April 22 is Earth Day, a day each year when millions of people around the world demonstrate their concern for the environment. It started in 1970 in response to human-made environmental disasters, including a massive oil spill off the coast of California (at that time the biggest oil spill in United States history) and the polluted Cuyahoga River catching fire in Cleveland, Ohio.
Today, when we think of Earth Day, we think not just of separate incidents like oil spills, as horrible as they are. Today we think of global heating, the climate crisis that threatens life in every corner of the planet.
Earth Day is a good opportunity to call attention to the climate catastrophes that happen increasingly every year all around the world. However, would we designate one day a year to call attention to the murderous war against the people of Ukraine? No! It’s an emergency. Global heating demands urgent and immediate action to stop the horror.
According to at least one scientific study released in 2021, for the period 2000-2019, climate change has already caused about five million additional deaths per year around the world. And it’s only getting worse.
The extraction and burning of oil, gas and coal has filled our atmosphere with more carbon dioxide than ever in human history. It has created a heat-trapping blanket that is leading to massive water evaporation in many parts of the world: droughts, as we see in the southwestern U.S. In other parts of the world this water is dumped suddenly and catastrophically, leading to epic floods. The droughts destroy farmland, and are increasing the crisis in the world food supply — at the same time that rising sea levels poison the fields of coastal agriculture.
According to the United Nations, since 2010, nearly 22 million people have become refugees, forced to leave their homes due to sudden disasters or longer-term changes that have destroyed their houses, fields, and towns. Scientists predict that the total number of refugees could increase to over 200 million by the year 2050. These refugees face not only the disaster of being forced to leave their families, communities, and livelihoods, but also criminalization as they attempt to make a new life. The European Union and the U.S. have been militarizing their borders, and turning away or hunting down refugees with vicious brutality. Thousands have lost their lives on boats in the Mediterranean, as they attempt to flee their degraded environments, ravaged by colonial exploitation, and the heating of their lands that result from it. And of course here, at the U.S. border, people die every day escaping the harsh drought of the Central American Dry Corridor, while politicians, the lackeys of U.S. corporations addicted to oil, spew racist hatred against them.
Scientists have been sounding the climate alarm for decades. The so-called leaders of the world have acknowledged the crisis. At the climate meeting in 2015 that led to the Paris Accords, the governments of 196 countries agreed to take measures to limit global heating. But there were no enforcement measures in the agreement. It was all for show. The world’s big profiteers of fossil fuels and all the other capitalists tied in with them have no intention of giving up their oil, gas, and plastic that continue to generate enormous profits. Last year’s United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland also showed the unwillingness of the world’s rulers to take the emergency seriously.
The big capitalists and their politicians have shown time and again that they don’t care. But we must not allow them to destroy the air, the water, and the land any more than they already have. We must treat this as the crisis it is—not something in the future. We need to find the ways to fight back and fight back aggressively. The One Percent are attacking everyone in the world. We all need to resist and replace capitalism — by any means necessary.
Make every day Earth Day!