This ubiquitous question keeps popping up all over the place; are the rich and superrich responsible for climate change? It's become fashionable of course to blame them for everything. With their unlimited wealth to buy anything they wish, and with their jets and luxury yachts to travel whenever and wherever they wish, it seems only logical that they leave a heavier carbon footprint than those of us with less lavish lifestyles, patiently waiting for our once-a-year summer vacations.
But blindly scapegoating the rich for all our woes seems a little too convenient and hasty, and would suggest that we need to look deeper into their lives and behaviors before casting absolute judgement. To be sure, there's been a great deal of chatter lately about celebrities using their private jets and helicopters to hop around the Los Angeles area, just to avoid the traffic and congestion on the freeways. And who hasn't wised that we could do the same thing from time to time? But a while back Kylie Jenner was labeled a Full Time Climate Criminal on BuzzFeed!
As climate disasters become more intense and more frequent, threatening the very existence of life on this planet, we find ourselves asking how did we let this happen, how did we get into this mess in the first place? Which is when all the finger pointing and blame games start swinging into high gear.
What we think of as progress can frequently have unforeseen and undesirable consequences. As exciting as the invention of the automobile may have been back in 1908, when Henry Ford first built the Model-T he likely didn't consider the environmental damage of needing to drill for oil as a source of fuel. He probably couldn't have conceived of 145,000 gasoline stations spread across the country, or 48,750 miles of the Interstate Highway system. Nor could he have imagined the massive traffic jams or the 6 million injuries a year resulting in an estimated 46,000 deaths annually from car crashes.
Likewise the Wright Brothers could not have envisioned what Flight Aware estimates as 9,000 planes at any given moment circling the globe, polluting both the lower and upper atmospheres! When Covid-19 shut down air travel for a few days, the air began to clear up immediately. People living in India saw Mount Everest in Nepal to the north for the first time in their lives. In the United States the Milky Way became brighter and more visible than it had in decades.
Plenty of people rightfully want to blame the climate change deniers in the United States congress for preventing attempts to limit the use of fossil fuels. While I would never attempt to defend the indefensible, I would however point out that the problem is global, not just a United States issue. And while it's true that the Republican platform of free markets and limited restrictions can be at odds with Mother Nature, it's hard to imagine that they would want their children and grandchildren growing up on a polluted and increasingly unlivable planet any more than the rest of us.
So where does that leave us? While the 1% decidedly leave a heavier carbon footprint, the rest of us 99% are not blameless. We love our automobiles and the ability to come and go as we please, and we love to jet off to Europe and exotic destinations around the globe for our summer vacations.
Progress, which usually relies on science, got us into this mess to begin with, and we must hope and pray and rely upon science to get us out. The development of alternative sources of energy and electric cars is a good start. While the prospects for Green Hydrogen didn't work out so well, lately there has been considerable chatter and excitement about White Hydrogen being the solution for a non-polluting and plentiful source of fuel for the entire world, which we can pray will come true!
The 27th Conference of the Parties To The United Nations Framework Convention On Climate Change (referred to as COP27) has come and gone, and they will keep working in the future. Already there are rumors that John Kerry, the US Presidential Envoy to the conference, has met with his Chinese counter part Xie Zenhua on a few points of agreement between the two largest polluting superpowers before the COP28 conference coming up at the end of the year.
Following his father's life-long concern about the environment, Prince William admirably set up the EarthShot Prize in 2014 for what the BBC describes as "Innovative solutions to the world's greatest environmental challenges".
And private non-government groups are pitching in as well. For example there was a recent backlash in the United Kingdom about the environmental damage from Beyonce's extravagant world concert tour. It required 6 air freighters and 70 trucks to haul in all the equipment she needed to set up the stage, not leaving out arriving herself in her own private jet.
As a result more that one-hundred-thousand actors in the UK are backing a proposal for a "Green Rider"- an environmentally friendly clause to be written into their contracts between themselves the performers and the film and TV production companies to make shows smaller and greener.
This is how we get it done. One step at a time, with all of us taking responsibility to stop this dreadful cycle of freezing cold winters, droughts, rising sea levels and coastal flooding, not to mention deadly temperatures in the summers and massive fires all across the globe. As simplistic as this essay may sound, the urgency is real! Recently New York City got a whole month's worth of rain in one day!. Seeing the subways being flooded and cars floating down the avenues in Manhattan was profoundly disturbing!
The bottom line: we're all in this together - rich and poor, Republicans and Democrats, and it's up to all of us to do something about it. One step at a time, before time runs out.
As always, thank you for reading,