Climate Change Interview 19: COP 25 Participant - Middleton, Wisconsin

Updated: May 1, 2020

Written submission: Carol Phelps - Middleton, Wisconsin Carol attended the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid

What are your thoughts about the claims that the climate is warming, the environment is being destroyed and that humans are the cause? Uh duh.  

I realize everyone is at a different stage of awareness and realization about this; I could name the exact day in the summer of 2004 that I first became aware that we humans were changing our world's climate with devastating effects.  At the time, that revelation seemed extraordinary beyond belief. It wasn't until I watched An Inconvenient Truth a few years later that I started to understand what was happening and why.

 Yet, despite what I knew, for more than a decade after that, I thought it was someone else's job to do something about it - obviously only world governments and global agreements like the Paris Climate Agreement could tackle such a ginormous problem.  I figured it was like the ozone hole, or nuclear disarmament, or Y2K, or AIDS - let the experts do their thing and solve the problem for everyone.


It was only about a year ago that I realized no one was listening to all the experts who had stepped forward, and all the progress that had already been made was being undone by one individual and his administration, and the biggest global climate action currently being taken was by one sixteen year old school girl. 

At which point I realized that ordinary citizens must treat the climate crisis as a top priority, or we're dooming the children of the world to a terrible future.  Recognizing the stages of my own awakening, and my gradual realization of the scope and seriousness of this problem, I can sympathize with those people who are confused, skeptical, doubtful, or simply don't have the band-width to think about too many crises at a time.  But we've squandered a lot of precious time, and we all need to make it to the same page of the book rather quickly now.  If climate change hasn't come to your town yet, I can assure you, like Covid-19, it is coming.  You'd best start taking action now. In your mind what are the driving forces of climate change and environmental degradation? Humans. Largely it's that we don't think too deeply about what we are doing.  If you've ever studied child development (something all teachers of young children have to do), you've heard of Piaget, and his experiments with young children.  He discovered that if you remove a toy from a young child's vision, they don't search around for it.  "Out of sight, out of mind", is very literally true for them.  They have no concept that something still exists even when they can't see it.  Unfortunately many of us adults suffer from that same phenomenon.  We put chemicals or trash or other contaminants into the water, air, or ground, and if they wash or blow away, and we can see them no more, we think they're gone.  Disappeared into nothingness.  We assume they're as harmlessly decomposed as that rotten tomato that was in our garden last year.  We may know intellectually that that's not true with plastics or nuclear waste, but we trust our eyes more than our brains.  We fail to notice that what we choose to do on our own property sometimes ends up thousands of miles away, in the bodies of penguins in Antarctica.  We can't see the piles of superfluous CO2 that is entering our atmosphere and our oceans on a daily basis, so we refuse to acknowledge it's there, and we certainly deny any responsibility for it.   Once, when I was very young, I was punished for getting into my mother's makeup.  I of course denied it, afraid of my mother's wrath, and got into double trouble for lying.  I was mystified that I'd gotten caught; I had no clue that my face was inexpertly smeared with makeup, and until my mother pointed it out to me, I hadn't realized the smudged lipsticks and compacts littered around my parent's bathroom might give someone a clue.  Today I see a lot of my young self when I look around me.  Our cars belch fumes as we back them out of our driveways, but we act blissfully unaware that they might be polluting the world, or adding to the climate change problem.  We wrinkle our noses at the jet fuel smell coming in the air vents as we buckle into our cramped airplane seats, but we don't think twice about the carbon released by burning that jet fuel.  I never thought about the hidden natural gas pipes under city streets and houses until after I left college... even today I have a hard time remembering that that invisible gas, burned down in a furnace room in our basement, is changing the seasons right outside my front door.  In short, the diving forces of climate change and environmental degradation are lack of