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September 02, 2014
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The new normal?


Two years ago I heard Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, speak at a Catskill Mountainkeeper event. He warned the audience that we’re deluding ourselves if we think climate chaos is our grandchildren’s problem. It’s our problem, he asserted. It’s happening now.

Can anyone doubt the veracity of his words? In the past two years in the Upper Delaware River Valley alone, we have experienced tornadoes, three hurricanes and severe drought. As I write this, two days after Hurricane Sandy, my heart goes out to all those in our community who are once again forced to cope with property damage, loss of business and power outages. Our disruptions are minimal compared to those in New York City and New Jersey where lives have been lost and damage runs to tens of billions of dollars.

It takes a good deal of intestinal fortitude to widen my scope and assess global climate catastrophe. In the past two years alone, our planet has suffered unprecedented droughts: cracked soil and stunted corn in America’s heartland, raging wildfires in New Mexico and California, unprecedented drought in India and Russia, record-breaking temperatures worldwide, rampant flooding, melting icecaps, tornadoes, superstorms; the list of climate catastrophes continues to grow.

Scientists have been warning us for years: This is what global heating looks like.

The American public now agrees with the majority of scientists who state that global warming is real, and that human beings are causing it, according to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication (http://environment.yale.edu/climate/). Yet our so-called leaders remain unwilling to address this ever-growing threat, and corporations continue to place greed above the welfare of life on the planet.

I am writing this before Election Day. One of the presidential candidates favors “clean coal” and “efficient” natural gas, and the other favors more drilling for oil, despite what you and I know: fossil fuels are a finite resource and carbon emissions cause global warming. No matter who wins, it appears that our next president will not govern us toward a more rational, sustainable future, starting now.

No species has inhabited earth forever, an evolutionary reality that is no doubt also true for Homo sapiens. The tragedy is that our demise will be self-inflicted, and we are destroying other life forms as we destroy ourselves. We are willfully acting in opposition to our own best interests, insistent on maintaining our dominion over the Earth, wanting what we want when we want it, failing to value what sustains us. Our rational brain has created the technology that has built what we proudly call “civilization,” but our reptilian brain makes it difficult for us to recognize that we are connected to each other and to all life.

We deserve neither the beauty nor the bounty Earth provides if we refuse to act to save ourselves, and in doing so, protect life on our planet. Perhaps we’re incapable of changing course.

Or will we collectively act from our higher selves to preserve what sustains us?