Climate Matters: Putting Out a World on Fire

Our language matters. And so do our actions. Though what can we do in this current climate reality of extreme heat, year-round wildfires, smoke emergencies and floods that require bringing the whole community together to take on these challenges?

There is some concern on what language we use to inspire more people to take action. Some promote using positive, motivating words and scenarios. Others want to discourage talking about the current climate reality of a heated planet, abnormal Arctic Circle wildfires, etc. They are afraid it might raise fear or denial in people and, thus, paralyze them from being part of the solution. 

So how do we talk about restoring climate balance in this emergency? One thing we can do is increase public advocacy. We must talk about this crisis more frequently and share how local actions, like planting trees, taking public transit and eating plant-rich foods are positive messages we need to hear and see.

The uncomfortable reality is that this is a crisis. Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and several national environmental organizations sent an open letter to the major U.S. media networks specifically urging them to “call the dangerous overheating of our planet and the lack of action to stop it what it is — a crisis — and to cover it like one.”

The inconvenient truth is that we are in the midst of an unprecedented climate crisis and we must act urgently — as if our house is on fire and we have to save it.

Maybe think of it like this. In our kitchens at home, we have fire extinguishers. We have fire hoses in our office building hallways. We have fire-suppression systems in commercial buildings and schools. And then we have firefighters to stop fires from spreading so that they don’t further threaten life.
So how do we put out a world on fire? What are we doing to rapidly reverse the heating of the planet? We can do this, but can’t wait until it is too late. 

We’ve got little more than 12 years to cool the planet. Scientist have said so. Though we must act now to restore the climate and draw down the carbon from our atmosphere. Those 12 years can be enough time to organize, plan and enact the policies and local programs to get ourselves to a net- zero carbon-producing society. But we must act now.

We must start by calling on city, state and county agencies and to collaborate with other municipalities to make massive, radical investments and fully fund their climate-action plans if we are to reach net zero by 2030.

Here’s another thing we can do. We can start right here at home and plant a tree. Because there is no planet “B” and every act you take will make a difference!

We’ve got this, Alameda. Though, this is going to take all of us and some regional help and collaboration, too. Get involved and help. Attend a CASA meeting, our city’s environmental task force. Join a local school’s Green Team and support student efforts. Shop at the farmer’s market. Plant a victory garden or a tree. 

We must make the necessary municipal, regional and even personal investments to cool our planet — now. Believe me, we have what it takes to take on this climate challenge. 

And you are all the difference we need!


Amos White is an Alameda resident, civic leader, poet and environmental and civil rights activist. He is Vice Chair of the Bay Area Climate Emergency Mobilization, Steering Committee Member on Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda as Climate Emergency Mobilization Committee Chair and a Carnegie Innovation Hall Advisory Board Member. 

Editor’s note: No one should be unable to plant a tree due to a lack of funds. If the initial planting of a tree poses a financial hardship, the Alameda Sun may be able to help through its environmental effort, Project Tree. To request the local newspaper underwrite the purchase of a tree, write to Eric J. Kos at