Our House is on Fire
I must admit that I don’t do enough myself to recycle, or work towards saving the planet. The guilt sets in when I see someone like Greta Thunberg, a 16 year-old Swedish environmental activist, who is taking the world by storm and virtually single-handedly raising global awareness of the risks posed by climate change holding politicians (such as our own “illustrious” U.S. president) to account for their lack of action. Chills went up my spine when I heard her declare “Our house is on fire.” You got that right, Greta, it is.
Have you heard her speak? She is formidable in her impact. This is clearly an old soul in a very young body who is moving mountains across the globe with her simple, but powerful message. Her impact is already being termed the “Greta Thunberg Effect.” She began her campaign at the “ripe old” age of 8, then a few years later went through a rough time when she was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and found herself with eating disorders. She now sees her autism as her “superpower.” You go girl!
In France, there was the Paris Accord, an agreement among the United Nations (196 state parties) that deals with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance that was signed in 2016 determined to keep the “increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, since this would substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change.” (Source: Wikipedia.org)
The UN Climate Action Summit is taking place as I write this, in the presence of 60 world leaders. During the summit, French president Emmanuel Macron is expected to present himself as the “champion of the earth.” Donald Trump will not be there, and is being criticized by the Catalan publication El Periodico as “Trump turns his back on the climate crisis.” You might recall he withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Accord, too. Yes, as an American, I am not only embarrassed, but horrified. A 16 year-old is showing a whole lot more maturity.
A French government website, in English, has the following basic message about what they are striving to achieve:
1. The Paris Accord cannot be reversed. (Not even you can stop it, Donald!)
2. Reduce pollution-making vehicles and improving air quality (Yesterday was a car-free day in Paris!)
3. Reduce energy usage
4. Working toward carbon-free electricity (Greta Thunberg won’t fly in order to reduce the “carbon footprint.”)
5. Making France a leader is what they call a “Green Economy.” This is not about “greenbacks,” but is about financing projects devoted to improving our environment
6. Harness agriculture to curtail emissions and deal with extreme weather events to better withstand the climate change
7. Stop importing products that contribute to deforestation
8. And a host of others
About 10 days ago, Time Magazine published an article about “How Paris is Actually Walking the Climate-Change Walk,” written by Paris’ mayor Anne Hidalgo. Her commitment to climate change is evident all over the city. Ask any driver what it’s like to maneuver the city streets with so much construction taking place to accomplish her goals: “That is why we are adapting our city to give more space to pedestrians and bicycles. For instance, the Seine’s banks—urban highways in the heart of Paris—have been converted into promenades. On Sundays, entire neighborhoods turn into pedestrian zones. And 620 miles of bike lanes will be completed by the end of this year. Wherever possible, in streets, squares and playgrounds, we are removing asphalt to give space back to nature. Soon, the Eiffel Tower will sit in the middle of a large park. With tree-planting programs, real urban forests will act as the lungs for neighborhoods across the city.”
At home, we can reduce our use of energy. We already do a lot of that here in France, by using hall lights that you press when needed that stay on only long enough to see you safely into your door. We dry our clothing more on racks and less in dryers. Europeans appliances are more energy efficient and continue to offer this as an option. We double-pane our windows and find all sorts of ways of consumeing less heat and electricity. Air conditioning is a luxury, not a given. But, France is still up there compared to other nations, even if not as much of a glutton as the U.S. or Canada.
The U.S. and Canada use about 20 times more electricity that what Nigerians use and two to three times what a European home uses (and six times the global average). France uses about 6,400 kWh compared to the U.S.’s 11,700 kWh annually and the U.K.’s 4,600 kWh. There are reasons for this, which include larger than necessary U.S. home sizes, general U.S. wealth, appliances that care more about convenience than energy, heating and cooling methods and their excessive use, etc…but that’s only an explanation, not an excuse. (Source: shrinkthatfootprint.com/)
First and foremost, we can vote. We need to elect world leaders willing to make our planet cleaner and safer for ourselves and our children. (You know who I mean.)
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
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