After November NAEM and Before the Flood

by Aaron Hersum

This past Sunday evening, I tuned to National Geographic to watch Before the Flood, a documentary by Leonardo DiCaprio on climate change. I’m a big fan of Leo- he seems to genuinely care about climate change and understand the severity of its implications. Unlike many other celebrity endorsements, I find that his actually benefits the cause.

The movie was not groundbreaking; anyone familiar with climate change would be familiar with the material it covered- the causes, the culprits. However, it was nice to have a Hollywood budget backing the documentary- cinematography was phenomenal.

Other than topically, Before the Flood doesn’t have much to do with Tuesday’s BASG event, “Zero Waste, EHS Regulations & Other Updates from NAEM.” The reason I mention the movie is that it inspired me- it reminded me of why I care so much about climate change, and why I attend events such as BASG. I don’t have to write blog posts for the group (I have a job now!), and there are times when admittedly it feels like an extra chore after an enjoyable evening. But listening to speakers such as Johanna Jobin, Director, Global EHS and Sustainability at Biogen, and Frank Marino, Senior Corporate Environmental, Health, Safety and Sustainability Manager at Raytheon, reminds me that the blog is my contribution to the fight, an outlet for my passion.

Johanna and Frank have dedicated their careers to figuring out sustainability and environmental health and safety in the corporate world. They have important positions at globally renowned companies, but when they come to BASG, I get the sense that the bureaucracy falls away at the door, and they speak to us simply as fellow global citizens with a shared passion and sense of urgency. And I appreciate that lack of hierarchy at BASG: when we come together, we are just a group of people with a shared desire for change.

Switching back to Before the Flood for a moment, I greatly appreciated its willingness to implicate (by name) the major players in the climate denial industry who are obstructing the push towards climate change mitigation: oil and fossil fuel companies and the utility companies that benefit from dirty energy, companies that benefit from the palm oil industry, the non-profits and thinks tanks that take industry money to put out “science” denying climate change, and the politicians who do the same.

Thinking specifically about the institutional deniers, I find it striking that some organizations are so obstinate towards changing their business practices, whereas companies such as Biogen and Raytheon make an effort to adapt. I also find it ironic that in a capitalist economy predicated on the concept of evolve or go extinct, major corporations can get by with a business model that mirrors those of an Industrial Revolution era economy (can you say welcome to the 21st century?).

All the money in the world won’t mean a thing if there is no world left to enjoy. And that isn’t hyperbole – cities such as Miami will literally be underwater by the end of the century (at the latest), no longer inhabitable and wiped off the map. Island nations such as Kiribati in the south Pacific are already telling citizens to move, because their homes won’t exist for much longer. I’m grateful for BASG and the people it brings together, because we need to act now. With a connected effort, I am hopeful that we can potentially reverse climate change and stabilize our environment enough for future generations to enjoy.

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