Wakeup Call

When, exactly, do we take this seriously?

Over the next few days we will finally have a solar electric system installed on our home. It took a while, given that we rented for twenty-three years and just purchased a home last December. Still, it’s a goal fulfilled. In light of the disturbing news that came out yesterday (to be fair, it wasn’t exactly “news”) that we humans have passed the “Point of No Return” in dealing with climate change, it may seem a frivolous celebration. But, in spite of the very real disaster unfolding, we have been given a modicum of hope for setting a course for future generations, because some of us still care about that sort of thing. The solutions, of course, rely on immediate global action and no further delay, ignoring the stark reality because it’s uncomfortable; and it is action on a massive scale, not one solar installation at a time.

Our capacity for denial seems endless. Take the pandemic. Please. Even when the numbers of surging cases and deaths slap us upside the head, some hold onto deeply ingrained beliefs — cultivated over decades and validated by political agendas — that science is opinion and “government is the problem,”  and their unwillingness or inability to question those beliefs is literally killing people. Climate change was, decades ago, a slow-moving disaster waiting to happen, but was well on its way long before the public was seeing it happen in real time. When I say “long before,” I’m talking more than a hundred years. Nearly one hundred years ago, the looming crisis was formalized by British engineer Guy Stewart Callendar. He was, of course, widely ignored because such talk and the associated solutions were inconvenient. More recently, scientists and some politicians, among many others, have been sounding the alarm, folks like NASA scientist James Hansen, Vice President Al Gore, author and environmentalist Paul Hawken, and atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe. Climate-scientist consensus and growing political attention are only a start to mitigating the most dire consequences of our reticence. The Green New Deal, so-named to emulate the massive undertaking of the New Deal in the 1930s to recover from economic disaster, is a framework, but is by no means the ultimate solution. 

I’ll spare you the list of current indicators, partly because the list is too long. But the list includes West Coast wildfires completely out of control and fouling the air in New Jersey; floods from extreme rain events exacerbated by previous forest fire burn scars; droughts forcing mass migrations; rapid melting of the polar ice caps; and climate-related spread of disease. If this hasn’t yet made an impression, joining the Flat Earth Society is the next move. When an entire planetary eco-system is on the verge of collapse, it’s the entire planet that needs to respond. This is not the time to “wait and see.”