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A New Vision for Progress on Climate Change

By Martha Easter-Wells

Glacier melting
Photo credit: Ameer boii

When I read the news I am often troubled. Around the world, glaciers are melting at alarming rates, spelling disaster for the people who rely on those water sources for drinking and electricity. Sea levels are rising, forcing low-lying countries like Tuvalu in the South Pacific to formulate evacuation plans. And, in parts of Brazil and South Africa, water is rationed and crops die because of historic droughts. 

As people around the world grapple with the effects of climate change, many stand to lose their homes—and their lives. Countries and communities in the Global South with the fewest resources have been and will be hit the hardest.

I believe that we are all interconnected, have inherent worth, and must live in a way that nurtures our interpersonal relationships and our planet. For years, I have invested (through various organizations) in protecting the human right to water—seeking the day when every person on the planet has affordable access to the most essential resource they need to survive.

Now I see that this work is increasingly dependent on how we address climate change. In the coming years, some people will have frighteningly scarce water access; for others, they will be inundated with it as sea levels rise and flood their lands and as other deadly consequences like tsunamis and hurricanes become more frequent.

I am hopeful that it is not too late to change the alarming course we are on and address climate change in a just and equitable way.  An organization I support, Corporate Accountability International, is advancing a smart strategy for addressing climate change at the global level.

For more than twenty years, the global community has come together to try to forge real solutions at the United Nations climate treaty negotiations. But the world’s biggest polluters—the fossil fuel industry—have stalled any significant progress. Industry has used its political clout and nearly bottomless resources to intimidate governments and block all attempts at meaningful change.

Worse, these polluters have managed to position themselves as key players in finding a solution to the very problem they’ve created. In a classic instance of the fox guarding the henhouse, the fossil fuel industry is posing false solutions to the climate crisis that protect its profits and drive our climate closer to the brink of disaster.

But there’s hope. If we protect these policy-making processes from the industry and its profit motives, imagine the progress we could make. And that’s exactly the possibility that Corporate Accountability International has recognized and is acting upon.

I take heart in this idea because I’ve seen what’s possible when global corporations—whose interests are most often at odds with the public good—are removed from the policy-making space. Indeed, that’s exactly what Corporate Accountability International made happen in the early 2000s. It rallied countries around the world to band together and protect the World Health Organization’s public health talks from the tobacco industry. As a result, governments were able to ratify a powerful global tobacco treaty, which is projected to save 200 million lives by 2050. That’s progress!

We have no time to lose. I don’t want my grandchildren to inherit a world where powerful economic interests dictate the future of our planet. I don’t want to have to explain to them why the global community didn’t come together to stop climate change and protect our earth’s precious resources. I want to tell them a different story. The one I hope to share will speak of our solidarity and courage as we faced down the most powerful industry in the world together and made a cleaner, more sustainable future possible.


About the Author 

MEW_photoMartha Easter-Wells is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities and lives near LeClaire, Iowa. After careers in law and then fundraising consulting, she is now mostly retired. Martha is currently serving as the Chair of the board for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.