by Other Staff~
I believe in climate change. I believe in it because I learned about the greenhouse gas effect in High School Science, and I have witnessed world population and emissions from human activity expanding rapidly ever since. Growing up on the east coast of the USA five decades ago, I saw cars and power plants and factories to be sure, all creating what scientists of the time thoughtfully coined as smog, a combination of smoke and fog. But in places like India, China, Indonesia and Africa, most people were still getting around with oxcarts and pole boats. And the tropics contained forest’s so vast that they breathed in CO2 like gigantic lungs equipped with HEPA filters that breathed back out clean…fresh… air. Today, those forests are disappearing at the rate of eighteen million acres per year, mostly burned, releasing huge amounts of carbon that was trapped in the trees, into the air.
Half of all the world’s forests are gone. Half….There goes the filter! And China’s air has gotten so unhealthy over the last few decades of modernization, fueled mainly by coal, that breathing there has become an occupational hazard. So evidently, all of that particulate matter and noxious gas we’ve been generating has been going somewhere—it didn’t just drift off into infinite space, it stayed right here trapped in our finite little biosphere due to something called “the atmosphere.” Elementary school science. How inconvenient.
But does this change in the physical make-up of our atmosphere, our thickening air, have the ability to alter the planets climate? You don’t have to be a scientist to answer. It’s basic High School Science. I believe in it because it is a valid and well tested scientific principal. I wish it wasn’t. I wish we could continue to burn up fuels the way we have all along, not because I am a fan of fossil fuel consumption. Far from it. It is an expensive, dirty little habit that creates ugliness wherever we drill, mine, pump, or otherwise extract non-renewable sources of energy from the earth. It costs us billions of dollars and thousands of human lives to wage wars in the Middle East to protect our interests in the oil supplies there. It has led our country into dangerous and unethical liaisons with unscrupulous and inscrutable governments that we would be better off ignoring and probably would, if it were not for that precious oil. The adverse health and environmental effects are well documented and inarguable.
No, I am not a fan of the fossil fuel industry. But I am aware of its power. And they have money, so much money, to fuel their campaigns against everything from subsidies for renewable energy research (the hypocrites!) to the EPA and the Clean Air and Water Act. Of course the money that they have and the power structure that they have built with it, will be hard to beat. And that kind of power is difficult to extract. From our politics, our economy and even our psyche. The fossil fuel industry has nearly convinced us that they are irreplaceable. It’s impossible to live a decent life without burning fossil fuels for our energy needs they tell us. They like to characterize renewable energy advocates as hippies and misfits who would prefer to return us back to the days of foraging for food in the wild and living in caves. But who is really clinging to the past and denying the future, and who is moving forward here?
In my mind, the fossil fuel industry itself is the obsolete has-been and the renewable advocates are the visionaries. And it’s time to act. It’s time to embrace the change and support it. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road, hoping that Jesus or the Aliens or the New Feminine Energy that is surely coming, to bring us to heaven, or to understanding or to a dawning of a more evolved species, will save us. We will save us or no one will. It’s our world. It’s our air, our earth, our children’s heritage. It belongs to no industry, no ideology, no political or power structure. It’s too precious to leave it in the hands of the abusers or the users or the money changers. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to act. To vote. To march. To write. To speak truth to power. But before you can do this, you have to believe. And when you believe, you will be compelled to act. Which really is inconvenient. So tell me, do you believe?