How do you count from 6.796.896.295 to 1?

How much more can we stand to hear about climate changes? Are we not going to hear other stories soon? How does it really affect us? And what can I as an individual do about it anyway?

Global responsibility

In the 21st century, we face some great challenges. The most important one is to ensure a positive climate change impact. This means that immediate and radical action has to take place in a degree that is almost impossible to understand and relate to. And there is no way around it. It has to be done.

We share a common responsibility which goes beyond our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Contrary to all other species on earth, we can do something about our CO2 emissions. We are able to understand the problem that we have helped create and we can take action. The rest of the earth’s animal and plant life are not able to do so. We could destroy not only our own world but the world of every living thing. But we can also save it – or at least do everything in our power to ensure the living conditions for ourselves and all other species on earth. The problem is that climate change is such a great and abstract issue that it’s almost impossible to relate to.

We become more and more every minute

Presently, there are almost 6.8 billion people on earth. The CO2 emissions from all of our activities are increasing and there are no limits as to how high they can go. We all know that we in the western world have caused climate changes, the consequences of which can already be detected in some of the poorest countries in the world. It does not affect us first. And that fact makes it even harder for us to relate to.

But it is not only that the climate changes seem so far away and therefore is an abstract concept. It is also the fact that psychologically it is almost impossible to convince oneself that one individual’s efforts could matter. What can I do – and why should I even do anything – when there is 6.795.896.294 other people in the world? At least that is how many there was when I started writing. Now, there are already several thousand more. The world’s population increases by the minute.

In the immense global jigsaw puzzle of billions of people is it only natural to ask: What difference do I make? What difference do you make?

A democratic challenge

One of the greatest challenges we face when it comes to the climate changes is making them relevant and concrete. This goes for all of us. Here are two important questions. Firstly: how does it affect me? And secondly: how does what I do matter?

It is quite similar to the democratic situation: why should I participate because what does my vote matter? This is bad enough for democracy during elections. But where the climate is concerned, we cannot afford non-voters. We have to participate and take responsibility. However, it is nearly impossible to take the giant mental leap from 6.795.896.295 people to one individual. Nonetheless, we have to do it.

Communicating this is a great undertaking. We must carry out this task based on a qualified foundation. It requires research in the understanding and communication of the climate. Otherwise we would be acting heedlessly. And we, the climate, and the livelihood of the millions of other species at stake cannot afford that.

A happy ending

November 24th marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s famous book The Origin of Species which gave us a scientific foundation for understanding the myriad of life on earth. Since then, through evolutionary research, we have determined that climate changes throughout the history of the earth have led to the spontaneous extinction of species. It has also led to the emergence of new species.

The history of our own species is a result of climate changes. We came into existence because of climate changes. And in a greater evolutionary historical perspective, the extinction of Homo sapiens would not be considered an unusual occurrence. But contrary to previous and present other species, we have a choice this time.

In November 2009, British television ran a campaign informing us of what we can do and why it is necessary.  We meet a father who is reading his daughter a bedtime story. It is about the history of our planet and what is happening to it. When he closes the book the daughter asks “But Dad, isn’t there a happy ending?” That is up to us to decide. We have to take the difficult leap from 6.795.896.295 to 1.

By the way, the number is now 6.795.928. 343.

Peter C. Kjærgaard

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Extended knowledge

Both the British government and the BBC have launched campaigns that actively and directly involves every single one of us. Here everyone can participate and monitor the consequences of the choices we all make: 

Act on CO2

BBCs Bloom

At Princeton University, scientists give a continuous estimate of the world's current population based on the American governments official number.