Buening: Rally Behind These Green Initiatives


Sydney Stam

(Graphic by Sydney Stam | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sarah Buening, Assistant Opinion Editor


In February 2021, the United Nations released a climate action report, officially declaring a “red alert” for our planet. The report stated that nations are “nowhere close” to the level of action needed to fight global warming.

Then, this August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report warning against the rapidly approaching 1.5-degree warming threshold. These reports precede the upcoming Glasgow Climate Change Conference (COP26) that will take place this November in the United Kingdom.

Time after time, global climate panels remind us that the climate crisis is no joke. And yet, we remain “nowhere close.” I found myself mulling over this depressing reality as I drove along I-15 a few days ago. Because of ongoing wildfires and disastrous air quality, I couldn’t see the outline of the mountains through the smog. The time for change is right now — and it’s so long overdue.

But change will not happen unless we see massive-scale involvement in the green movement. We have the tools to battle climate change, including modern technology and up-to-date climate science at our fingertips. However, misinformation and extreme politics have distracted us from properly acting upon that knowledge. Luckily, various platforms have taken the initiative to combat inaction.

Legislation such as the proposed Civilian Climate Corps and the development of platforms like Good Empire and Betterment deserve our support — and the support of our representatives. Backing these initiatives would help us reach the IPCC’s goals of “strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.”

The Civilian Climate Corps

In 1933, the Roosevelt administration established the Civilian Conservation Corps, among other New Deal programs, to support those struggling through the Great Depression. The corps benefited the environment and the economy, pulling about three million men from unemployment, planting roughly three billion trees and fortifying recreational spaces.

However, the corps only lasted nine years. The government never turned the corps into a permanent organization, and a lack of investment and structure led to its ultimate discontinuation.

The corps never reached its full potential. Now, however, the Biden administration has introduced a bill for a modern-day Civilian Climate Corps. The new CCC aims to “conserve and restore public lands and waters, bolster community resilience, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protect biodiversity, improve access to recreation and address the changing climate.”

Its proposal accounts for some failures of the past CCC and recommends a $10 billion investment in the organization. By employing civilians as corps members, millions could work to tackle the climate crisis in exchange for benefits like stipends, training, education or even volunteer experience. It would spur economic prosperity and, if made permanent, provide future sustainable development. Based on our continued failure to address climate change properly, we need to see this sort of large-scale initiative from our government.

Unlike the previous CCC, the new initiative will tackle issues of intersectionality, addressing inequalities in environmental impact and income and racial barriers. We cannot address environmental realities without exploring their ties to infrastructure inequalities, racial discrimination and corporate corruption. However, the modernization of new apps and platforms can help hold society accountable for these failures.

Modern, Sustainable Platforms

Along with passing better legislation like the CCC, we need to prioritize sustainability within every facet of operation. Betterment, an investment and savings platform, encourages sustainable investment by recommending investment in companies aligned with important causes.

When users focus on their climate impact, the app suggests companies with funding for green projects, lower carbon emissions and divestments from fossil-fuel reserves. They have also developed a Socially Responsible Investing portfolio, which reduces consumer exposure to companies that negatively impact society and the environment.

We need this kind of consumer information. To avoid passing more dangerous climate thresholds, we need to make social and environmental responsibility a top consideration for every organization, even for an investment app. Betterment seems to have gotten the memo. If other organizations mirrored Betterment’s values, we would get that much closer to fulfilling IPCC climate goals.

Complying with IPCC standards also requires an even larger social revolution than before. Good Empire, a developing social app, recognizes this. Essentially climate social media, Good Empire aligns with U.N. sustainable development goals and challenges users to “level up for people and planet.” Good Empire doesn’t aim to encourage petitions or donations because, as they’ve said, there is a lot of positive effort on that end already. Instead, they focus on inspiring direct actions that have measurable impacts.

Good Empire could be revolutionary for environmental activism. When I came across it, I immediately registered for early access. We know from the COVID-19-era boom in movements like Black Lives Matter that social media plays a large role in fostering mass involvement. Let’s give that same momentum to climate action by supporting initiatives that promote climate mindfulness.

A Better Approach

Resisting change in our already changing world guarantees further climate destruction. Most opponents to climate action claim that we don’t have the monetary resources to support the expensive investments green initiatives require. But this diversionary attempt fails to recognize the truth — we cannot afford inaction.

Our government can afford to sneak $25 billion worth of fossil fuel subsidies into the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill and spend more money on military defense than the next 11 countries combined. It can surely spare some funds to battle the climate crisis.

The approaches demonstrated by the CCC, and multitudes of climate-minded platforms need to be encouraged, not prevented. We only have two courses of action. One, to continue down the destructive path we are on. Or two, utilize all of our resources for change. Supporting the establishment of the Civilian Climate Corps and fostering apps like Betterment and Good Empire factor into that effort.

Let’s hope that collectively, we choose option two.


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