Speaking Truth To Power: GLOBAL WARMING AND US by William Reed Columnist

Hot air abounds across the world.  When Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez spoke at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen he heated up the proceedings suggesting President Obama is “a devil”.  He told Barack and his European counterparts “Go to Hell Gringos”.

If Obama has been declared among “the White Devils”, it raises a question for Black Americans to ponder: “What image do the world’s non-white societies have of us?”  Chavez’s comments will cause many American Blacks to recoil; but resonated among Brown and Black conference delegates and accentuated collective rants against leaders of rich countries.  The rancor in Copenhagen was between large non-white blocs and a clique of rich and White leaders of what to do about global warming.

The average temperature of the Earth’s surface is increasing and industrial societies are demonstrably, responsible for most of the warming and depleting natural resources.  The main activities contributing to global warming are burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) and the clearing of lands.  The overwhelming amount of burning that occurs in automobiles, factories, and electric power plants happens in the so-called 1st World Countries.  Development and consumption patterns among these societies date back to the Industrial Revolution.  The 1st World’s disruptive legacy is obvious in degradation that is not only environmental, but social and economic as well.

Chavez was hardly alone with searing rhetoric against the actions of Western societies.  In Copenhagen the President of Brazil Luiz Lula da Silva charged industrialized countries with historical responsibility for climate change.  He too, was up-in-arms about methods of controlling global warming, saying such actions are “fundamental” to saving the Earth.  Lula is president of the largest country in South America; and hardly one to be ignored as is Chavez among Western leaders.  Lula recently accused “blue-eyed bankers” for the global economic recession; in Copenhagen he said: “It is beyond doubt that both the benefits of economic development as well as the costs of environmental degradation have been unevenly distributed both among and within countries.  While some profited, and continue to, from the irrational exploitation of natural resources and unsustainable levels of consumption, the vast majority of the world’s population has little to show for it…We must deal with this matter in a timely manner if we are to avert environmental disasters and reverse the gap between rich and poor”.

Through no fault of their own, the poor, non-white people of the world are clearly ecological victims of 1st World Countries’ sins.  The Industrial Revolution of the 18th to the 19th century marked a major turning point in human history; from which almost every aspect of daily life was eventually influenced in some way.  Production pollution activity since the Industrial Revolution has increased the atmosphere’s greenhouse gases.

Americans produce more than our share of “hot air”.  Five percent of the world’s population, we consume 25 percent of the planet’s resources.  Blacks take pride in their “American lifestyles” and are full partners in this nation’s orgy of consumption.  Is there any reason people in Africa, Brazil, and elsewhere shouldn’t paint African Americans with the same demonic brush they do traditional imperialists?  Black, and White, Americans believe that global warming is real, but most view it merely a moderate and distant risk.  Americans want to sustain their levels of consumption and care less if it’s at the expense of the lives and living of most of the people in the world.  Half the world survives on less than $2.50 a day, yet Americans enable inequalities of resource use.

At Copenhagen, poor countries filled the air with allegations of rich countries’ “climate colonialism” and patterns of emitting twice as much carbon per head than they do.  Americans have a devil-may-care attitude about footprints we are making pushing consumption close to exceeding the planet’s natural resources.  Current consumption patterns put the planet in peril.  In 2005, the average biologically productive area per person worldwide was approximately 2.1 global hectares (gha) per capita. The U.S. footprint per capita was 9.4 gha; Switzerland was 5.0 gha per person and China 2.1.

 (William Reed – www.BlackPressInternational.com)

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William Reed



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