Last week, I was deeply moved by Piers Sellers’ article “Cancer and Climate Change” in the New York Times. At age 60, Sellers, a former astronaut, was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. Faced with decisions about how to spend his precious remaining time, he chose to return to his job doing climate research at NASA. He writes,
“As an astronaut I spacewalked 220 miles above the Earth. Floating alongside the International Space Station, I watched hurricanes cartwheel across oceans, the Amazon snake its way to the sea through a brilliant green carpet of forest, and gigantic nighttime thunderstorms flash and flare for hundreds of miles along the Equator. From this God’s-eye-view, I saw how fragile and infinitely precious the Earth is. I’m hopeful for its future.
And so, I’m going to work tomorrow.”
By multiple accounts, 2015 was the warmest year since record keeping began in the late 1800s, breaking last year’s record by the largest margin by which the annual global temperature record had ever been broken. The need for large-scale and rapid global mitigation was acknowledged by governments in the Paris Agreement in December 2015 (for details, see my blog post here).
Whether climate action follows the need and the intention will come down to the choices of individuals within their sphere of influence, and we don’t all see the challenges and the solutions in the same light. Some consider ambitious climate action would bind us, whereas for others it would set us free. I’ve written a short creative piece on this issue which I would like to share, called “Climate Change: No One Can Convince Me.”
Does this reinforce for you how far apart people can be on climate change, or how much people actually have in common? I suspect that most of us want the same things but we have different views on the best way to get them. For Sellers, supporting climate action is at the top of his bucket list as his legacy to future generations. What is at the top of yours? I would love to hear your perspectives.