This past month, United States Republican Senator James Inhofe brought a snowball into the chamber floor, where he proceeded to throw it across the room as evidence that climate change does not exist. He suggested that, since it was cold enough for there to be snow just outside the chamber hall during the month of March , then everything was just as it should be; thus ‘refuting’ the possibility that man has any role to play in the Earth’s warming.
This, of course, would be just another hilarious display by the most environmentally backwards political party in the Western world if it weren’t for one terrifying reason; Senator James Inhofe is the head chairman of the senate environmental committee.
Make no mistake, you are reading this correctly; the man whom the American people have invested their collective faith into has just used an argument as fallacious as ‘I am not starving, therefore no one on Earth is starving’ in order to conclude that climate change is not real.
I am ashamed. Moreover, I am overwhelmed with sheer frustration — not aimed at Senator Inhofe or any one politician, but rather the slippery nature of climate change itself. Humanity has never faced an issue of this magnitude, one with such dire consequences. That being said, the problem at hand could not be more elusive — it lurks shapelessly in the corners of our minds, easily pushed away like some sort of bad dream. And while politicians like Senator Inhofe travel far in the wrong direction, they are just the toxic waste product of a more serious issue: a large portion of the population is simply complacent in confronting climate change.
Unfortunately, this sentiment is completely understandable, and even though it pains me to say, somewhat relatable. We all have personal problems that have a higher degree of lucidity with tangible solutions. For example, why should a student at the University of Edinburgh care about the effects of climate destabilisation in Southeast Asia when the weather in Scotland remains a comparatively constant dribble? Even if such a student did care, it not clear to what degree he is supposed to pledge his own resources to confront the problem. Is he, for example, morally obligated to buy vegetarian products because the agricultural methods used to cultivate it are less carbon intensive than meat? Perhaps an argument can be made in defence of this position, though it would have to be capable of responding to the objection that he is not acting immorally if he can only afford food that is conventionally cultivated — that is, if this argument is to be at all convincing.
Certainly there will never be a universally accepted normative theory that will perfectly guide us through these kinds of environmental scenarios, delineating exactly what we ought to do when faced with the difficult question of how much of ourselves we should put into reducing our carbon footprints. However, our intuition tells us that we are required to do something and though we may never know the precise nature of that ‘something’, I would like to make a suggestion now:
Everyone comes from a place, and every place has an environmental dilemma it must confront. In a weekly segment called ‘A Name and a Place’, we want to associate a fellow student with a particular place, bringing these issues into the student consciousness. The most challenging problem of climate change is making individuals realise that the effects are not confined to disappearing polar bears or environmental disasters in far away lands; climate change is a wolf, and it is approaching the door. So, I implore you to take an environmental issue – be it climate change or pollution – and a place – be it Edinburgh or Ohio – and consider how the two collide. Moreover, write it down, and submit it to The Student. If we can engage our readers with articles that speak about real environmental problems that have impacted familiar faces rather than fields of snow in nameless tundras, then we stand a chance of engaging people with the problem in the first place.
Perhaps directly opposed to everything this new segment hopes to accomplish is Senator Inhofe. In his book length defense of climate denial, The Greatest Hoax – How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, Inhofe uses biblical arguments to conclude that, even if climate change were a pressing issue, only God could deliver us from its wrath. As the clock approaches midnight, I ask you to reject his call for complacency, take matters into your own hands, and realise that God cannot save us now.