There is a famous Sci-Fi story twice made into a movie, “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” The basic plot (no spoilers) involves an alien who arrives on Earth to warn human kind that we will be destroyed before we can destroy the planet. One of the scientists negotiating with the alien offered some sadly accurate but prophetic words. She said humans had the ability to change, to stop destroying the planet, but we would not choose to do so until we were truly faced with catastrophe to force our hand. As we enter 2019, we are most assuredly going down that route. We need an alien, or at least some strong leaders, to take charge, show courage, and address this crisis before we do in fact destroy the planet.
Environmental degradation is nothing new. With technological, industrial, and energy advances that have benefitted society has also come the challenge of pollution control. As a consequence of damaging air, water, and soil pollution decades ago, the United States created the Environment Protection Agency and began regulating pollution, funding clean-up, and holding offenders liable. More recently, Climate Change dominated the environmental discussion. With very few exceptions, the entire scientific community accepts this theory based on extremely strong evidence and the dire consequences of inaction.
Rising sea levels threaten coastal communities worldwide. Residents will be forced to move further inland or perhaps rely upon land-saving technology to keep the ocean at bay. The earth is experiencing longer, more severe droughts threaten food supplies and the ability to grow sufficient amounts of produce and raise sufficient amounts of food animals to feed the growing world population. The U.S. alone has been experiencing a large decline in agricultural land forcing us to import increasing amounts of food. We are also experiencing a treacherous increase in powerful storms.
Communities prone to hurricanes are seeing more powerful and damaging storms. It is conceivable that we will have to add a Category 6. The infamous “Polar Vortex” deep freezes are increasing in the northern part of the country and extending further. Cold and snow is extending to southern states such as the Carolinas that have not previously been prone to the more typical northern snow and ice. Snow can be beautiful when it is not shutting down schools, businesses, and travel for days. Imagine living with a power outage in the middle of a cold snap with no heat for days. Floods around the country as well as wild fires, mostly in the west, are also growing in alarming strength and number. The government will not be able to keep rebuilding the affected communities, nor should that be the long-term answer.
There are climate deniers out there and they have control over the Republican leadership. As illogical and contrary to the plain facts as their position may be, it is not truly necessary to convince them to accept climate change. Sustainability and clean energy create jobs. Good jobs. Improving technology leading to cleaner, safer air and water is never a bad thing regardless of any political or policy debates. So is an improved economy and job market. Thus, the economic and practical safety arguments should suffice even where the environmental crisis or concern for future generations does not compel their support.
The U.S. and most of the world were trying to address climate change. The Paris Accords were an excellent initial international step and represented a meaningful effort. No omnibus international agreement can be perfect considering the intricacies and complexities of over 100 nations advocating their own interests and priorities. But the accords were an excellent start and deserved support. Unfortunately, President Trump immediately notified the world that he was pulling the U.S. out of the accords. He did so without any understanding of its provisions or necessity. It was blind political theater much to the detriment of our country.
Trump ally former Florida governor, now Senator, Rick Scott, seriously hurt the state. Despite increasing drought, beach erosion, incredible catastrophic storms, significant water pollution, endangered species, etc., Scott opposed all climate change efforts and like Trump, banned even the use of the phrase or discussion of the issue within the government. We need greater effort, not abandonment. “Leaders” with such intellectual dishonesty and cowardice who work against our interests are unfit for office. IT is not about disagreement over policy but rather about the extreme danger they cause, harming all aspects of society and threatening our collective future.
Voters must speak with loud voices this year and going forward in all elections if they want to prevent the otherwise imminent peril from inaction and denial. Selfish, foolish statements that the next generation can address these issues no longer work. This is the next generation, and this is the time where we must act before it is too late. I began with reference to a Sci-Fi movie. There have been plenty of such stories and movies focused on environmental catastrophe wherein society lives in extreme drought, long-term famine, is forced to move underground or live above water, and in which war and violence are an everyday part of life as people struggle for survival. These are works of fiction, but as the saying goes, the truth is often stranger than fiction. We all must heed the warnings in these stories before they become more like historical documentaries.