It Has to Be Climate Sustainability: A book review

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In Copenhagen last December, where civil society groups from around the world came to support efforts towards a global agrement on climate change, then found themselves shut out of the discussions as well as getting arrested in the hundreds, mostly for simply being there, Uchita de Zoysa welcomed those interested to share their thoughts at the Climate Sustainability Platform he and others organized. This event was also the occasion for the launch of his book It Has to be Climate Sustainability.

This book is not an academic study or formal analysis of climate change and politics, but rather a passionate plea for dialogue "to engage more people and processes toward a better world." It is a story of personal experience in growing awareness and engagement in the challenge of a world faced with catastrophe and suffering and the obligation for each person to do their part in changing this.

As a journalist, de Zoysa immediately acknowledges one of the main barriers to such a dialogue being the very field of media where he was encourged to be "brutally honest and objective." Yet when he reaslied that "the advertising dependent business owners of the media organiztions had different ideas of what ideals should be promoted," he switched from journalist to campaigner. "some American media do not believe in climate change," he notes, lamenting that despite the evidence of scientists and political leaders like Al Gore many Americans remain skeptical. This is certainly one of the most serious challenges facing Americans today, as the ocean temperatures rise and the corals die, while we watch the BP oil spill continue to spread across the Gulf of Mexico. In the latest news an ice island four times the size of Manhattan just broke away from one of Greenland's main glaciers.

Yet for a number of reasons, which de Zoysa highlights in his book, Americans have become increasingly skeptical about climate change, rather than more actively demanding action from our leaders. According to a Gallup poll last March, there's been a reversal in public concern in the past two years, with the number of Americans who think climate claims are "exaggerated" climbed from 31 to 41% between 1997 and 2008 to 48% in 2010. Some, such as Mark Hertsgaard, suggest this is a misreading of the polls, the problem being more with the media's complicity with conservative disinformation campaigns. Others point out that only a handful of TV news departments employ professional science reporters, leaving the weathercasters to inform the public about "the facts." Unfortunately, while 96% of climate scientists agree that climate change is a real, human-based problem, only 54% weathercasters believe it is happening (Center for Climate Change Communication). Some, like Weather Channel founder John Coleman, who wants to sue Al Gore for "fraud," actively tell their viewers it is a hoax.

However, in the United States the issue of climate change is not so much a debate as a war. The Guardian reported on how the American Enterprise Institute paid scientists $10,000 each to come out against climate change.

While the poor in Bangladesh and other countries are especially vulnerable to global warming, it is apparently "not hot enough" for those still comfortable enough in our air conditioned cars and fossil-fuel dependent lifestyles.