The entire Eastern Seaboard is gearing up for Hurricane Sandy, a storm so large, intense, complex, and potentially damaging many weather forecasters are referring to as a “Frankenstorm.” Jim Cisco, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecaster responsible for coining the term, was quoted as saying, “We don’t have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting.”
We’re making history here with regularly occurring storms of unparalleled scope and destructive power. So is the American West, which has been suffering from repeated gigantic wildfires. Career firemen who used to expect conflagrations of that size once every hundred years are now seeing them two and three times a season.
In fact, the entire country has been making history. We had over over 3000 high-temperature records across the United States tied or broken in June. July was the hottest month on record, ending a year now regarded as the hottest in U.S. History. Drought and heat wilted crops, forced farmers to slaughter animals they couldn’t feed, and prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare over half of all counties in the United States disaster zones.
But the thing is, we’re not just making history, we’re making our future. These unusual, unpredictable, and extreme weather events are the “new normal” anticipated by climate scientists who, for decades, have been warning us about the severe implications of heating up the planet. And yet, neither mainstream media – or the bulk of our political leaders – have had the courage to draw the connection between these profoundly consequential events and the climate crisis.
The unwillingness to acknowledge the severity of our situation is, on the one hand, completely understandable. To admit that we are in a full-blown planetary emergency means doing the hard work of transforming the unsustainable systems and lifestyles to which we have become accustomed. It also means going up against the fossil fuel industry, which has a vested economic interest in maintaining the status quo. Also, with quarterly profits in the many billions of dollars, they’ve got more money than any other industry in the history of money with which to fight back.
However, with climate change progressing at a rate far faster than any of even the most conservative models predicted, we have no choice but to engage. Fortunately, because of its direct connection to every aspect of our energy consumption, and because climate change pretty much impacts everyone and everything, there are an infinite number of ways we can respond, and numerous resources at hand to help us figure out what to do.
To begin with, I’d encourage everyone to look at their investments, and the investments of the institutions with which they’re associated – businesses, banks, universities, and churches – and immediately begin the process of divesting from the fossil fuel industry. It’s a simple thing to do, and let’s not forget that it was a powerful tool in the movement to end apartheid in South Africa.
The fossil fuel industry has been poisoning our atmosphere with impunity, and threatening the continued well-being of life on the planet. This is certainly as morally repugnant a situation as apartheid or slavery (if not more so), and infinitely harder to fix. But we are nothing if not creative, clever, and endlessly inventive. It took heroic leaps of ingenuity to get us into this mess. I don’t doubt we have equal amounts of innovation and will to turn the tide. We have a whole, beautiful planet to fight for, and without any doubt, she is eminently worth saving.
-Kathy Blume, Oct 29, 2012