Ask and expert - MIKE ZANILLO, CLIMATE CHANGE EDUCATOR
Last updated 4/12/2023 at 4:18pm | View PDF
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When Mike Zanillo began giving climate change presentations as community outreach coordinator for Citizens' Climate Education seven years ago, skepticism and even hostility from listeners was not unusual.
"I've been outwardly accused of being a socialist and a communist," Zanillo related.
To his encouragement, audiences today seem to be more receptive.
"The awareness level has increased, and people are more alarmed about the crisis today," he said.
To mark Earth Day next week, Zanillo will lead the discussion "Climate Progress - Is it Enough?" at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, at the Hinsdale Public Library (see Page 26 for details).
He said greater attention among households is good, but has limited impact.
"It's kind of a good news/bad news thing," he said. "Individual action is necessary, but by no means is it sufficient, because it only helps about 10 percent of the problem. The other 90 percent is going to have to come from a policy standpoint."
Last year's landmark Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Joe Biden with its historic investment in promoting clean energy was an important development, Zanillo commented.
"It is the biggest single step that's ever been taken" to address climate change.
But just a step.
"When you put the science to it and crunch the numbers, we're still woefully lacking what is required," he said. "The things we're doing are the low-hanging fruit. It still requires a lot more focus and shining a bright light on the issue."
Zanillo, a frequent visitor to the nation's capital to lobby members of Congress, remarked that there's more convergence on global warming between the two parties than often perceived.
"There's more bipartisan concern about climate change than you would imagine," he said. "Why don't we try to figure out a solution that we can all live with and makes political sense for all involved?"
The quickening rise of sea levels in places like Pensacola, Fla., and greater frequency of severe weather events seems to have softened some long-time opponents.
"There must be something to what the scientists are warning us about," Zanillo said. "Everyone cares about things that are tangible and more visible." The country's food supply is also impacted, hitting consumers in their wallets.
"People ask, 'Why am I paying so much for this produce?' Because the heavy rains have ruined crops and the yields have gone down," he said.
Zanillo would like to see U.S. corporations assume a greater leadership role globally.
"American industry tends to be among the cleanest in the world. Why don't we use it to our advantage to compete economically and establish our clean way of doing things as a model for the world?"
Ultimately, we need to see ourselves as stewards of the planet for future generations, Zanillo stressed.
"While there may be cost to the solutions, I'll bet my bottom dollar there's a lot more cost to not solving the problems," he said. "There is a sense of urgency here. The problem is real and the opportunity is real - and the time to act is now."
- by Ken Knutson