Fifty years ago, the youth organized environmental rallies & marches on college campuses across the country. Students held up ‘POLLUTION’ & ‘The World Stinks’ posters as they walked with their fellow world-changers. News anchors echoed warnings from scientist J Murray Mitchell that if over-pollution wasn’t checked a greenhouse effect could form in 200 years, melting the polar ice caps. That’s how long they thought we had then.
We now know that we had much less time, that the children and grandchildren of that first protesting generation would be the ones to not only feel the effects of this far-off greenhouse effect, but would have to actively try to stop it. Resistance & business-as-usual have been obstacles to this effort of changing the energy paradigm. But as we have seen, first slowly but gaining gradual momentum, the change in energy infrastructure is growing into a larger force than the previous model.
In our local sphere, state governments have determined to set a course for the path of the future, deciding to leave the pollution of the past behind. Most recently, the Governor of Virginia has signed legislation to commit the state to 100% clean energy by the year 2050. It’s the first southern state to do so and won’t be the last, but the question still remains on how long it will take the rest.
Virginia joins its neighboring Maryland & DC in looking towards green infrastructure opportunities much of the rest of the developed world is also embracing. And although reports abound that the COVID-19 crisis has caused job loss of over 100,000 renewable workers (a horrific and devastating loss) the answer is, and must be, that this is only temporary. Re-entry into the world after this ‘Great Pause’ will not lead us down the same path we had been on. It will shift us towards the path we need to follow, green infrastructure being a core component.
In Iceland, a plaque was unveiled in August 2019. It was erected where the glacier Okjokull once stood. It reads:
“Ok (Okjokull) is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.
415 ppm CO2”
Like the youth of 50 years ago, we recognize the problem but what we should learn from the past is that we almost certainly do not have 200 years. So here’s to tackling this problem after the ‘Great Pause’ with a new vigor, deploying green infrastructure and putting America back to work as we do it.