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April 23, 2014

In Our Opinion: Start saving the Earth today

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The Daily Star

---- — “An issue of global willpower, not capacity,” is how U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described the climate change crisis facing the globe. 

Kerry was writing about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s mitigation report, which he called “a wake-up call about global economic opportunity.” 

The report drew some attention for painting a dire picture of the future that we face as climate change continues to strain our resources and emphasizing how little is being done to prevent disaster. British newspaper The Guardian called it “scary”; National Public Radio asked, “Is the latest climate report too much of a downer?”

There are those out there who would still deny the reality of climate change, even in the face of mounting evidence that it is real, present and dangerous. But the logic of this position is puzzling. Even those who choose to deny climate change can’t argue with the harm that air and water pollution can cause to humans and other animals. And much of the push to combat climate change focuses on devising technologies that are more efficient and produce less waste — a worthwhile goal, climate notwithstanding. 

It’s worth noting that the U.N. report offered, not just criticism, but solutions — 1,200 of them, in fact, from small acts such as planting trees to massive undertakings such as creating more carbon capture and storage facilities. 

The truth is, when it comes to doing things to benefit the environment, there are no “small acts.” As easy as it can be to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems we face as a civilization, it can be just as easy to begin taking steps in a more-positive direction. 

Some of these not-so-small acts are on display locally this week. From cleaning up trash to promoting sustainable practices, local groups and organizations from Cornell Cooperative Extension to the State University College at Oneonta are highlighting the vast variety of things that can be done to help the planet. 

Deanna Caracciolo, coordinator of SUNY Oneonta’s Green Dragon Week, said having presentations and activities open to the public helps students see that they don’t have to travel long distances to see sustainability in action. Events continue through the weekend; a full schedule can be found at www.oneonta.edu/sustainability/news.asp.

We can easily encourage people to take individual steps, such as reducing their electricity usage, to help the planet. But the U.N. report makes it clear that actions on a broader level are needed, as well. We must encourage our leaders to take the urgency of this report to heart. It is not too late — but it is none too soon, either.