Monday, December 15, 2014

Student voices - continued

While in Lima, I received messages via social media from several people – some former students, some relatives, and some strangers from as far away as Uganda – who applauded my “taking on the world”.  I am not so sure that I am taking on the world, but simply trying to do my small part in education, advocacy, and awareness building about what I believe to be one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. One of the most important things I can do (I think) with students is to nurture an awareness of (and perhaps  even a love for) the natural world.  Fostering such a connection makes it easier to show people how that natural world is being altered by our choices and actions, and, in some cases, by our inaction.  From there, we ponder options and actions.  And sometimes, the responses of the students make me take notice.

In the previous post, I included an essay response to a question on the final from a student in my Introduction to Environmental Studies course.  This time, I include a response from another student (again with permission) to a different question.  Colton Krial is a senior majoring in political science.  He wrote this before we had the outcome from COP20.  
The question:

What is the UNFCCC and what is its purpose?  Based on what you have learned in class, from my blog posts, and/or from other investigations that you have made, do you think that we can achieve a fair, multilateral, and legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a timeframe that can prevent runaway climate change?

Colton's response:

             The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is a UN policy initiative aimed at halting the excessive greenhouse gasses being poured into the atmosphere. They work to negotiate settlements like carbon emissions limits, while remaining sensitive to issues like economic growth.
            I personally do not see much hope in turning back the tide of climate change through legislation or multilateral agreements, although I do not dismiss their value in helping to bring about the consciousness necessary to do so. The world seems entirely beholden to the logic of neoliberalism: deregulation of markets, liberalization of trade, and privatization of government services. In this political economic context, predicated on the importance of profit as the driver of the world economy, it is hard to imagine a radical shift in the world development model that is meaningfully sensitive to environmental concerns.
            Additionally, there is evidence that world powers such as the United States are not negotiating in good faith when working out development goals in relation to climate change. Documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the U.S., in order to strengthen their position in negotiations, used the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on the 2009 climate meetings in Copenhagen that, unsurprisingly, failed to end positively. (Poitras, Information)
            Perhaps the biggest problems occur when confronting the role of the nations of the Global South. After years of exploitation via colonialism and imperialism, these nations are for the most part emulating American development, and in many parts of the world the goal is to have the comforts of the United States (although this is by no means a universal attitude). It seems ethically unjustifiable to continue to hold these nations down for the sake on the environment after our exploitative development model seems to have caused these issues in the first place. Similarly, it seems ethically unjustifiable to allow these nations to overwhelm the climate with their newfound consumption habits. Personally, it seems that the only ethically justifiable action is to curb our own consumption habits and find an egalitarian balance.


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