After the First World War, the international society attempted to establish the League of Nations. Unfortunately, it was not successful, and that resulted in World War II. Then after the Second War, the world tried to establish the United Nations. This organization has been in effect for over 74 years, without the success hoped for. Most recently, the Trump administration withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. There have also been “various proposals for the United States to terminate its membership in the United Nations, where it is one of the founding members and one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. These proposals are often motivated by a perceived threat to U.S. sovereignty, or theories that the U.N. is a potential world government.” The United States appears to have no intention to share its remaining world power with other nations, even though that power is rapidly diminishing.
There was a moment at the end of the Cold War, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, that the United States could be seen as the potential world ruler. This was December 26, 1991, towards the end of the presidency of George H.W. Bush. By September 11, 2001, the United States had suffered the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, resulting in endless war since then. The United Nations has been unable to do anything to terminate the wars, and the United States has done little to assist it. In the meantime, the potential disaster wrought by climate change has been met only by constant discussion and mostly ineffective actions.
In 2007 the United Nations as an institution “adopted a strategy and a roadmap to reach climate neutrality by 2020. Over half of all U.N. system entities are now climate neutral, representing 39% of total U.N. emissions as featured in the 2018 Greening the Blue report. The U.N. Headquarters is also becoming climate neutral for the first time in 2018.” But notice that even after 13 years the U.N. has not achieved its objectives. And the members of the U.N. have certainly not achieved objectives similar to the one attempted for the organization.
Scientists say that we only have 12 years at best to avoid a climate change disaster. If the U.N. is slow in trying to reach climate neutrality, is there anything that individual humans (or in small groups) can do to help prevent such a result?
It has been pointed out that if individuals or groups begin to do something, they inspire others to follow the same path. “Social scientists have found that when one person makes a sustainability-oriented decision, other people do too.” The most important change is “Limiting the use of fossil fuels such as oil, carbon and natural gas and replacing them with renewable and cleaner sources of energy, all while increasing energy efficiency.” Going car-free is the change with the most impact that an individual can make. So, too, is limiting the number of children that one has. Moving to renewable energy wherever possible is another. Limiting the amount of meat and dairy products that one consumes, and cutting down on food and product waste. Avoiding flying in favor of other modes of transportation, or avoiding traveling in favor of communication electronically or by telephone. Taking vacations locally rather than far away. Buying locally where possible.
Why not make a list of these things and then try to band together with your local friends and organizations to take a pledge to follow these methods as if they were rules?
You might remember that during wartime rationing was the norm. Why shouldn’t we have rationing of fossil fuels to prevent overuse? Of course, the fossil fuel companies would fight this bitterly, but simply by cutting down use, we would have a significant impact. By the way, the fossil fuel companies could raise their prices to maintain their profits. And both rich and poor people would have to comply with rationing. Solutions: car sharing, and using more public transportation.
So you and your friends could take a pledge for self-rationing. You could encourage others to self-ration. You could ask the government to impose rationing. Note that this is a short-term solution, because a better hope is to move towards electric vehicles, assuming that you really need a private vehicle.
And what about a combination of public transportation and car-sharing? I live in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where private automobiles cause nearly constant traffic jams. And yet the city has excellent – and inexpensive – taxi service as well as bus service. The city should basically force people out of their private cars. Incidentally, I have no car, and I rarely use taxis. I mostly use busses, or I ride with other people.
Car sharing is another way to go. What about a city-wide cooperative, based on the model of Communauto? Get 100 families to start the cooperative by investing their cars. Half the cars get sold for capital, and the other half are used in the car-sharing system. The city allows the cars to be parked on the street in the downtown area, and all the members of the cooperative get keys to use the cars. The cars have GPS systems, so that any member can locate an available car. The cooperative takes care of all the car repair, and the members make sure that the cars have gasoline, using cooperative credit cards. The fifty cars can easily provide service for 100 families, and the cooperative can get good insurance and repairs. (By way of comparison, Denmark has 438 cars for 1000 people; the U.S. has 838 for 1000 people.)
Personally, I think that the people of San Miguel de Allende, with their taxis and busses, could get along fine with a car sharing cooperative for the few times when they need to drive outside the city.
In the long run, I think we need to move towards international governance to avoid the sort of nasty nationalism we are seeing in America. But at least we can start on the local level. If we get used to cooperating locally, perhaps we’ll learn to cooperate internationally. Wouldn’t that make for a wonderful world?