[Letter to the editor]A common resolution
On the first day of 2008, as every year, hundreds of thousands of Koreans gathered at seashores and in the mountains throughout the country and made their New Year resolutions while watching the first sunrise. According to public polls, the most popular resolutions were to win the lottery and to remain healthy.
At the same time, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, people in Tuvalu would have watched the same sunrise. However, standing on land which is going to be submerged within 50 years, it is likely that they were not wishing for happiness to be found in their daily lives; they were most likely praying for survival. Perhaps many people in Bangladesh, Kenya and many other countries that are in great danger due to mega-cyclones and extreme water shortages as a result of global warming have wished the same thing. But the wishes and hard work of these nations alone will not solve the problem. Therefore, their resolutions should become our common resolutions; we should make individual resolutions and take action to stop global warming.
The earth is teetering on the edge of irreparable damage if we continue living the way we do. Ban Ki Moon, the United Nations secretary general, has warned, “The world has reached a critical stage in its efforts to exercise responsible environmental stewardship.” Appalling research data released by the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, show that if global warming continues unabated, up to 1.7 billion people will be exposed to water stress due to climate change by 2020. By 2090, about 30 percent of global wetlands will be lost and millions of people would suffer from coastal flooding each year. Also, up to 30 percent of species are at increasing risk of extinction.
Despite such a devastating outlook, it seems that many people do not think of global warming as their own problem. As in “The Tragedy of the Commons” ― a conflict over finite resources between individual interests and the common good ― people tend to walk away from pursuing common goods in pursuit of their own happiness. However, there is not enough time to leave the problem unsettled. Moreover, this is not a problem that can be solved by efforts of a few people or groups. Acknowledging that we are in urgent need of protecting our environment, we all should make our own resolutions and strategies to stop global warming.
At this time, governments should inform people of the urgency of the problem rather than showing bright prospects for the new year. They should lead the public to take action by introducing ways of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in people’s daily lives. For example, The Independent has introduced 10 ways to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide gases in daily lives, such as car pooling, reducing and recycling plastic bags. The media should follow its example and take cooperative action in the campaign. They should persuade the public to be interested in the issue. We should have the same New Year’s resolutions as the people of Tuvalu.
Chung Won-woo, a student majoring
in sociology at Seoul National University