Taking a Stand on Global Warming

Community - Planet

By Sigrid Kulkowitz

Many of us have accepted for years that pollution of all sorts was a problem wreaking havoc on our internal and external environments. We have watched many things get worse. If you were like me, though I tried to be conscious, I also had blinders on to exactly how bad things had gotten. I preferred to maintain a certain comfort level, and to keep that feeling of being overwhelmed at bay.

Really, none of us can afford such luxury. We know that scientists overwhelmingly agree that human activity is dangerously warming the earth. Heat is being trapped in a layer of “greenhouse gases,” including carbon dioxide (CO2), which is released from fossil fuels we burn to drive our cars, heat our homes, run our factories, grow and transport our food, etc. We also know that global warming will increasingly impact our lives as well as those of many generations to come.

Sadly those affected hardest will be the poor. Serious consequences can already be seen in the form of floods, heat waves, more violent storms, fires and the rise of sea levels.

According to a recent study, the typical US household generates 55,000 pounds of CO2 annually, compared to only 27,000 pounds in Germany and 15,000 pounds in Sweden.

US citizens contribute 25% of global carbon emissions but represent only 5% of the world’s population. How can we face this situation and take responsibility for our big part in threatening the survival, not of the planet–it will most probably survive, but of the species that inhabit it, including us. We can no longer pretend that recycling and composting are going to be enough.

It’s a very challenging time. We have a president who has waited until just this week to finally say that we have to do something about global warming. The US has still failed to ratify the Kyoto treaty and has done more to pollute the planet and support big oil and big business than any government before. We have spent billions destroying lives in a war in the untold name of oil and profit. Meanwhile at home, Katrina victims, mostly poor, are left neglected and forgotten. It has been a time where many of us screamed “No War!” and were left unheard, and now we add “Stop Global Warming!” again to mostly deaf ears.

In light of all this, it’s easy to despair and lose hope that we have any real power to change things. But actually, when facing this together, with our communities, it becomes easier. Together we can give each other hope. Grassroots organizing has always been, and continues to be the way to regain and grow our personal and collective power. It acknowledges that we individually can impact the world and that together we can have a greater impact. When friends, neighbors, communities–you and I–come together, we create a wildfire of possibility, creativity and action. Together we can face real issues and support each other to “be the change we want to see” as Gandhi so eloquently put it. It’s about building a community of activists.

There are endless ways to be this change. The first step is to remove our blinders and take a good look at our fears as well as our best hopes for the future. We need to look at our own carbon contribution and what we can do to reduce it, while becoming part of the growing voice demanding our local and national governments take real and lasting action. The Climate Change Action Group of Central New York is a group of concerned citizens with a focus on creating opportunities for education and action around global warming issues and learning what can be done. Members of the group have varying degrees of knowledge–from scientists to people who know very little about the science–but know we must act. We educate each other. New people are always welcome. Member Dale Bryner said about people joining the group, “The only requirement is that you care.”

Among other things, the group has a speakers’ bureau, tables at related events, and has put An Inconvenient Truth and Who Killed the Electric Car? into many of the libraries in the Finger Lakes Library System. Get involved; on June 10 and June 13 the group is hosting a Global Warming Café (see sidebar). For more information contact Sigrid Kulkowitz at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 272.0407.