Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Sept. 29, or 30 or Oct. 1
But the stakes are higher now.
Fortunately, there is hope, although the pessimists range from the right-wing Koch Brothers to progressives such as author Naomi Klein.
On the upside, about 400,000 demonstrators last week marched through New York City, plus other world cities, demanding that government leaders take action to stop climate change, before a United Nations summit, followed a day later by Flood Wall Street, where protestors conducted sit-ins on the financial district.
The actions weren’t just the Usual Suspects either. Sure, there was former Vice President Al Gore and actor-activists Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio, but also marching were U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and U.S. labor unions, students and veterans, nuns and farmers and more – all recognizing that even on a planet facing crises such as Ebola, ISIS and the Ukraine, there is no threat as great as Earth’s climate change, tied to human activities.
Within days, President Obama and China’s Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli at that summit committed to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by the planet’s two biggest economies; more than 100 governments, companies and Non-Governmental Organizations publicly backed a move to limit deforestation, and Obama expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to some 490,000 square miles, the world’s biggest marine preserve.
Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman expressed some confidence, citing reports from the International Monetary Fund and the New Climate Economy Project that show that measures to reduce carbon emissions won’t have the dire impact on economies as feared. Further, such action could stimulate growth and result in related benefits such as lower health-care costs.
“Saving the planet would be cheap and maybe even come free,” wrote Krugman, who nevertheless conceded that “prophets of climate despair … wave away all this analysis and declare that the only way to limit carbon emissions is to bring an end to economic growth.”
Klein, in her new book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” asserts that massive transformation is needed.
“Either we embrace radical change, or radical changes will be violently visited upon us,” she writes. “Status quo is no longer an option.”
Indeed, the challenge is formidable. For all of the progress in the last few decades, carbon dioxide levels last year, worldwide, were up faster than any time in 30 years. And climate negotiations in Congress are stalled, thanks to what the League of Conservation Voters’ “2013 National Environmental Scorecard” sees as the most anti-environment House of Representatives ever.
However, the private sector is starting to step up. More than 700 investors, including the coal- and oil-rooted Rockefeller Foundation, last week pledged to divest their holdings from fossil-fuel companies. Even the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Sierra Club are cautiously optimistic.
A remaining hurdle is informing and educating the millions of everyday people who haven’t yet marched, and the media is missing their opportunity – and obligation.
The press watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) noted that despite marchers within blocks of news studios, “the highest-profile discussion shows in the corporate media – ABC's ‘This Week,’ NBC's ‘Meet the Press,’ ‘Fox News Sunday’ and ‘Face the Nation’ on CBS – either did not know it was happening or didn't think it was important.”
Only The Nation magazin’s Katrina vanden Heuvel on “The Week” mentioned it, referring to “real security challenges … a catastrophic climate crisis which the Pentagon has called a clear and emerging danger.”
Charles P. Pierce on esquire.com scolded the media for their absence, writing, “So they weren't there. So it didn't happen. But climate change did, and does, and will continue to happen.”
FAIR acknowledged other news, but its report asked, “If a day of massive international climate marches – right ahead of a major United Nations conference – is the wrong time to cover a global climate emergency, when will the right time be?
[PICTURED: Craig Ruttle's photo from Sept. 21's People's Climate March shows a bearded Leonardo DiCaprio, fellow actor Mark Ruffalo (right), and (left) Oren Lyons, an Onondaga Nation faithkeeper demonstrating, from kentucky.com]