In America, we talk so much about freedom as it is a central part of our identity.
When it comes to what freedom entails, most Americans would agree that there are political, social, and economic dimensions. Most agree that in a free society there is a need for order, justice, security, opportunity, and fairness. There is a shared sense that freedom requires the absence of harm and undue interference. Most believe that freedom requires a variety of rights, including those related to speech, property, voting, religion, fair legal treatment, assembly, the press, and so on.
One important thing to remember in these conversations is not just to focus on being free from something, but free to do something as well. Being free from tyranny does not necessarily mean the conditions exist which allow you to live a full life. That freedom requires not merely the absence of something but the presence of something as well.
Climate change might be seen as a threat to the freedom and well-being of not only all Americans living today, but for their children and grandchildren, since greenhouse gas emissions can be locked into the atmosphere for generations.
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The sooner we act, the less damage there will be to our society and to Earth’s ecosystems and the lower the economic cost.
Gerber is the co-director and lead scientist of the Global Landscapes Initiative (GLI) at the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota.