This past week has been a huge week in American environmental awareness and policy! As I’m sure all of us know, our natural world is in trouble. With problems like global climate change, ocean acidification, fish stocks depleting, and deforestation upon us, to name a few, we must do something. Apparently there are at least 400,000 other Americans who agree with me that we must act to fix these (although I suspect there are many more). The People’s Climate March in New York City this past Sunday marked the beginning of a highly eventful week. Not only were there 400,000 people flocking into New York City to march there, 161 additional countries held events in solidarity. The citizens of our world spoke up and demanded that our world’s leaders take action. Discussions at the UN Climate Summit happened on Tuesday of this week and during it many incredible commitments to a more sustainable future were agreed upon. Mayors from 2000 cities all over the globe made a compact to cut carbon emissions in their home cities. In addition, 19 ministers from Africa supported the Africa Clean Energy Corridor (ACEC) which is an initiative to speed up renewable energy projects in Eastern and Southern Africa. Currently, African demand for electricity is expected to double in the next 25 years, so providing them with clean, renewable energy is of great importance. These are only a few of the many agreements made at the UN Climate Summit. If you want to learn more about the summit or about any of the individual initiatives, please visit the websites listed at the bottom of the page.
Not only are our global leaders acknowledging the importance of reducing carbon emissions, but there has also been a movement urging Universities and Organizations to divest from fossil fuels. The intent is to dramatically reduce funding to oil companies by selling stocks and devaluing them. So far Universities all over the country have heard outcries from their students urging them to divest as well as 29 cities and countless foundations and religious institutions. Personally, the most iconic and impressive divestment was the $50 billion of the Rockefeller Foundation portfolio from fossil fuels. Not only is that a large sum of money, but also the fact that the heirs to a large oil tycoon feel the need to divest gives me shining hope that others who have made their money from fossil fuels will follow suit. A similar divestment movement happened during South African apartheid which raised awareness surrounding the tragic events happening there. A similar, some say even larger cry for change is happening here.
If all of this wasn’t exciting enough, this past Thursday, the Obama administration announced the creation of the world’s largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) occupying 490,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean. Overfishing, although it warrants significant public attention, doesn’t always receive the hype that it deserves when overshadowed by Global Climate Change—an equally important anthropogenically caused phenomenon. Our global fish stocks have been plummeting over the last two hundred years as population and total global seafood consumption continue to rise. Unsustainable fishing practice and avoidance of fishing laws are all too commonplace as our oceans remain the largest grounds for the “Tragedy of the Commons” to play out. MPAs are areas of the ocean in which human activity has been restricted to some degree. The MPA expanded by the Obama administration is a Marine National Monument which bans commercial fishing in this region yet allows for scientific research and some recreational activities to take place. With proper regulation of this MPA, we hope to see an increase in fish abundance within the MPA as well as a spillover of fish outside of the MPA where commercial fishing is allowed. Preservation of an area of this size is unprecedented and will hopefully create a positive change to these areas and allow them to rebound in activity and ecological function without large human impacts.
(MAGGIE SMITH, NG STAFF. SOURCES: U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE; USGS; MARINE CONSERVATION INSTITUTE).
This has been a breathtaking week in global environmental news. The power of the climate march and of expressing our environmental concerns has truly spurred the beginnings of what appear to be long term change. The global environment is something that we are effecting every day and it is our responsibility to aim to effect it positively. We are far from resolving all of the environmental problems that face us, but I am relieved to know that there are millions of people out there who are aware that we need to be acting now! The state of our environment can be a depressing topic of conversation, but this week we are moving in a positive direction at a large scale.
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