Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Save the Planet this Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, we asked a few of our leading experts the following question:

This year, Earth Day calls on us to help fight climate change. What is the one critical action everyone should take on April 22 to save the planet?

Here’s what they had to say:

“The single most effective action urban dwellers could take this Earth Day to address rising temperatures in cities is to plant a shade tree. Trees and other vegetation in cities provide a cooling effect that is immediate, will grow over time, and can lessen energy consumption in adjacent buildings.  In this sense, trees are “adaptive mitigation”—actions that enhance urban resilience while simultaneously contributing to carbon management.  And trees are beautiful—so plant two!”—Brian Stone, Jr, author of The City and the Coming Climate

“While all of us should consider the emissions caused by our personal activities and reduce wherever possible, virtuous individual actions will not solve the problem. Rather, we need coordinated international action to address the threat of climate change. Thus, the single most important thing individuals can do is vote for political representatives who support action to address climate change.”—Andrew Dessler, author of Introduction to Modern Climate Change

“It is important to understand that we cannot stop climate change; it is ubiquitous. Earth will survive future climate change, just as it has survived past climate change; however, the human species may not. Your individual contribution doesn’t have to be some great heroic deed, but it does have to be your own. Your contribution may feel small or incidental, but the world needs you to put your unique piece of the puzzle in place. If you are a poet, perhaps you will write a poem about climate and humanity; if you are a business owner, perhaps you will streamline your business’ energy consumption or allow your staff to work one day a week at home; if you are an inventor, perhaps you will invent a new energy efficient product or battery; if you are a child, perhaps you will plant a tree; if you drive a vehicle, perhaps one day each week you will not drive; if you have central heating or cooling, perhaps you will expand the range of your temperature tolerance by 1 degree in each direction. The fact is we are all in this together. No one individual or group is responsible for the climate crisis and no one individual or group will save us; however, what we choose to contribute will influence others, and likewise their contributions will influence us. Our challenge is to remain open, tolerant, and flexible and to make that decision to stop, think and then act. I couldn’t do it alone, and neither can you; however, I haven’t stopped contributing to a solution and neither should you.”— Renée Hetherington, author of Living in a Dangerous Climate

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