Letter: Necessary Climate Change Action

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To the Editor:

I recently watched a Ted Talk by Greta Thunberg about climate change and the necessity to act immediately in order to reverse the damage being done to the Earth. She believes that if people truly understood the effect human actions had on our climate, then society would not be talking about anything else.

We already have the tools and solutions necessary to solve this crisis, but they are not being implemented by our leaders and politicians. At only 11 years old, Greta spoke to the world and left her mark on the climate crisis.

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NASA’s climate change website reports that nineteen of the warmest years in history have occurred since the year 2000 with natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes becoming more common in these years due to increasingly volatile weather patterns attributable to climate change.

This concerning statistic empathetically endorses Greta’s argument that we must act now. How can we as a society keep ignoring this catastrophic issue?

The ClimateClock that is on display in New York City shows that there are only 6 years and 297 days left to erase the way the human race has impacted the climate. With this looming threat of man-made self-destruction, why is very little action being taken? How can we meditate on this crisis and implement real change? Greta Thunberg believes we can no longer play by the rules and instead, we must change the rules.

In The Waste Land, it is clear that T.S. Eliot believes that society is moving away from devotion to the environment and towards a devotion to industrialism. Society is progressing in a direction he does not approve of, evidenced when he states, “What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow/ Out of this stony rubbish?”.

It is clear that Eliot uses a negative connotation to discuss the progression of society toward an unclean Earth, and he continues to say, “And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,/ and the dry stone no sound of water”. Eliot understands the effect that humankind has on the Earth and life on Earth. He repeats “Unreal City/ Under the brown fog…” and even states, “The river sweats/ Oil and tar”. Eliot takes a firm stance in opposition of disregard for the natural state of the Earth, although The Waste Land was written in 1922. If Eliot recognized the dangers of polluting the Earth in 1922, how have we still failed to work towards reversing it now?

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NASA reports that the tendency of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to trap heat was first demonstrated in the mid-nineteenth century. Eliot lived in a time when this potential for climate change was being discovered, and he opposed the furtherance of society in this direction. Although Eliot does not directly address climate change itself, his stance on the environment leads me to believe that he would oppose global warming.

Without a doubt Eliot recognized the degradation of the environment that was occurring during his lifetime, evident through the word choice and negative connotations found in the above-mentioned quotes, which is why I believe he would take a stand against the climate crisis.

The Global Climate Strike that occurred in 2020 was devoted to drawing more attention to this crisis, in order to get legislation implemented that can reverse some of the damage that has been done.

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Hundreds of thousands of people around the world marched to support this cause. We often see statistics such as “the planet’s average surface temperature has risen 2.12 degrees Fahrenheit since the late nineteenth century” (NASA). What do these statistics really mean? How can we interpret them? These statistics remind us that as a society, our combined actions are contributing to this crisis.

People continue to ignore the issue at hand as if it is inevitable, as if there is nothing that can be done to stop it. This blissful ignorance allows people to forget the role their actions may play in this crisis and avoid the guilt associated with their omission of action. However, it is not just on a single person to solve this problem.

Although every person can do more to reduce their carbon footprint, it is not personal. It is the result of the actions of all of society.

We must work to bridge the gap between climate scientists and the rest of society, in order to truly make a change. If it takes much longer for people to recognize the severity of this crisis, it will be too late. There is no time to spare. We must act now. The figurative and literal clock is ticking.

Gracie Cleaver
Verona resident
Mount Saint Dominic ’19
Providence College ’23

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