By: Andrew Utz ~Distribution Manager~
As we have already seen, solving climate change is a long-term commitment which can’t be solved by a short-term answer. For the past few decades, human-based issues have been on the forefront of our news, politics and livelihood, with little effect on any of these. Some would argue that we have made progress, but to some, the progress has been too slow. We have made changes to air and water quality in the United States, but we are still far from making a significant difference.
Last year, Pope Francis stated that water is a human right, meaning every person on the planet should have access and fair use to clean water. It is a huge undertaking to make sure the seven-billion-plus people on the planet can get the same water quality no matter their economic or social status.
What this has done is make water a social issue, not a per-individual one. This change in perception allows more people to recognize current injustices in how we use water.
In a similar fashion, we as humanity must attack the issue of climate change in the same light. We have to change our perceptions of climate change away from just a change in the big factors like emissions and into smaller projects that are closer to home.
Last year hundreds of heads of state met at the Paris Climate Talks to determine the best course of action on how to deal with climate change. The delegates in attendance signed an agreement to reduce their emissions output by 2030 and reach a reduction in global temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. However, this accord does not have any binding enforcement, which means there isn’t an oversight committee which makes sure everyone completes the task. In addition, the agreement won’t be ratified if less than half of the world’s 55 largest emitters (USA included) sign the accord.
This lack of oversight for a long-term plan shows one of the biggest flaws in how we are trying to address this problem. Also, if not every country who is part of this meeting agrees to the plan, the entire movement could fall apart. This will make the push for stopping climate change unguided and non-committal.
A similar trait is evident in the U.S., where we are fractured between many different fronts. We have civil rights protests, demonstrations against economic inequality and shock news about how appalling some areas of the country live in. Most recently, the issues occurring in Flint, MI have enveloped all three of these fronts. To highlight, Flint decided to not continue purchasing fresh water from Detroit due to increasing charges to Flint residents.
Instead, the city set up a water treatment facility along the Flint River. The river had high levels of chlorine in it already, which many theorize is from the amount of road salt spread in the winter. While chlorine is not normally hazardous to humans or natural systems, it can pose a significant problem to human and environmental health when they interact with organic matter in the water. One of the most hazardous chemicals found in the river was THM, which formed when chlorine was added to the river water to treat it for drinking purposes. Long-term exposure to THM can cause cancer.
In order to combat these high levels, the water purification center added more chlorine to the purification process. The increased chlorine levels caused corrosion to the antiquated lead pipes used in the city, and poisoned the residents again.
Earlier this month, Michigan passed a bill which said sodomy is a felony. This has targeted gay relations, but also has clauses stating all forms of anal and oral sex are illegal as well.
While these two statements may seem unrelated, look back at what is occurring. The state of Michigan, which is one of many states that obviously does not agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling of making same-sex marriages legal, is concerning itself with inhibiting a community’s relationships in order to protest a law of the nation instead of trying to help people who are being poisoned, possibly fatally, by the water that they need to survive.
So how does attacking climate change make a better scenario? First, aggressively identifying areas under severe environmental stress would show what changes we needed to make to our infrastructure in order to make sure every person in the U.S. has a secure and safe option for drinking water. A single step in this direction can also identify other factors which both affect the environment and the climate as well as human health. By putting forth a national ideal, we strive to make every citizen’s livelihood better, no matter their social or economic status.