Tuesday, 30 July 2013
This is the speech I gave in our school assembly today. :D
I am not sure where to start to this speech, as I don’t know what I am expected to say. I’m not sure what to do, I am only one teenager amongst many, only one person amongst 7 billion, but maybe one person will be all it takes.
The definition of an activist is someone who advocates or engages themselves in the acts of activism. And activism is the act of using campaigning to bring about political or social change. Activism is searching the darkness for the light that may or may not change the views of those around you to have an effect on what you are campaigning for.
In hearing that, and writing that definition, I guess I am an activist. Just acting in different ways than one normally considers an activist to prioritise or act, to perceive the world and bring about change. I have a goal and a view that I’m sharing to the world via my blog, I’m sharing my views, my opinions, my proposals, my version of change and each and every day I sit down to write a post I’m searching for my path upwards and outwards of the dark, finding the one thing that I as a human can believe in and act upon.
To me, that is environmental change. I am an environmental activist.
In today’s world, via the media, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google, Pinterest, and the News, we are bombarded with photographs, videos, and stories about all of the environmental issues affecting us as society through from international level to our own families. Such as Shark fining, deforestation, environmental degradation, over-fishing, pollution, littering, the dolphin slaughter at Taiji, and Global warming.
Sometimes it’s hard to gauge what issues are real and which are not, which issues need to be spoken for and which are serious enough to let the world know. And which issues require unity before the solution. Some of these issues are so foolhardy we surely must be asking for it, I mean the dolphin slaughter in Taiji kills dolphins for human consumption and then they wonder why Japan has so many cases of mercury poisoning. People clear patches of forest by burning, so they release the carbon from the trees and the carbon from the burning and then wonder why they get sunburnt in the process.
Bill mckibben is working to lower the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The safe amount of carbon that can be in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. 350 is a pretty big number, The number of you sitting before me now, the number of words on a page in a book, the number of words in this speech before this paragraph began. So it’s a pretty big number and 350 parts per million is even bigger, we could never pollute more than that, could we? Well prepare to laugh nervously at humanity because we have, out atmosphere has been lumbered with our fossil fuel waste numbering more than 400 parts per million. And to put it into his words.
“We’ve built a new Earth. It’s not as nice as the old one; it’s the greatest mistake humans ever made, one we will pay for literally forever. We live on a new planet. But we have to live on it. So we better start understanding what is going on.
Everything frozen has melted or is melting: the ice caps, the high altitude glaciers. (More than half of the great ice sheets have already disappeared, if the late Neil Armstrong was on the moon right now and happened to look down, he would see only half of the ice area he saw in 1969.)
The tropics have expanded two degrees north and south pushing drought ahead of them.
Even the chemistry of seawater is steadily becoming more acidic as the oceans absorb carbon from the atmosphere.”
So life on earth is beginning to change, for better but also for worse.
Somewhere along the lines our brains have managed to tell us that watching rubbish lying on the ground is all right, that the plastic can’t do any harm. That cutting down trees and destroying habitats is a simple fact of nature where in fact it is not. That tossing an orange peel onto the ground is perfectly fine because it will decompose, but that process will take no less than 6 months, we have taught ourselves to believe that no harm can come to us, and the world is our apple, although is it necessarily our apple to destroy? We have led ourselves astray in thinking that even though there are more people, no more action needs to be taken, where in fact we are very wrong. We have taught ourselves to accept that a species goes extinct every 20 minutes, that we lose more than 10,000 species a year, many of those unstudied and undiscovered. We, as humans have learnt how to speed up extinction to the point where it is up to 10,000 times faster than natural extinction. None of these are facts to be proud of.
And most of you are sitting there thinking, “how does this even affect me? I’m not the one cutting down trees, littering and not carelessly acting.” But biodiversity loss effects us all. The yearly dolphin slaughter of dolphins in Taiji is killing off dolphin population’s worldwide, human greed and poaching kills hundreds of individuals from endangered species worldwide, and felling just a single tree in the Amazon singlehandedly affects the 50-70% of life on earth that inhabits the Amazon. Taking away a branch in this web of life, can easily affect how humans live, what we feed on and why we do certain things.
Climate change is easily one of the most heavily debated debates of our time, and it’s a debate that will rage on for decades. Climate change is a long term permanent change, there is no short term effect, and we are right in the middle now. Three of the most important numbers of our time are 2, 565 and 350. 2 degrees is the approximate rise in temperature that our planet could rise before we start to feel serious effects. It is now we must remind ourselves that our earth has already risen more than 1 degree, and “if one degree melts the arctic well be fools to find our what 2 degrees will do.” . 565 gigatons is the estimated value of carbon that can be released into the atmosphere and going on estimates we will pass that threshold in less than 15 years. We are stuck in the middle between locking ourselves into a future that our civilisation and humanity cannot and will not survive. 20 years ago, scientists began talking about climate change. We were first introduced to the physical problems that our earth and its atmosphere will face in the future. Although we didn’t heed their warnings. Instead we evolved our technology more and more until the point where our civilisation has pushed well past our planets boundaries and our earth is at risk. In one of the most important scientific papers ever published, James Hansen and NASA developed, that any amount of carbon above 350 parts per million in the atmosphere “is not compatible with the planet on which civilisation developed and to which life on earth is adapted.”
Life on earth. That’s us. We are literally killing our own home. We’ve pushed well past that threshold of 350. If we don't put a stop to the burning of fossil fuels and waste, our earth is going to collapse and die beneath our very feet, and in many of our own lifetimes.
Our star, our sun is expected to collapse 5 billion years.
And technically, in physics and biology we can’t survive without with the sunlight. But what would you say, if I said, what if there wasn’t an earth to die in 5 billion years time? Sure, there will be a rotating thing full of metal around the universe. But there might not being anyone or anything here to feel the impacts.
We are pulling apart the earth to look for things like gas and oil. And we’ve pulled it apart piece by piece, limb my limb. Now it’s time to pick up our mess and put it back together. We can’t erase the Memory or the physical scars left by fracking of mining, but we can erase the mental scars. Maybe, just maybe, knowing that we tried will be enough, knowing we stood up for the most revolutional campaign of our lives will being to turn back the clock on environmental issues.
Global warming is a controversial issue, and an issue that many people refuse to accept.
But in order to change our ways and to stop us passing the threshold of killing our planet further, we must accept that it is an issue. The world’s largest and most important issue that will have the largest effect possible on our future. It is now we make the choice to change our ways and do something or keep living and keep killing. If the earth was a person, couldn’t we all be convicted for manslaughter?
I would like to end my presentation today with a quote by Sir David Attenborough When he came into the world in 1926 there were only 2 billion people, now there is 7 “In the past, we didn't understand the effect of our actions. Unknowingly, we sowed the wind and now, literally, we are reaping the whirlwind. But we no longer have that excuse: now we do recognise the consequences of our behaviour. Now surely, we must act to reform it — individually and collectively, nationally and internationally — or we doom future generations to catastrophe.”