Forgive me for this quick divergence from marine debris. I feel the need to address the Paris Agreement and Trump’s withdrawal, as a human, an ecologist, and an America.
My knowledge of international relations and policy has become more nuanced in the past year. Based on this new understanding, I have been watching this whole debacle unfold with interest and concern
The Paris Agreement is a groundbreaking piece of international legislation. In the world we live in, getting countries to agree on anything is a feat. Getting countries to come together and declare that they might be willing to take economic damages in order to protect a planet from a threat they cannot see, that’s almost miraculous. Remember, this is on an international scale. This is not about individuals who’s crops are dying because of drought, or homeowners who’s properties are being eroded by a rising sea. This is about money, power, and blame. It seems like a simple enough, to unite, as humans, against the largest threat to the planet we live on, but nothing is truly simple.
The truth is that the power of the Paris Agreement is nothing more than words. As most international legislation goes, it is non-binding and there is no penalty for not meeting commitments. Regardless of the lack of teeth, I believe that the Agreement is an important step forward. A first step in combating climate change on a global scale. In addressing the needs of all countries, and peoples as we deal with this looming threat. The planet cannot take much more, we are very near the point of no return, and if we are going to do something, we need to do it now, and we need to do it big. The U.S. withdrawal from the agreement bothers me as an ecologist because it seriously limits the ability for progress. But it also bothers me as an American. The U.S. is one of the world’s worst polluters, and our unwillingness to take responsibility frustrates me.
A friend reminded me the other day that I can be proud to be an American and still be critical of the nations decisions. In fact, being proud is linked to the freedom that allows me to be critical, to disagree, and to have the right to say so.
For better and for worse the United States is, and has been for a long time, a global powerhouse. By stepping away from this legislation, we are relinquishing this power. The international community will fight climate change, I have no doubt about it. Too much is at stake for those who understand and are willing to face the consequences. I am sad that as a nation we will not stand with the rest of the world, but I am proud to be an American, because American’s are standing up, regardless of what the government is doing. That’s what it means to be an American.
Remember, you cannot stop progress, and the truth always finds the light.
Check out Carbon Brief’s awesome coverage of the debacle here