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Bellingham
Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Marked as urgent

Illustration by Evan Matz
Illustration by Evan Matz

The Western Front, as an institution, recognizes climate change as a very real, scientifically sound concept.

Though the scientific community is unified in the idea climate is changing, according to organizations such as NASA, a small percentage of the population is in denial for a range of reasons. Some are conspiracy theorists; some attribute the problem and the solution of climate change to religious power; or some are  unwilling to face the reality and severity of the situation.

The denial of climate change is just as real as climate change itself.

Perhaps the most common approach to denial and indifference is the aversion to make lifestyle changes for the sake of our changing climate.

Unfortunately, we do not have time for denial and indifference.

According to NASA, the latest measurement of carbon-dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere was 404.07 parts per million. This week, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography declared these levels will likely only get higher in the foreseeable future.

In other words, humans have never experienced carbon-dioxide levels quite this high and we may be past the point of no return.

Carbon-dioxide is a heat-trapping gas “released through human activities such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels, as well as natural processes such as respiration and volcanic eruptions,” according to NASA.

“The denial of climate change is just as real as climate change itself.”

Layne Carter

The keywords here are “human activities.” This means we have the power to impact climate change through more responsible execution of these activities.

Simple activities like altering our diets, altering our driving habits and recycling can be integral in making that impact.  

The World Resources Institute published a paper in April 2016 concluding: “reducing heavy red meat consumption — primarily beef and lamb — would lead to a per capita food and land use-related greenhouse gas emissions reduction of between 15 and 35 percent by 2050. Going vegetarian could reduce those per capita emissions by half.”

The damage of red meat consumption lies in the combination of greenhouse gases emitted by producing beef and the inefficient use of land and water consumption.

However, it isn’t reasonable to expect every American to give up meat, seeing as it’s protein packed and deeply ingrained in the human diet as the primary source of many nutrients.

The case with transportation is similar. It’s a lot to ask of someone to cut out driving entirely. But this begs the question: Is asking people to carpool or take a bus, train or bike a more ridiculous notion? In Washington State, especially, the answer is no.

“Activism is seemingly feasible until it becomes inconvenient.”

Layne Carter

For the last eight years, the League of American Bicyclists has named Washington the most bike-friendly state in America. Biking is exponentially more energy efficient (seeing as how no fossil fuels are burned by a bike ride), and is a more realistic goal for millions of Americans in comparison to cutting meat from their diets.

It could be this simple: drive less, bike more. Eat less meat, eat more vegetables.

In both World Wars, Americans were asked by the government to cut back on meat and wheat, and to recycle more, all in an effort to fuel the war. You may have heard of it — Meatless Mondays and Wheatless Wednesdays. Over 13 million families pledged to make these lifestyle changes for the sake of their country’s success in either war.

Why don’t we make similar changes now for the sake of our planet?

Activism is seemingly feasible until it becomes inconvenient.

Earth is becoming inhospitable for future generations, and we should feel responsible for making small changes to better the environment our children and children’s children will live in.

Beyond dietary changes and transportation objectives, the most achievable goal, perhaps, is not by bike or by mouth, but by ballot.

Initiative 732 on Washington State’s ballot for November has created a controversy over the climate. The initiative adds a tax to fossil fuels on the state’s biggest polluters, like oil refineries and coal-burning power plants. It also reduces the business and occupation tax on manufacturing, funds a tax rebate for low income families and cuts sales tax by 1 percent. These changes are an attempt to incentivize burning less fossil fuels.

I-732 has a lot of environmentalists’ support: Citizen’s Climate Lobby and Olympic Climate Action, to name a few. It also raises eyebrows of other organizations. The Washington chapter of the Sierra Club chose not to support the initiative, due to concern over job loss, lack of consultation with low income communities and remaining revenue-neutral.

Whichever side you fall on, researching one of the only climate change initiatives on the ballot is the most realistic way to make a difference in climate change. After all, making an informed decision is much easier than making a lifestyle change, right?

At the end of the day, glaciers are melting, temperatures are rising and bees are going extinct. The science community can’t argue with these facts, neither should we.

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