Opinion: Love, Justice And Climate Change. Things Worth Remembering From 2021

Eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Photo: Russ Vernon-Jones

Russ Vernon-Jones

If you are reading this, you are one of the people who has survived another challenging year. Congratulations! Thank you for your continued caring about climate change and climate justice.

What a year it has been! The coronavirus pandemic is hard on all of us and seems endless. Our democracy in the United States is in peril. The climate crisis continues to worsen–some good actions have been taken, but they are still woefully in adequate.

President Biden has been far bolder on climate than anyone would have guessed when he first announced that he would run for President, but he’s also failed to take essential climate action steps that are within his power.

There’s been plenty of bad climate news this year and some good news too. I’m going to trust that you have some picture of how dire the situation is and not trouble you with reviewing the bad news in this post. Here are three bits of good news that are helping me stay hopeful–and committed to climate action in the coming year.

  • In May a court ordered Shell Oil, one of the 5 largest oil companies in the world, to cut emissions of its products 45% by 2030. In August Shell agreed to pay $111 million to an indigenous community in Nigeria for an oil spill it caused in 1970. Just last week Shell announce it was abandoning plans to drill in Cambo, an oilfield just off the coast of Scotland. Climate movement activists played key roles in all of these developments.
  • The climate justice movement continues to grow and develop. During COP26 last month 100,000 people marched in the streets of Glasgow with Vanessa Nakate, a young Black climate activist from Uganda, one of the lead speakers.
  • Just this month New York City, the largest city in the U.S., voted to ban methane gas (so-called “natural gas”) in new buildings less than 7 stories high by 2023 and in taller buildings by 2027–requiring that heating and cooking both be electrified.

Looking back over the 23 blog posts that I’ve written this year, I think many of them are still relevant and worth re-reading. It’s hard for me to choose among them, but 5 in particular contain information and perspectives that I hope will inform your thinking (and mine) throughout the coming year.

  • Problems with “Net-Zero” by 2050
    Why a 2050 goal without a 2030 goal is dangerous; and a serious international equity issue
  • What’s a “Fair Share” and Who Should Pay It?
    What the U.S. owes developing nations and where to get the money
  • The Only Path to Climate Success
    Many suggestions for climate action you can take … and the only path that can succeed
  • Fossil Fuel Racism
    Public health, the climate crisis, and systemic racism all require phasing out fossil fuel production and use, promptly.
  • Nurturing Hope
    What does it mean to be hopeful in these times? Vaclav Havel says, “Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart … an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.”

I wish each of you a healthy new year–in which you find ways to join with other people to advocate for bold climate action and genuine climate justice.

Russ Vernon-Jones was principal of Fort River School 1990-2008 and is currently a member of the Amherst Community Safety Working Group and of the Steering Committee of Climate Action Now-Western Massachusetts. He blogs regularly on climate justice at www.russvernonjones.org.

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