Residents of the Bay Area enjoy amenities such as access to the world’s cutting-edge technological industries and a mild Mediterranean climate. Though our industries reflect a global mindset, our mild climate simultaneously isolates us from an international reality: climate change. A significant number of communities around the world already face severe weather due to climate change. As we enjoy summer at prime latitude, for billions of people summer is simply endured. As residents of this climatically blessed region, we can with particular ease remain ignorant about climate change.
As summer settles into the Bay Area and our characteristic fog remains ever-present, the climate conundrum comes into view. While communities around the world are experiencing record-high temperatures, I’m grappling with whether or not to put on a cardigan. This is not to say that residents of the Bay Area are intentionally ignoring the severity of climate change, it is only to highlight the barriers that prevent genuine empathy when significant temperature change or extreme weather has yet to penetrate our region. While it may appear that we dodged a bullet, in fact, we’re just late to the funeral.
According to a report from the British Broadcasting Corporation, Phalodi, India, recorded record-high temperatures this May at 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature beat only by those recorded in California’s Death Valley. It is imperative to note the differences between Death Valley’s primary functions, a destination for survivalists and scientific study, and Phalodi, India’s, a home to 44,756 already impoverished people. Moreover, the spike came in May, well before the predominant summer months began — possibly unfurling similarly high temperatures to India’s major cities and the millions of vulnerable people who live there. Mere weeks later, the iconic River Seine of Paris rose 20 feet above normal levels. While flooding can be a natural occurrence, climatologists speculate that marginally higher seasonal temperatures, which caused the atmosphere to hold more moisture and its eventual release as rainfall, have aggravated the natural river swell. Perhaps the popularity of Paris as a tourist destination will incite a wider discussion on climate change for fear of permanently altering an iconic city.
Climate change is an intrinsically complex issue; it is not simply an environmental problem, but also an cultural, economic and political one. And, like any other political issue, addressing climate change is reliant on public interest and government support. Though taking emission-conscious approaches to summer travel and daily life are important aspects to reducing overall energy usage, perhaps an even more impactful contribution to alleviate climate change is through the very technology our region has made so readily available to anyone with something to say or share. Social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are crucial components of social change in today’s society — means to express personally what and why something is important. Politicians do not act on issues they do not care about, unless a significant and vocal percentage of their constituents express unrelenting interest in that issue. This process, between public outcry and policy change, has proven to be grueling even for issues as immediately pressing as gun control. Therefore, it is not alarming that an issue that, so far, has primarily been advertised as affecting polar bears and framed as affecting marginalized populations with unfamiliar locations has garnered neither significant public interest nor political action on a national scale.
As residents of the mild and modern Bay Area, we can easily reject air conditioning and utilize public transportation to combat climate change. This summer, however, when other parts of the world are faced with adaptation, we have the privilege of mitigation. Strive to appreciate what unprecedented access to technology has made possible. Explore the science section, share that article on the disappearing Maldives and research candidates who support strong environmental policy for the upcoming November elections. Our region’s temperate climate may fog intrinsic empathy toward those currently enduring climate change around the world, but the technology its innovation created has also made being an ally only a click away.
Contact Audrey McNamara at [email protected].