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Op-Ed: A Rock and a Hard Place

In the 14th year of the 21st century it is hard for this writer to understand (with 97% of the world’s scientists agreeing) that there is still a serious debate among some of the public over the idea that global warming or climate change is not a man made phenomenon.


But then, if you look back in the long recorded history of science you’ll see that men were put to death for daring to look beyond the accepted theories of the time. Those who did so risked their reputations, wealth, and often their lives, and this was the price paid to understand the truth.


Examples include people like Galileo (1564-1642) who was imprisoned for daring to put forth the idea that the world was not flat but round, or Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) who was forced to flee his native country or possibly lose his life.


The wealthy and powerful were not about to accept the truth, if it did not suit their purposes.


What these early men of science had in common with today’s scientists is that their findings challenged the status quo. Modern scientists (as in the past) represent destabilization and threats to the authority and comfort of the wealthy and elite. Greed— and its cousin ignorance— use a variety of facades to hide the truth in portraying science as the enemy of progress. Their claim is that scientists are using scare tactics and alarming the public. They say the “climate problems that we are now experiencing are natural occurring events and the warnings are exaggerations.”


Someone said, “It is always hard to understand history when you are living it.” But we should all be able to understand that the recent fires, floods, cyclones, heat waves, cold waves or any other weather related event in this period of human history is unique and is probably directly related to climate change.


And, as if that isn’t bad enough, consider over-population and what it’s doing to our planet and our islands.


Our Island’s water is contaminated; the landfill is nearly full; every time it rains our streams fill with trash. People are burning trash, cutting down trees then burning them for their umus. The strain of over population on our limited resources is insidious. Continued dependence on outside foods and goods as climate change progresses will become more difficult and more expensive.


For over forty years treaties and agreements have been signed, watered down, ignored, or put off for future debate. But when major governments ― including the U.S., Canada, China, Australia, India and more ― are not interested in supporting these carefully debated and composed agreements, constituted by the best International scientific and political minds, and as carbon dioxide and methane continued to keep building in the atmosphere, and the global temperature continues its rise and ice sheets on both poles are melting, the planet was crying out for attention — and nobody is listening.


So, are we doomed?


Some experts in climate science say yes, we’ve gone too far and are predicting that previously understood weather related impacts will be even worse. Others (and the consensus) are saying that we have a little more time to correct the present course. But we must rely even more on science and hope for an immediate response by the public and its politicians.


Some people and institutions on Island are aware of the problems we face and are stepping forward. For example the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) is working hard on the water supply problems and reducing its carbon footprint. The American Samoa Environmental Agency (ASEPA) is taking its mandate seriously regarding our territory’s environmental health and some local business people and ordinary citizens are becoming more aware and supportive.


Our people should be proud of the youth who have chosen to learn about climate change and its effect on their future. The American Samoa 350 Environment Club (an NGO) is active and growing in membership. All of the public high schools are participating and student membership is growing.


These young people have joined forces with other Pacific Islander youth (Pacific Warriors) by declaring “We are not drowning, we are fighting” ― a symbol of solidarity that demonstrates the Pacific Island people’s support for one another. The strengthening ties are providing a strong, collective Pacific Islander’s youth voice in international affairs.


So if we are in between a “Rock and a Hard Place” the “Rock” is behind us and the “Hard Place” is the challenge before us. With growing awareness and the best of caring citizens taking the lead, we can confront an unprecedented and uncertain future.


The American Samoa 350 Environment Club is a youth oriented group and is associated with fourteen independent Pacific Island Nations and their respective 350 groups. Together we are a part of the International Organization,