I had to make an unexpected trip to Germany, where my family lives. As I am writing this article on a German keyboard, I am trying to adjust to the fact that the y and the z are in different places here, because their importance in the German language is reversed. Also, I am typing this at 4 a.m. because my body still refuses to adjust to the 10-hour time difference and does not want to sleep when it is night here. There are other differences of perspectives here as well. The following thoughts are just some impressions of and conclusions to different local perspectives of global issues.
Almost everyone I talk to asks me about the upcoming presidential change and how people in the U.S. are reacting to the fact that the president-elect is the candidate who actually took the minority of individual votes. German voters shake their heads about the injustice of a voting system where one voter has more influence on the outcome than another person in a different state. Most people don’t stop at that when voicing their personal views; German is a very direct language and people here are politically opinionated and informed. I was surprised that several Germans were even in the know about the infamous snowball in the Senate that was supposed to convince the president that there was no global warming.
One major concern here is how the U.S. will affect climate talks and compacts in the upcoming years and whether the multinational agreements will be honored by the new administration. Knowing that on my return home next week I am scheduled to begin a series of climate change lessons, I decided to spend the early morning hours researching German internet sites to see how the topic is presented to the public here.
I found some very interesting and informative sites, like the German Climate Consortium. However, I also found that they often refer to NOAA as the leading agency collecting and evaluating the worldwide data. This brings up an interesting discussion: There appears to be a general consensus around the world that climate change is indeed happening and that it has been either caused or accellerated by an increase in greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere due to carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.
However, in our country scientists are ridiculed and called out as liars when presenting their findings. If politicians really are serious about wanting to lead the world into the next phase of economic growth, how can we turn our backs on the world-class science coming from our own government ranks? Yet, I am afraid that is exactly how politics may deal with the problem — simply stop talking about it, stop funding the research, and stop cooperating with countries who don’t follow suit.
However, I am always the optimist: Truth will out. Whether we name the culprit or not, the severe storms will continue, the droughts and fires, the flooding, the surface temperature warming of the North Pacific, the ice melt in the Arctic and the troubles in the fisheries. Citizens, local politicians and scientists will continue to do their jobs and put their minds to work on how we can collectively ensure that our children and grandchildren have a world in which they don’t just survive, but have the ability to live, grow and marvel at the diversity and amazing nature that surround us.
A change in perspective is not a bad thing. Let us start the New Year thinking about what steps each of us can make to move in the right direction, rather than give up in the light of the challenges we face.