Climate change is our global enemy, says Desmond Tutu

ISIS has nothing on climate change compared to our global enemy, which is climate change

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

climate-change-articleRetired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Prize winner and long-time environmental advocate, released a powerful video urging world leaders arriving in New York City for this year’s UN Climate Summit to “move beyond the fossil fuel era.”

In an associated editorial that was published in the British newspaper, The Observer, he argues that the same boycott, divestment and sanction tactics used against firms which did business with apartheid-era South Africa must now be applied to institutions that exploit fossil fuels.

“Never before have human beings been called on to act collectively in defense of the Earth. As a species, we have endured world wars, epidemics, famine, slavery, apartheid and many other hideous consequences of religious, class, race, gender and ideological intolerance. People are extraordinarily resilient. The Earth has proven pretty resilient, too. It’s managed to absorb most of what’s been thrown at it since the industrial revolution and the invention of the internal combustion engine,” he wrote.

Until now, that is, when science clearly indicates that our environment is carbon-saturated. Tutu continued, “If we don’t limit global warming to two degrees or less we are doomed to a period of unprecedented instability, insecurity and loss of species. It is time to act.”

Archbishop Tutu frames the issue as the premier human rights challenge, linking the most devastating effects of climate change – deadly storms, drought, rising food prices and the emergence of “climate refugees” – directly to the world’s poor. He rightly illustrates that developing states, which emit far less carbon than industrialized nations, will pay the steepest price.

He describes sensible, scalable ways we can be agents of change. “Boycott events, sports teams and media programming sponsored by fossil fuel companies; demand that their advertisements carry health warnings; organize car-free days and other platforms to build broader societal awareness; and ask our religious communities to speak out on the issue from their pulpits. We can encourage energy companies to spend more on the development of sustainable energy products, and we can reward those companies that demonstrably do so by using their products to the exclusion of others,” he stated in his editorial.

He urged swift action by nations and individuals alike, including freezing fossil fuels exploration, redirecting investments into renewable energies, encouraging governments to stop accepting lobbyist money from the industry and holding those who have damaged the environment legally liable for the harm they have caused. No histrionics or hype, just simple strategies to start now.

However, in addition to that, it is not just governments that need to divest and boycott companies that profit from fossil fuels and other destructive practices. We all, as individuals, families, groups, organizations and businesses, must join this boycott for only when we, when consumers, send a strong message to the corporations (and our governments) will anything ever happen. If we hurt their profits they will change, and only then. And still we must remain watchful that they do not use the greenwash machine but that they act honestly.

When it comes to energy companies (and the government support for them) we must also insist that the move from fossil fuel is not one towards nuclear but towards renewables, solar, wind, methane (natural gas) from anaerobic digestion, and such like.

We can do it and we must do it.

© 2014