Letter to the Editor: The climate change clock is ticking

By Contributing Writer Jerry Blitefield.

To the Students of UMass Dartmouth: Check your pockets.

You are being robbed. Even as you read this.

On October 8, 2018, an international group of scientists known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report stating in no uncertain terms that if the planet, and humanity, are to escape the worst of climate change, we have to keep average global temperatures to within 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial age levels, and to do that we have to get ourselves off of fossil fuels by 2030.

More, we will have to take dramatic, decisive steps toward greenhouse gas mitigation, steps that will lower the atmospheric concentration of already accumulated greenhouse gases.

If we stop burning fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gases, the report says, we may be able to remain under a warming threshold that holds some promise for planetary stability and adaptability.

If we don’t, planetary systems will be thrown into chaos, and along with them, so too will world economies and social structures.

Granted, this won’t happen overnight. But it will happen. And a lot sooner than experts thought five or ten years ago.

There have been earlier IPCC reports, but the October report is different.
Previous reports issued warnings, serious warnings, but none ever before set a clock.
This one has: 2030. Eleven years, and ticking. After that, all future bets are off.

I’ve been teaching here since 2000 and I have never doubted my “mission”; to help students like you prepare for the future.

Now, I doubt that mission. You likely have never wondered about your “mission”; now you should. October 8, 2018, changed everything for us both.

Ask yourself this: Why am I pursuing a degree? Why have I taken out loans? Why do I work to support my studies? Why do I make sacrifices for the sake of my education?
Likely, the answer to all is, because what I do today will pay off in the future.

But what if that future you long assumed would be awaiting you and your degree has already begun to unravel?

What if the future, that secure and maybe even prosperous future you assumed all your life was awaiting you–that all your life you have been told was awaiting you–and that has motivated you thus far, what if the rest of that future commences in twelve, fifteen, twenty years to dissolve, dissolve and descend to who knows what level of uncertainty and instability?

What then will all that you are doing today, and all that you have done up until today, what will it all have been for?

What a colossal waste of time, energy, dedication, and money it will have been.
More, what a great con will have been played on you. What a great fraud will you have been suckered into.

Scientists first brought global warming and climate change to the attention of policymakers in the 1980s. Since then, industry and government, and their persistent inaction and often intentional misinformation, have been, slowly, bit by bit, stealing from you your future, the kind of future that would allow you to work a steady job, settle down, raise a family, marvel at your grandchildren.

Those “leaders” have dragged their feet, pushed back against science, lied outright, and the consequences of not easing away from catastrophic climate change has now slammed your chances into a corner and crammed any prospect of rescuing your future into a very few years.

That should scare the hell out of you.

It sure scares the hell out of me, and most of my future is behind me. More, it should piss you off. Mightily.

So what to do? Is it hopeless?

That depends.

If you–yes you who are reading this, because everything is at stake for you–if you do nothing it is hopeless.

Do nothing and you seal your own fate, the fate of your loved ones, the fate of your one-day family, the fate of your future. But do something and there is a chance.

What is that something? It comes down to one word: insurgency. A world-wide insurgency. An insurrection. An uprising of all college students. And it begins right here at UMass Dartmouth and it begins with you.

Revolt! Demand to know of those in power what they are doing to protect your future. Demand that those in power know you want your future protected. Demand that the decision makers, those who control the levers, heed the warning of the IPCC report and get the world off of fossil fuels, now!

Demand! Demand! Demand! Demand! Demand! Demand! Demand! Demand! Demand! Demand! Demand! Demand!
Will they hear you? Will they listen? Not if they can avoid you, not if you allow them to avoid you.
But I’m just one person, you say, What can I do? As one person, very little. But you have numbers on your side.

If you can inspire others–classmates, suite-mates, teammates, club-mates– around this campus, and then inspire other college students around the state, and still others around the country, and ultimately others around the world, you will become a force of many millions–207,000,000 according to the UN–a force too great for government and corporate future-stealers to ignore.

Some will try to dissuade you, tell you getting off fossil fuels in a decade is unrealistic, that the technology isn’t ready, that the economy will suffer. That it can’t be done.
Your response should be we will get it done because it has to get done. I want a future.
Like it or not, you – you –have two choices, and only two.

Choose passivity, and suffer the consequences; or choose to rise up, and rescue a stable world for yourself.

It’s time for you to raise hell, before hell razes you.

Tell them, shout to them, those in power, the lever-pushers: I WANT A FUTURE!
Raise your voices by the hundreds, by the thousands, by the millions and make them hear you: I WANT A FUTURE!

If you want a future, a future for your dreams, and not a living nightmare, you are going to have to fight for it. Plain and simple.

So what are you going to choose?

-Jerry Blitefield
English/Sustainability Studies


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