The fight to save the life that has existed for thousands of years on planet Earth from being destroyed by us is vital and ongoing. In the last week, there have been some wins, some losses, and examples of extreme lack of interest by political leaders.
In Germany, 40,000 students from Fridays for Future—the school strike movement in Germany —and Ende Gelände (End Of Story. Nothing To Add) came together to protest, and demand climate justice. In a powerful show of solidarity, activists from all over Europe came to support the village of Keyenberg, whose very existence is threatened. The coal company RWE is planning to wipe out the village and develop two new massive lignite coal mines; one of the most significant sources of CO2 in Europe. They must be stopped.
“This day is a reason to hope,” said EG spokeswoman Kathrin Henneberger. “Despite the unprecedented failure of the politicians faced with the climate crisis, thousands of people are today sending a clear signal for climate justice. Whether it is a demonstration, a school strike or a blockade, this movement is determined to put an end to the era of fossil fuels,” she added. The good news is the resistance. The bad news is the plan to open the mines.
In Mexico, a flagship refinery is planned by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. The $8 billion project is to be located in the Gulf Coast port of Dos Bocas, in Lopez Obrador’s home state of Tabasco, and was a campaign promise of the left-leaning energy nationalist. According to a report released last week by Pemex, the refinery would have a “severe” impact on air quality and emissions could spread to nearby towns. The document showed that, while most environmental impacts were deemed to be moderate, a “severe” impact was expected on air quality once operations started at the refinery, which is expected to process up to 340,000 barrels of heavy crude oil per day. The assessment said the estimated emissions of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide “do not exceed the limits” set out under Mexican law. But, how do those limits fit into our need to reduce, not increase, carbon emissions?
A crucial win for the environment occurred in Lamu, on the east coast of Africa. Lamu, like Puerto Vallarta, is a town by the sea in the tropics. Last week, it missed environmental obliteration by a whisker, when Kenya’s National Environment Tribunal (NET) canceled the license previously granted. First proposed in 2015, the local Lamu community has fought for years to stop the development of Kenya’s only coal-fired power plant. It’s been challenged fiercely by local residents, activists, scientists & lawyers not only for its climate implications but also because Lamu is a UNESCO heritage site preserved for its biodiversity and rich multicultural heritage. The NET’s decision is good news.
It is hard to imagine how we are going to save the planet without having our countries’ leaders acknowledge the problem of looming climate catastrophe, agree on the solutions, and then implement policies to protect us. Don’t bet on it! Last week saw twenty contenders from the United States’ Democratic Party debate each other on stage in the hope of becoming the challenger to Trump in the 2020 elections for president. In four hours of debate, the question of climate catastrophe was given about fifteen minutes of attention. Strange but true!
Meanwhile, in Japan, the G20 met for their annual discussion on the world’s biggest problems. Theoretically, these are leaders of the world’s twenty major economies Here is the wording of the joint communique after the conference: “Leaders warned of growing risks to the global economy but stopped short of denouncing protectionism, calling instead for a free, fair trade environment. There were no breakthrough decisions.” What? No mention of the climate crisis we are in?
Environmentalist Yvon Chouinard said, “When you have the opportunity and the ability to do good, and you do nothing, that’s evil. Evil doesn’t always have to be an overt act. It can be merely the absence of good. The cure is action.” The G20 leaders had the opportunity and the ability to do good, and they did nothing. They gave no thought to future generations. That’s evil!
In 2019, only oil lobbyists and most politicians persist in denying the influence of human activities on the Earth’s climate. Scientific evidence is piling up, and we know that we must change our ways. It’s time for our leaders to lead.