The Future is at Stake

Now is the time to mobilize and save the world

We only have one planet and this is it — a beautiful world which we share with countless other species.

Today marks a sad day not only for mankind, but for our planet at large. As a result of US President Donald Trump and his decision to abandon the Paris Agreement, our future is a little less certain. The sobering realization that we are now moving backwards from the progress made on climate change is compounded by the impact this unbelievably foolish and likely devastating course of action will have on the entire planet. It will not discriminate among species. It will not bypass human beings as the most intelligent living species on planet earth. It will, without any shred of doubt, have widespread and far-reaching implications for generations to come.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Our ancestors appeared on this planet about 6 million years ago, and the modern form of humans evolved approximately 200,000 years ago. The civilization that we have come to know quite well is roughly 6,000 years old, which is astonishing given that Earth is over 4.5 billion years old. Thus, the lineage of human beings occupies but a speck of the planet’s existence. In the past two centuries, our species has given birth to the industrial revolution and a technological age that would have been unfathomable to our ancestors. In the areas of medicine, science, and technology, humans have made immeasurable progress relative to the thousands of years that preceded them. And yet, these advances have come at a price. Virtually nothing in life is without trade-offs, and this is an important lesson considering that we continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in this world. We need to understand that all of our actions have consequences, some of which are nearly if not entirely irreparable. One area where this is widely applicable is with respect to the environment, our big blue planet, and climate change.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, held in Paris from 30 November to 12 December 2015

In 2015, mankind achieved a remarkable feat. 195 countries (out of the 197 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change members) came together with a common realization. It was this truth — inconvenient, as shown by Al Gore — that bound them together, unifying different cultures and ideologies into one fabric known as the Paris Agreement. These 195 countries, representing the entire world, agreed to curb greenhouse gas emissions in a concerted effort to minimize the impact our industrial production has on global warming. Stipulated under the agreement was an objective to cap the increase in global average temperature to at most 2 degrees centigrade, along with an effort to keep the increase below 1.5 degrees. It is important to note that this agreement is not legally binding and that countries may voluntarily determine their own targets, but it is a monumental step in the right direction. At the time, it was further underscored by the fact that the world’s largest greenhouse gas producers — China and the US — came together in agreement to minimize the adverse impacts that mankind has impose on our Earth’s climate and the natural environment.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

All of that changed on June 1, 2017. Today will mark a seismic shift not only in the dynamic behind the Paris Agreement, but also in the broader geopolitical landscape. The Paris Agreement does need the United States, as the world’s largest economy, to play a pivot role in shaping the discourse on climate change and to lead the way. The United States had a golden opportunity to lead by example in an area that touches every single person (and species) living on this planet. And now, as a result of the narrow-mindedness of a few, the world’s most powerful country has stepped away from the international arena in a profound way, leaving behind a void full of uncertainty, countless lingering questions, and doubts about the welfare of generations to come.

Looking forward, as one must during times of hardship and turmoil, we realize that inaction is not an option. While a political decision has been made, it does not represent the voices of billions around the world who see climate change as a grave threat to our livelihood and ultimate survival. Therefore we must now act with more conviction, vigor, and purpose than ever before. We must engage in the political discourse as citizens of the free world, utilizing the democratic process to its full potential. As individuals, we must act in ways that are consistent with environmental protection and preservation. This can be in a wide variety of capacities — as consumers, as business leaders, as activists, as academics, and as role models. Most importantly, we must never forget that the world’s future is not just shaped on the global stage by politicians who ratify treaties and sign agreements. It is shaped by each and every one of us, without exception, throughout our lives. Every action we take has consequences and if we act with an outlook on the future, taking into consideration both present and future generations, we can and will make the world a better place. It is our responsibility and there has never been a more urgent time to do so than now.