Opinion | Earth needs your attention now, not in one billion years

By Anita Bengert, Staff Columnist

In a desperate call for the world’s attention, several activists chained themselves to the J.P. Morgan Chase bank in downtown Los Angeles on April 6. Across 25 countries, about 1,000 brave scientists joined them and risked being arrested in order to bring awareness to damaging effects of fossil fuels on the environment.

If a group of adults handcuffing themselves to a building seems unnecessary or ridiculous, it’s even more ridiculous that Chase Bank spent $51.3 billion on financing fossil fuels in 2020. Chase Bank is a well-known investor in fossil fuels, spending over $317 billion on funding between 2016-20.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said if governments and corporations don’t cut human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide by at least 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, the consequences to the climate will become irreversible. Climate change will force between 32 and 132 million people into extreme poverty, and there will be severe negative impacts on food security, mental health, the mortality rate and more.

The problem may seem “far away” or “not yours to worry about,” but in the next decade alone, the climate may not look the same. These companies and governments need to listen to the scientific community and save our Earth.

Scientists have tried evidence-based approaches to implement policy changes, but hardly anybody is acting according to it. They are warning us of reality — land will soon become inhabitable as beautiful cities submerge in water due to rising sea levels and floods. This, on top of wildfires, extreme weather patterns and the extinction of millions of species, will cause mass famine and awful living conditions.

The unnatural is already happening — 2020 was the second hottest year for our planet. That is why researchers are urgently requesting politicians and corporate leaders to put an end to coal-fired power and fossil fuel subsidies and instead put renewable energy into motion — quickly and broadly.

There’s still time to fix this, but we have to start now. In the middle of Oakland the other day, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw an electric public bus for the very first time. Cities can reduce global emissions by 40-70% within just a few years by improving more accessible systems of walking, cycling and electric transportation. Pittsburgh City Council passed a ban on single-use plastic bags at businesses within the City starting in 2023, paving the way to a greener future.

America’s top 15 food and beverage companies generate nearly 630 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses every year. We have the modern technology and science to live more sustainably. However, the conflict is that the people with money and power who can actually make some real changes, like executives at Chase Bank, are busy profiting off of not doing anything at all. 

The international race to restore our climate has commenced. China, the United States and India are on the losing end of it. They hold the title as the world’s largest polluters.

Governments have to stop following “wherever the money goes” and start caring about the general population. Individuals must voice their concerns to elected officials and demand their clean air, clean water and healthy foods — before it’s too late.

Currently, governments and large corporations are continuing business as usual while fully aware of the consequences fossil fuels emissions have on our environment. The quality of your life and your family’s lives depend on what we do now. Higher-ups must listen to the public’s concern — this is affecting us now, not in a billion years.

Anita Bengert writes primarily about her perspective of 21st century America, the influence of social media and the humor behind societal flaws. Write to her at [email protected].