By FRANCES LAMBERTS
Marshall Saunders’ life has been hope-inspiring for millions of people.
Some years after this Texas native retired from the U.S. Navy, he turned to helping people get out of poverty. He successfully set up and directed a micro-credit loan bank, having observed and studied this system in Bangladesh with its original founder and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Muhammad Yunus.
Then, noting the effects of rising seas, heat and drought periods, storms and floods becoming ever more devastating, he teemed up with Mr. Gore’s Climate Reality Project to help bring the climate crisis under control.
He realized that the weather disasters it causes would wipe out any small gains in their life circumstances for countless numbers of people, in Bangladesh as in our own country and everywhere else.
Then came another insight, thus described by Saunders: “After I had given just a few talks about the climate, I realized that the actions I was suggesting to my listeners to take, while essential, were not a match for the problem.
“I realized that anything they intended to do would be swamped by what the government did or did not do. I realized that ordinary people like me would have to organize, educate ourselves, give up our hopelessness and powerlessness, and gain the skills to be effective with our government.”
While, in his talks, he was suggesting ways for common people to reduce their use of climate-damaging carbon, Congress, dominated by fossil-fuel special interests, had extended a law that gave $18 billion in subsidies to oil and coal companies.
In October a decade ago, Saunders founded the Citizens’ Climate Lobby organization, with the goal of U.S. citizens communicating to members of Congress their observations and concerns about the climate.
The organization now has some 300 chapters in the US and Canada, including a northeast Tennessee chapter locally; it also has groups operating in Australia, Europe, Central America, Asia and Africa.
Last month, while catastrophic flooding again hit millions in Bangladesh and neighboring countries, Hurricane Harvey was drowning Texas and Louisiana areas and cities in the US. Historic-level, “500-year” rains have flooded those areas four times in the last three years and the economic toll of weather disasters nationally, with losses exceeding $1 billion each, has been higher than $81 billion since 2015.
Its final death toll not yet known, Hurricane Harvey is reported to have destroyed over 40,000 houses.
Its total economic impacts could exceed the combined cost of the previous years’ worst weather events, reflecting a likely future of ever greater and more frequent emergencies.
Regarding these, the director of the organization founded by Saunders asks: “How many years will we dump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere with impunity?
Because as long as we’re doing that, we’re signing up for more events like Harvey – and worse.”
Citizens’ Climate Lobby is encouraging passage of legislation through the Congress that would shift the market away from the greenhouse gases.
This would be in the form of a national carbon pricing bill whose revenue would be returned equally to American households.