Reflections from the Chair. June 2021
I am writing this time on Memorial Day, always a day of somber reflection for me. For those in the Chapter who are Facebook friends, you may have seen a very old photo that I posted today. It was taken 50 years ago, at which time I was serving in the Marine Corps. I was stationed at Quantico, VA, where I served as a court reporter for courts martial. How I ended up as a court reporter rather than carrying a machine gun in Vietnam, which is how my orders out of boot camp read, is something I still cannot fully explain. But the fact is that I never left the States. Some of the men from my boot camp platoon were not so fortunate, and today is a day to remember them and the sacrifice they made.
Now I think of myself as doing what I can to serve in a very different way called being a climate activist. There the bad news continues to be as grim as ever: Bloomberg Green’s running daily ticker on CO2 sits at 417.141 parts per million. The hurricane forecast for the year is very scary, especially given that I have a daughter working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston: and the wildfire forecast for the West suggests another record breaking year. And yes, I have a daughter living in California as well. You all know a lot about the bad news!
At the same time, we have just had really good news in the past week on several fronts: A Dutch court ordered Shell to cut emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels. On the same day, 61% of Chevron shareholders voted, over the objections by management, to demand that the company cut so-called Scope 3 emissions, which includes those generated by customers burning its products. Also on the same day, Exxon announced that their shareholders had elected two candidates to the company’s board who had pledged to push the company for climate action. All of this followed the announcement just a few days earlier that the International Energy Agency, historically thought of as leaning somewhat conservative, called in its annual report for a complete end to new development of fossil fuels.
There are other good things happening too that don’t make the same kind of headlines. For example, according to one source I came across this morning, since 2010 over 8.1 million square miles of land and ocean have been added to the world total set aside in national parks and conservation areas. This is an area greater than the landmass of Russia, and a 42% increase in just the last decade!
This good news brings me back to sacrifice. Clearly there is a movement for change on the scale of the problem growing in the world. What role are you playing? How much of a sacrifice are you making or are you willing to make? Some of you have heard me say more than once that as a retired clinical psychologist (and perhaps also as a Marine Corps veteran), I do not have a particularly positive view of people in general. I think we are a very crazy and often very dangerous animal species. In particular, I worry a lot that privileged Americans are very proficient at public posturing about climate action - “virtue signaling” it gets called sometimes - but far less willing to tackle the fundamental causes of the crisis and the injustice it is so linked with. Fleeting moments of sympathy don’t add up to the hard work of demanding enduring political change.
This month, Climate Reality will be moving forward with the Our Climate Moment campaign, focused on federal legislation. You will all be called on to take action. Based on what I have seen so far in the reports on our Acts of Leadership in May, we have a steady core of people who have been calling and emailing their state representatives regarding legislation at the state level. It is, however, far from being a majority of our members! Now we turn to a focus on federal level activism. Those calls for action will be coming regularly. Some will include requests to seek out meetings with your US Congressional Representative. Political activism is something lots of people say they feel uncomfortable with. They say that in a state like Texas it does no good. It takes more time and homework than they want to sacrifice. I hope that as we move into June, more and more of you in the chapter, and the trained Climate Leaders in particular, will step up to the challenge of moving out of your usual comfort zone and beyond your cynicism about politics. When the call for action comes, I hope you will answer!
Roger Knudson, Ph. D. Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, Miami University Chapter Chair, Climate Reality Project Dallas Fort Worth Chapter (859)866-3962 Pronouns: He/Him/His