Around the globe: Spot light on Climate Change and Mercury pollution

On 21st January 2013, the world joined Americans in witnessing history being made as they inaugurated their 44th President, President Obama, on Martin Luther King Jr. day. In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. – may his soul rest in peace – I wish to congratulate all Americans for showing the world once more that irrespective of our backgrounds we are all humans and should relate with each other as such.

President Obama’s inauguration was significant to historians and environmentalists alike. By and large, it was of great significance to humanity. The President used the elevated platform of the Presidency to articulate what makes tackling Climate Change a matter of priority and urgency. He said, “We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition. We must lead it.”
If you ask me I will tell you that President Obama is one of the best gifts America has ever offered to the world. By bringing back the issue of Climate Change to the forefront, he has taken us one step forward in finding a solution to what others have termed the greatest threat to humanity since HIV/AIDS. I belong to the school of thought that holds that the first and most important step in solving any problem is recognizing that it exists in the first place. In 2007 UNEP’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fourth assessment report concluded that there’s a more than 90 per cent probability that human activities over the past 250 years warmed the planet. By any standards this was a significant pronouncement because IPCC is an organization composed of world’s most prominent Climate Scientist. What that essentially means is that Science is now clear on the probable role of man in causing Climate Change. What remains is now how to move forward. In other words the role of man in adaptation to Climate Change, there is also the aspect of mitigation.

The 21st Century is for most of humanity a period of developing adaptation strategies that will ensure Homo sapiens are not extinct like other members of the genus Homo. Humanity should be alive to the fact that they are the only surviving members of the genus Homo, meaning their extinction is a possibility. The demise of H. habilis, H. erectus and H. floresiensis etc. ought to be a lesson to us when we tackle Climate Change. It is not only about individual interest, it is about humanity’s interest. We owe it to humanity to make ourselves more resilient and adaptable so that we can continue to be part of this marvelous planet, Earth. But to achieve this we have to change our ways. Bill McKibben in his book ‘Eaarth’ argues that we have fundamentally altered Earth’s functionality to an extent that we are no longer inhabiting Earth but ‘Eaarth.’ To him and those who share his thoughts we need to adapt to living on ‘Eaarth’ because we may never return to Earth. Well I don’t know about that, but what I know is that we have the opportunity to seize the moment and do things right. Doing things right entails reigning in on excessive consumption, quitting the addictive habit of worshiping the almighty dollar (obsession with economic growth) and tackling global poverty and inequality. This may not have instant results but I believe in the long run its cumulative effect will be substantial. It is a matter of species survival.

Elsewhere around the globe, in the past week, over 140 governments met at a United Nations forum in Geneva agreed to a global, legally binding treaty to address mercury, a heavy metal with significant health and environmental effects. “After complex and often all-night sessions here in Geneva, nations have today laid the foundations for a global response to a pollutant whose notoriety has been recognized for well over a century,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “Everyone in the world stands to benefit from the decisions taken this week in Geneva, in particular the workers and families of small-scale gold miners, the peoples of the Arctic and this generation of mothers and babies and the generations to come. I look forward to swift ratification of the Minamata Convention so that it comes into force as soon as possible,” he added.
Closer home, the Environmental Studies program at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs hosted two sessions focused around the issue of Climate Change. Dr. Dabelko who doubles as the director of the Environmental Studies program says the periodical sessions are part of a new strategy that the program has adopted to keep students and members of Ohio University community abreast with current affairs in the environmental field. Personally, I think this is a great step in the right direction on the part of the program and Voinovich School.
Until next week, stay eco-conscious!

President Obama on Climate Change:

Mercury story:


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