Spaceship Earth: The bottom deck of a sinking ship

When thinking about the Titanic, images of drowning and loss spring to mind; however, this was not the fate of all those aboard the ship. In fact, more than half of the wealthy people on board survived the shipwreck, and lived on to tell their stories. While 61 percent of first-class passengers survived, only 42 percent of second-and 24 percent of third class passengers survived. In fact, if you were a third class passenger, you were less than half as likely to live as your affluent first-class counterpart. Now as our spaceship Earth heads towards its own iceberg — or lack thereof — it is important to understand who will be hurt the most by the conflict and chaos caused by rising oceans and rising temperatures.

From a global perspective, living in the United States gives one a significant amount of privilege. That is a generalization, of course; as a consequence of the absurd wealth distribution in this country, along with simple racism and classism, there are plenty of people who do not experience these privileges. Nevertheless, many here benefit from some privilege. This privilege gives us some protection from the most immediate hazards of climate change. There are programs to help those who are forced to retreat from coastlines and to rebuild property damaged by increasingly common floods, making climate change more of an inconvenience than an immediate bodily threat. This is not to say that we will not have to fight wars when food shortages become particularly bad, but it will not be us who are the first to starve. Through centuries of imperialism, the United States has created a temporary shield against climate change that will protect its more well-off citizens from the harshest effects of climate change. Nevertheless, we must confront the fact that our comfort comes at an extremely high cost. We must fight apathy and use the reality of the damage being done around the globe to those less fortunate than us to motivate others into action. We must make sure that we recognize that somebody born somewhere else has just as much of a right to life as we do.

On a sinking ship, the consequences are very clear and present. Unlike the Titanic, however, there is enough room for everyone aboard the Earth’s lifeboats; but if we as a society remain apathetic and unwilling to work to improve the world, not everyone will make it. The actions you take to hinder the course of climate change are important. Lives are on the line and, if significant change is not made, those on the bottom deck of our spaceship Earth may not make it. That is something we must neither accept nor compromise on. No longer can those who benefit the most from allowing climate change to happen be in charge. No longer can we put profit over the lives of others. No longer can we allow anyone to be complacent in watching the ship sink into the awful depths below with our fellow humans trapped inside.