Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The People's Climate March: Effective Change, or Day of Reckoning?

People's Climate March, NYC (Photo from Twitter)

Historical Precedent

There was a time when science, the television media, government, and the public all came together to address environmental issues and make a positive change in the way we do things – but that time rests in the past as a dim memory. That time needs to be resurrected. I am thinking of that time when I was growing up in the 1960s. Environmental pollution was becoming a problem. I can remember public service ads on television warning of the effects of pollution and educating the public on things that we could do to avoid dying in a polluted land. I recall seeing on the nightly news well-known news reporters speaking from the hills somewhere outside Los Angeles California where trees were dying on the mountainsides as a result of heavy automobile pollution. “Smog” was a new word that entered into our vocabulary to describe conditions in the city in which fog combined with air pollution to create health hazards for city dwellers.

As a result of the science of the day, the media attention, and a concerned public, legislation was passed in Washington, D.C. that resulted in the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Regulations came into place that restricted the pollutants being emitted by industry. We saw in a relatively short time a reduction in pollution that allowed trees to begin to grow again outside of Los Angeles. The air and water became cleaner, reducing health risks to people in urban areas. The nation was confronted with a problem, and we came together to make some positive improvements.

The Current State of Affairs

Fast forward to present day, and we see a confounding social circumstance in which many are not believing the best science of the day,  elected government officials are paralyzed and ineffectual having become pawns of big corporations and servants to Wall Street. The television media has become a balkanized industry catering to the whims of advertisers and public consumers and demonstrating no investment in or commitment to the common good. This was particularly evident last Sunday when hundreds of thousands gathered in New York City to demonstrate their concern about climate change. The huge event received very little television coverage (see “Sunday News Shows Ignore Historic Climate March”).

By some estimates, there were 300,000 people participating in the People’s Climate March. The streets were filled with protesters calling attention to our failures to address the significant negative impact we are having upon the environment. It was a huge event, but barely even noticed – much less heeded – by the television media. Compare this to past events in our recent history. In 1964, approximately 250,000 people participated in the march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to hear Martin Luther King's “I Have A Dream” speech. On April 15, 1967, 300,000 marched in New York in the "Spring Mobilization" to protest the Viet Nam War. These events rocked the nation with television coverage on the nightly news.

The silence on TV regarding the People's Climate March last Sunday was perhaps indicative that TV is now controlled by a few corporations which don't want to be bothered with real news, especially news that calls for effective change. When corporations are calling the shots, and when those corporations are where significant change must happen if we are to reduce environmental damage, you can be sure that those corporations will stand in the way of any changes or legislative action. Some say we have already passed the tipping point and that the reversal of the effects of climate change is no longer possible. There is still time, however, to make some progress toward sustainability, yet few in power want to hear or do anything that would challenge the status quo.  

Time of Reckoning

We can pay now, or we can pay later. There was a time when we paid attention to the science that warned us of the destruction we were causing to the environment. There was also a time when legislation could effectively regulate industries to reduce environmental degradation. Moreover, there was a time when the people’s voice could eventually be heard. Today we see how corporations are  controlling both the government and the media more and more. The corporation changes the way we address matters of injustice, health, and safety. When government was effective, changes could be made through legislation. That is how we historically made improvements in the workplace, in the environment, and in civil rights. Without effective government, however, we do not know how to stand up to the ever-growing corporation. Unfortunately, our best hope now may be in catastrophe. It may take a true catastrophe to convince us that change is necessary.

For anyone wanting more information about climate change, here is an article addressing some of the top issues and questions: Eight Pseudoscientific ClimateClaims Debunked by Real Scientists


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