As we close out the year, academics and environmental experts share with us what gives them hope and causes them despair. From water wastefulness to factory farming to political fights and attitudes about climate change, there is much about the way that we treat our Earth and its resources to despair over. However, as these professors and industry experts remind us, there are also many reasons to have hope. The Paris climate agreement, unprecedented for the agreement among almost 200 countries to seriously address carbon emissions and climate change, is an important first step in the right direction. A move away from rampant consumerism; an emphasis on grassroots, local climate action; and such developments as the Clean Power Plan and the growing clean energy sectors are also positive signs in meeting our climate challenge.
2015 has been a year filled with climate triumphs, and we are excited to bring this momentum into 2016. Thank you to our leaders, partners, and supporters for joining us on the Path to Positive and moving forward towards climate solutions.
The two words “climate” and “change” are so routinely strung together that just saying them as a pair—“climate change”—seems to somehow obscure the full weight of the phenomenon they describe, to say nothing of its consequences. But in those moments when one pauses to consider the ramifications of human activity on the planet for generations and generations ahead, things can feel beyond bleak. And yet: This past year saw the nations of the world reached their first-ever agreement on an ambitious plan to rein in emissions, perhaps the most significant progress yet made on this issue.
We reached out to some of the leading scholars of climate change, conservation, and ecology, and asked them what, as the Earth begins yet another trip around the sun, is giving them cause for hope and despair. Below are their answers, lightly edited for length and clarity.
Robert Glennon, professor of law and public policy at the University of Arizona
Reason for despair: I despair that we don’t consider water to be scarce or valuable. A century of lax water laws and regulations has spoiled most Americans. We turn on the tap and out comes as much water as we want for less than we pay for cable television or cellphone service. When most Americans think of water, they think of it as similar to air—as infinite and inexhaustible. In reality, it’s both finite and exhaustible.