Happy Earth Month | Call to Action
Happy Earth Month! It’s been 47 years since the first Earth Day events on April 22, 1970. Here at Corporate Sustainability Advisors, every day is Earth Day. We’re proud and honored to help companies and other organizations address their environmental impacts while growing thriving businesses and pursing their missions. Earth Month provides an opportunity for us to reflect on why we do what we do and how we can do better.
In many ways the imperative to understand and to act has never been greater. As we often do, we look back at the words of Rachel Carson for continued insight and inspiration. We see her attempts to sound the siren about the most pressing environmental issues of her day and see their truth and relevance to today’s challenges. A couple examples:
“The real wealth of the Nation lies in the resources of the earth soil, water, forests, minerals, and wildlife. To utilize them for present needs while insuring their preservation for future generations requires a delicately balanced and continuing program, based on the most extensive research. Their administration is not properly, and cannot be, a matter of politics.”
~ Letter to the editor, Washington Post (1953); quoted in Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson (1999) edited by Linda Lear, p. 99
“When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence of damaging results of pesticide applications, it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth. We urgently need an end to these false assurances, to the sugar coating of unpalatable facts. It is the public that is being asked to assume the risks that the insect controllers calculate.”
~ Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (1962), Chapter 2
Sound familiar? If Rachel were to have written those words in 2017, perhaps ‘pesticide applications’ and ‘insect controllers’ would be replaced with ‘fossil fuels’ and ‘fossil industry’.
We approach the one-year anniversary of the signing of the historic Paris Agreement (April 22, 2016) with escalating evidence of the economic, public health, and natural security risks from climatic changes. The Earth Day Network’s 2017 theme — environmental and climate literacy — seems particularly apt with so much anti-science charge in the atmosphere.
A couple more Rachel Carson quotes emphasize the importance of environmental literacy by the masses.
“The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road, and it can do so only when in full possession of the facts.” The ‘obligation to endure’ gives us, not only the ‘right to know’ as Rachel quoted Jean Rostand, but perhaps also an obligation to know.
~ Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (1962), Chapter 2 (with a slight paraphrase to the concluding sentence)
“This notion that ‘science’ is something that belongs in a separate compartment of its own, apart from everyday life, is one that I should like to challenge. We live in a scientific age; yet we assume that knowledge of science is the prerogative of only a small number of human beings, isolated and priest-like in their laboratories. This is not true. It cannot be true.”
~ Rachel Carson in an address upon receiving National Book Award at reception, Hotel Commodore, New York (27 Jan 1952). As cited in Linda Lear, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature (1997), 218–219
We encourage everyone — individuals, families, neighborhoods, businesses, and even government agencies — to read up on peer-reviewed climate science (or summaries if you don’t want to be in full-on geek mode).
For a very brief primer, here are ten undisputed facts with broad consensus in the scientific community and which many business leaders and government officials concur.
1. The greenhouse effect, caused by carbon dioxide and other gases, is a naturally-occurring phenomenon that creates conditions that make life on earth possible.
2. The earth’s temperature and climate have some naturally-occurring variances.
3. The earth has been warming beyond normal variances during the last century, with the greatest warming occurring since the 1970s.
4. There is widespread consensus (97%) among climate scientists that most of the current warming trend is very likely human caused and proceeding at an unprecedented rate.
5. The burning of fossil fuels, land use changes (e.g., deforestation), and other human activities has resulted in a significant rise in atmospheric and oceanic concentrations of greenhouse gases.
6. The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2016, it was 404+ ppm.
7. The changes from increased greenhouse gases are having impacts on earth including: global temperature rise, warming oceans, declining artic ice, glacial retreats, shrinking ice sheets, sea level rise, ocean acidification, decreased snow cover, and extreme weather events (e.g., droughts, intense rain, heat waves).
8. These impacts do not merely affect wildlife and natural resources; they threaten human livelihoods and lifestyles around the globe.
9. Humans can take action to reduce even more human-caused changes to the climate and to reduce our vulnerability to its impacts.
10. A rise by 3.6 degrees or more Fahrenheit (2+ degrees Celsius) from the planet’s pre-industrial temperature has been marked as a not-to-exceed threshold because humans have never existed on the planet this warm and disruptive impacts become much more likely and frequent.
[Reference sources: NASA https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/, NOAA http://www.noaa.gov/climate, EPA https://www.epa.gov/climatechange/climate-change-basic-information, Climate Central http://www.climatecentral.org/what-we-do/our-programs/climate-science, IPCC https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/AR5_SYR_FINAL_SPM.pdf, UN http://unfccc.int/files/essential_background/convention/application/pdf/english_paris_agreement.pdf, FSB https://www.fsb-tcfd.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/16_1221_TCFD_Report_Letter.pdf]
We also encourage everyone to reflect on the natural and human-created resources that we rely on each day. What ways can you find to conserve, reuse, recycle — or even regenerate — these resources to help sustain our way of life for the near-term tomorrows and for future generations? The small (or large) steps you take matter. Act locally or globally. Just act.
If you’re a business leader or an employee wanting to take action — Earth Day and Month present great opportunities to start or boost your organization’s go green program. Today is always the best day to be more sustainable.
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Originally published on Corporate Sustainability Advisors, LLC’s blog.