A Spring Silence
I've been quiet this week, unable to write a word since just after I had learned that we, the U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement. Signed in 2015 and ratified by President Obama last year, the Agreement was designed to commit countries to begin taking steps to reduce emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.
The news initally shocked me, and I found myself unable to make sense of the thoughts and feelings I've had since then. When the leader of my country makes a decision that is the perverse reverse of what seems to be a responsible and progressive trajectory towards forward-thinking progress for the future of our planet, I found myself asking "what are we to do?" with this news?
When all has been said and done, such backward steps in action have left many of us in awe and disgust, and silence. But silence is something I know well. As a very shy kid growing up, I was often in silence. The things people said and did, the noise of the world was deafening, and it seemed nothing I could say would be heard or mattered.
I suppose that's how a lot of us felt this week, especially those of us who are scientists, environmentalists, and researchers at the front lines of the war against climate change; and those of us who care about Nature, and the very real effects of our changing climate. Across the internet, some of us struggled to come up with some sort of response. We were left with a few standard lines - the only thing we could think of: that we are shocked, devastated, or disappointed; that we will hold our loved ones closer at night, or that we will pledge to work even harder on our ends doing the little things at the grass roots level we hope will make a difference somehow. We pledge to keep tending to our gardens, planting more trees, and doing more to keep our carbon footprints in check; and all the while, we can't help but wonder "will it be enough?" Will any of the little things we do at the ground level make a difference? I can't help but wonder still as I break my silence with these words.
Who can know for sure what the long term effects will be; but one thing that has been somewhat comforting is that Hawaii became the first of our states to enact legal legislation to align the entire state's environmental standards to those of the Paris Climate Agreement. Furthermore, many of our nation's biggest companies and organizations will continue forging ahead with their voluntary Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives to help improve our environment from their corners of the world, without the government tell them to do so, as I and many of us will continue to do.
It has taken me a few days to come out of the fog enshrouded around my head after my initial disappointments; but as we all must do when we get knocked down, which is to shake off the dust and get back up to throw ourselves back into the efforts we feel will somehow make a difference some day. If it doesn't, well, then at least we know we tried, and the effort itself will have been worth it.
In the meantime, I leave you with excerpts of Rachel Carson's original work, Silent Spring, first published by the late marine biologist in 1962, shocking the world with her detailed expose of the dangers of commonly used pesticides which are still rampant in the air today. The New Yorker ran the story again as it did 55 years ago, just the other day - the day the White House announced the big news. I guess it felt we needed a little reminder.