Impeachment piffle…

The day  Congress decided to begin an impeachment inquiry into President  Donald Trump,  cable  news network MSNBC ran a  documentary  on  world-wide protests  by  millions of young people.  It featured the real life impacts of  climate change  almost everywhere in the world –  from  Paris where a  prolonged heatwave   had killed dozens,  to  Kabul, where determined  women marched (with  men guarding them),  and most pitifully, in little Guatemala.

There, the network’s reporter told viewers that  people were dying from starvation because high temperatures and lack of water had killed off  coffee crops and  local crops,  like  watermelons.  So logically, the  same US administration which placed migrant children in cages,  decided it would cut aid funding  to Guatemala.

And just as logically Guatemalans joined other central Americans in their  exodus north  to the United States.

The  documentary  ran in  the midst of  dramatic  news of the official impeachment. But compared with climate change which is not just killing people, but perhaps the Earth, it  suddenly seemed like piffle.  Presidents come and go but as the protesters reminded, us there is no Planet B, not for them, not for us.

Political leaders  might  be asleep at the helm but  the world’s climate change  protesters  knew exactly what was  happening to the planet and they  wanted more urgent action.  Right here in  New Zealand  we saw  mass protests by youth throughout the country.

For them the message remains –  the world is on the edge of  another extinction.. (Earth has  had five mass extinctions in its history according to   the website Population Matters.org –   the fifth was when the dinosaurs were wiped out).  The website estimated  that species are becoming extinct 100 times faster than they would without human impacts, and went on to say:

  • Populations of wild animals have more than halved since 1970, while the human population has doubled.
  • Only five times before in our planet’s history have so many species and so much biodiversity been lost so quickly. That is why scientists and conservationists call what is happening now the ‘sixth mass extinction’. Some have even described the loss of biodiversity today as ‘biological annihilation’.
  • Because of industry, agriculture and fossil fuel use, carbon dioxide in the air is at its highest level for millions of years. At the same time, disruption of other chemical cycles is turning seas and rivers into dead zones.
  • Climate change is already affecting the world around us. Global warming is causing glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise, species to go extinct and severe weather events such as floods, droughts, and hurricanes to increase.

According to the website, 200 years ago, there were less than a billion people on Earth. ‘Today, there are 7.6bn and our population is still growing’.

Other  reports  now indicate that the signs and impacts of of global warming are speeding up. Data compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), says the five-year period from 2014 to 2019 is the warmest on record.

But there is still time  and  large  scale action is being taken though it’s hardly headline material probably because this solution seems so obvious:  It involves tree-planting.

A recent study suggested that planting trees is “the best climate change solution available today”, although not everyone agrees with that specific claim.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) director-general, Qu Dongyu, says the initial plan is to increase the amount of green space in 90 cities in 30 African and Asian countries – a total of up to 500,000 hectares of new urban forests. It claims the benefits of its plan could include a reduction in air temperature of up to eight degrees Celsius, and an improvement in air quality by filtering out dust and pollutants.

And so, a  ‘Great Green Wall of Trees’’ is being built across central Africa.

Fifteen percent of its planned length of 7,775 kilometres  has already been completed with 11.5 million trees planted in Senegal alone.

Adding to this welcome  greenery, Pakistan hit its target of planting a billion trees to combat the effects of climate change in  August 2017 – way ahead of schedule.  India is following by planting 66 million and in Myanmar, there are  now drones planting trees.

The drone flies over the area where it wants to plant trees, picks the best location to plant and then fires a pod filled with seeds into the ground. According to Worldview Impact – an organisation involved in the drone planting – two people working with 10 drones can theoretically plant an impressive 400,000 trees a day.

Earth can be saved  says the IPCC report:

‘The formula is well worn at this stage – deep, rapid cuts in carbon emissions in line with our  report last year that required 45% reductions by 2030.

‘Some of the scientists involved in the report believe that public pressure on politicians is a crucial part of increasing ambition’.

“…the demonstrations of young people last week are the best chance for us,” said Dr Jean-Pierre Gattuso, a co-ordinating lead author of the report.

“They are dynamic, they are active.  I am hopeful they will continue their actions and they will make society change.”

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.