It’s up to us now

Some people say that one person can’t make a difference. But they can. And it’s not just the Dolores Huertas, Cesar Chavezes, or Rosa Parks of the world, history is replete with examples of grassroots movements comprised of individuals whose names you will never know, but whose actions achieved change. Things weren’t easy. The odds were stacked against them. Nevertheless, they showed up, and their participation made all the difference. Every single action, big and small, matters.

Activism can take many shapes and forms. There is no one formula for changing the world. And there are certainly a vast and varied array of issues that cry out for champions. But there is one issue that offers the rare intersection of urgency and opportunity: climate change.

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges that humanity faces in the 21st century. The Pentagon refers to it as a “threat multiplier”, because it has the potential to exacerbate many challenges, including resource availability and political instability. The World Economic Forum ranks climate change as one of the top three trends to shape global developments over the next 10 years. The danger posed by climate change is unparalleled in its scale and potential for disruption, and presents an existential threat to our world.

As is so often the case, the communities most immediately affected are also the most politically and economically vulnerable. Take the US Latino population: 30 million US Latinos live in California, Florida and Texas, some of the states hit the hardest by climate change. Furthermore, 50 percent of US Latinos live in the 25 most ozone polluted cities in the country. Addressing climate change means protecting the people and cities on the front lines and building safer communities for us all.

While the threat seems daunting, we should also be filled with hope. We have had important victories, the most crucial of all embodied in the Paris Agreement, in which over 190 countries -big and small - committed to tackling the global threat of climate change. Countries, cities, states, and businesses are already at the forefront of the transition towards a low-carbon and sustainable world. And they’re acting with their wallets, investing heavily on renewable energy, incorporating sustainability into their operations, and preparing for the shocks to infrastructure and supply chains that climate change will likely bring. They are taking action, and so must we.

Today is an important moment: At 8:30 p.m. local time, Earth Hour, the largest global grassroots movement in support of action on climate change, will sweep – literally - across the world and offer everyone around the planet an opportunity to get involved and raise their voice. People, cities, and businesses around the world will switch off their lights for one hour to draw attention to the urgent need for a climate solution. You can make a difference by joining Earth Hour.

It’s up to all of us to demand urgent and accelerated action and elevate climate change solutions in our political and public discourse. There is no other choice. As former United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, has said: “There is no plan B, because there is no planet B.” You can make a difference by raising your voice.

States, cities, business and individuals have a crucial role to play, and you can let them know that action is needed here and now. You can voice your support for those early leaders who are already taking action, and encourage others to join in, wherever you live. Just as importantly, world leaders need to hear from all of us, because we know that, to achieve the scale of emission reductions needed to put the world in a safe path, we need all world leaders to be driving this transformation now. Please let your national representatives know that you care.

Earth Hour can also be an inspiration for the year. Ultimately, our world is the summation of our individual actions. We can be the change: we can manifest the future that we want by starting to live by it today. You can make a difference with your voice, with your choices and with your wallet throughout the year.

The collective security, health, and prosperity of all nations – including ours - rest on immediately addressing our global climate crisis. In the past two years, world leaders have ushered in a new era of global climate cooperation – a crucial step on the path to a clean energy future. Now is the time to work harder, go farther, and reach higher. Now is the time for all of us to take up the mantle of climate change leadership in our country, and be an example to the world. Some people say that one person can’t make a difference on climate change. Through Earth Hour and beyond, let’s show that we can.

The Spanish version of this article was publised on March 24, 2017 in El Nuevo Herald.