By FRANCES LAMBERTS
Tolling of the peace bell at the United Nations headquarters on Friday last week put the world in countdown to the International Day of Peace, held tomorrow, September 21. With a UN resolution in 1981, the world leaders declared this day annually to be “devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideas of peace both within and across all nations and peoples.”
A generation later, the declaration would seem to need revision. Humanity’s hope for a safe and dignified future requires, with great urgency now, that we also make peace with nature.
We have been on notice for a long time regarding man-made factors that threaten a livable future world. Main among these is the loading of the earth’s atmosphere with greenhouse gases that “force” the physics of the climate system to change.
We have lately again witnessed the consequences when fossil-energy related impacts on the climate are ignored or denied. As suggested by a local physicist, “all hell breaks loose if carbon in the atmosphere goes beyond 400 parts per million.” The concentration of that stood at more than 407 ppm in July.
More intensely destructive storms and flooding (in the US south) are the result this year, crop-withering heat and drought (in the northwest), unsurpassed size and intensity of wildfires (in the west), and death of more than 1,500 people through flooding and landslides in Asia and Africa. They bear witness to the immensity of human and environmental costs when the physics facts revealed by climate science, and its predictions and warnings over the decades, are ignored.
They should remind us that the greenhouse climate problem can be corrected while the opportunity exists. Imagine the betterment for people if untold billions, now spent every year in damage repair were applied, instead, to education, nutrition and health, and preservation of a green and well-functioning natural environment!
In that they evoke empathy and rally people to extend help to others affected by climate disasters, they also reflect the International Peace Day motive. Its theme this year, of coming “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All” seeks to remind us of our common humanity.
By many thousands, people are forced to flee their homes, often in war or dire conflict situations causally linked to prolonged drought and loss of productive land, or other climate hazards. The Peace Day commemoration wishes to highlight human solidarity with all who must do so, whether they are evacuating temporarily, fleeing for their lives or leaving home in search of a better life.
In a 1963 address at George Washington University, President John F. Kennedy spoke of “peace … as the rational end of rational men.” In words highly applicable today, our most basic, common link being that “we all inhabit this small planet … breathe the same air (and) cherish our children’s future,” he urged that we approach peace making as “a way of solving problems.” We can succeed in peace efforts as in climate rescue, given that “Our problems are man-made (and) therefore can be solved by man.”