Warming Is A
Human Rights Issue
By Mary Shaw
13 July, 2007
people believe that global warming is a hoax. Or they think it's just
a petty matter for tree-hugging radicals to fret about. Or they think
it's a partisan issue, raised only by the extreme left wing.
All of these assumptions
are wrong. And, as long as those in power continue to deny the threat
posed by global warming, the future will remain frighteningly grim for
our planet and for our future generations.
The scientific truth is that
if action isn't taken immediately worldwide to reduce carbon emissions,
the consequences could be catastrophic. This isn't just about polar
bears and glaciers. It's about humanity. It's about the right to protection
from the deliberate and careless destruction of people's homelands,
property, and livelihoods. It's about the right to observe one's native
culture. It's about the basic human right to physical integrity. All
of these things are on the line for millions of people if this problem
isn't stopped now.
In other words, global warming
a human rights issue.
Global warming is redrawing
the world map, in some cases destroying farm lands or even whole islands.
Global warming is spreading
disease to new populations as insects migrate northward. Some people
are dying as a result.
Global warming is forcing
some island dwellers to migrate to other lands, leaving behind (and
leaving drowned) their native lands and native cultures.
Global warming has sparked
a new refugee crisis.
And global warming is a threat
to food security for millions of people worldwide.
This is not just about some
nameless dark-skinned people in faraway countries, although that shouldn't
matter. Closer to home, global warming could significantly reduce production
of several key food crops grown in North America, such as corn, wheat,
and potatoes. This will not only affect world hunger but the lives of
American farmers as well.
Furthermore, melting ice
caps could raise the sea level enough to submerge parts of Manhattan
and many other major population centers. Note that the world's financial
center is in lower Manhattan, which is a likely flood area. Think of
the implications of that, and then tell me if you still don't care.
Much of the world is moving
forward to address the issue. However, the U.S. -- with about five percent
of the world's population -- remains the world's chief polluter, generating
25 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions. And the Bush administration
continues to stonewall, lest new emissions regulations should inconvenience
his corporate cronies.
George W. Bush talks about
human rights, but talk is cheap. Just as Abu Ghraib belies Bush's rhetoric,
Bush's inaction on the climate change issue further underscores his
lack of concern for the wellbeing of this planet and its inhabitants.
We need to work around the
We need to urge Congress
to put aside partisan politics and work together to enact legislation
that will increase fuel economy standards and establish a realistic
national renewable energy standard.
And we need to take matters
into our own hands. We need to re-examine our priorities. We need to
drive less. We need to choose more fuel-efficient vehicles. We need
to conserve energy in our homes and in our workplaces. Every little
bit helps. But it will take a serious effort by each and every one of
us to make a real difference.
And we must.
This is literally a matter
of life and death.
is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist. She is a former Philadelphia
Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty
International, and her views on politics, human rights, and social justice
issues have appeared in numerous online forums and in newspapers and
magazines worldwide. E-mail: email@example.com
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