built a movement; now, together, we’ll deploy it to confront the greatest crisis we’ve ever faced. 2016 was the hottest year in the planet’s history; that means we have to make 2017 the politically hottest season the fossil fuel industry has ever come up against, and 2018 after that, …We have found our will to fight, and that gives us a fighting chance to win."
To turn the tide on climate change, a critical mass of people need to undergo consciousness change and consumption change. At a practical level, it involves bicycles and public transport instead of cars, local vacations instead of jet getaways, and a plant-based diet. May it come soon in our days.