The Real Threats We Face.

Our planet is facing a growing number of crises – any one of which could lead to a calamity that could end life as we know it.

Let’s begin with the threat of climate change. We’ve known about the impact of burning fossil fuels for many years. But our Republican politicians continue to allow the coal and oil industries to obstruct most attempts to switch to sustainable forms of energy. As a consequence, greenhouse gases continue to pollute our atmosphere and the planet continues to warm resulting in more severe storms and large scale droughts that are turning tillable land into desert. Already, this has caused the displacement of millions of economic refugees who are finding themselves increasingly unwelcome in other countries. Yet president-elect Trump has dismissed climate change as a Chinese-created hoax.

To make matters worse, climate change has led to the unprecedented melting of glaciers and sea ice. In fact, Arctic sea ice is now declining at the rate 13.3 percent per decade. The Antarctic ice sheet is melting at an alarming rate. And the melting of the Greenland ice sheet doubled between 1996 and 2005, receding more than 12 miles in just the past decade. That may not seem particularly catastrophic until you consider that just one of Greenland’s glaciers contains enough water to raise global sea levels by 18 inches. And, if the entire Greenland ice sheet, which covers more than 656,000 square miles, melts, it could raise sea levels by as much as 20 feet!

If our governments don’t act quickly and aggressively to slow and reverse the melt, many of the world’s largest cities will be under water within a few decades, displacing hundreds of millions more people.

In addition, our oceans are warming. This not only changes ocean currents, it’s placing stress on the coral reefs, which are home to the fish that sustain hundreds of millions of people. Already, 80 percent of the Caribbean’s coral reefs are dead. Large portions of the Great Barrier Reef are dying. And the reefs in the so-called Coral Triangle, which feed more than 380 million people, are stressed and over-fished. What are these people to do when the reefs are dead and the fish are gone?

As if that’s not bad enough, factory ships are cruising the oceans netting anything that swims. The oceans are also being inundated with oil, agricultural runoff and other toxins creating dead zones. What’s more, humans are using the oceans as trash dumps creating floating “islands” of plastics and other trash.

In the Amazon, the rain forest is being clear-cut to create grazing lands for cattle to meet the world’s rising demand for beef. And, in the South Pacific, rain forests are being cleared to grow palm oil to be used as an ingredient in a growing number of processed packaged foods. Not surprisingly, the loss of these rain forests leads to diminished rainfall and changing climate patterns. Moreover, the cattle release methane which further contributes to greenhouse gases and rising temperatures.

In Africa, the rain forests are also being destroyed and, on the savanna, the almost unabated poaching of large mammals, such as elephants, rhinos, giraffes, lions, leopards and tigers may lead to their extinction in our lifetimes. In particular, the loss of the apex predators will create a cascading effect by allowing the overpopulation of other species placing further stress on the environment.

Religious strife has led to wars and terrorism which have also displaced millions and further damaged the environment. Worse, they have distracted our governments from focusing attention on even more dire problems.

Finally, the growth of computerization, robotics and artificial intelligence threaten to eliminate roughly half of the nation’s jobs within the next 10-20 years. Yet, like most of the other crises, this has not even created a conversation by our politicians and news media.

As catastrophic as all of these things could be, they also represent opportunities. For example, addressing climate change by restructuring our economies around renewable energies could create millions of new jobs that could offset those lost to computerization. Rebuilding and modernizing infrastructure could also create jobs.

Limiting our consumption of beef, in addition to other meats, and changing our diets to include more grains and vegetables from sustainable agriculture could not only save our rain forests, it could improve our health and reduce the chemicals in our foods. It could also reduce the stress on our oceans. And reversing the recent trend of nationalism and learning to respect the beliefs of those with other religions and cultures could also help by reducing wars and terrorism.

Ultimately, saving our planet and humanity depends on educating ourselves about these complex issues and electing government officials who truly understand the daunting issues we face and who are willing to address them.

Based on the results of the past election, we failed miserably.

On Earth Day, An Assessment.

Each year, we celebrate our planet for a single day. On that day, there are a variety of gatherings, speeches and warnings. It’s not enough. Not nearly enough. The remainder of the year, most of us continue to trash the planet. Some liken our actions to filling our living rooms with garbage. But it’s worse than that. What we’re really doing is fouling our air, our water, our climate, even the food we eat.

So, on this Earth Day, let’s forgo the platitudes and the entertainment and focus on the status of our planet.

– 15 of the 16 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001 and 2016 is likely to set another record.
– 2015 was the first year that global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius above the 1880-1889 average (the start of the industrial revolution).
– Atmospheric CO2 is now 401.58 parts per million (ppm) and rising. (400 ppm has long been considered the climate tipping point.)
– Arctic sea ice has declined 13.3 percent per decade.
– As the Arctic ice melts, the underlying tundra is exposed, releasing methane, which is 25 times worse than CO2.
– The Greenland Ice Sheet is losing 8,000 tons of ice per second 24/7.
– Antarctic ice is melting far faster than even the most alarming scientific predictions.
– Scientists have discovered that 93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has been damaged by coral bleaching (in other words, it is dying).
– Global warming and overfishing have pushed the world’s oceans to the brink of extinction, reducing some species by more than 90 percent.
– Dozens of animal species are endangered and many more are vulnerable, including such iconic species as Rhinos, Elephants, Lions and Tigers.
– Deforestation is occurring on a massive scale with more than 18 million acres lost each and every year, much of it the result of corporate greed.
– Global sea levels are rising at the rate of 3.24 mm per year, and the rise is accelerating.
– Our oceans are warming, resulting in changes in ocean currents. In turn, that results in new, and more extreme, weather patterns.
– The ice melt and degradation of our aquifers have led to the shifting or the Earth’s axis by nearly 17 centimeters per year.

As bad as all of that is, we can stop the destruction and even begin to reverse it. But it will take a concerted effort by all of the planet’s residents. Today’s signing of the Paris climate agreement by 170 nations is a start. But only a start. We can’t rely on governments alone to save the planet. We all have to do our part.

For example, we can all try to make better choices. We can drive less to burn less fuel or, better yet, take public transportation. We can better insulating our homes to reduce the fuel needed to heat and cool them. We can demand that our representatives vote to keep fossil fuels in the ground and focus on increasing renewable energy. We can purchase or lease solar panels for our homes and can purchase hybrid and electric cars. We can replace traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs. We can end our throwaway mentality, cut waste and recycle. We can eliminate or reduce consumption of meat – especially beef – which is carbon-intensive. We can buy locally-grown produce to cut transportation-cause carbon emissions. We can reduce water consumption. We can plant carbon-absorbing trees. And, most important, we can elect candidates that will work to stop the destruction of our environment. The list of things we can each do is long, and every little bit helps.

Of course, the most important thing we can do is to think about our planet every day…to make every day Earth Day. We have only one chance to get things right. There will be no do-overs

Conservative Death Wish?

For nearly two decades, conservatives have denied…no, scoffed at…climate change. The Koch brothers paid scientists to create reports showing that climate change was a fraud. Republicans first created, then voted against, the idea of Cap and Trade. The Tea Party pushed the Agenda 21 conspiracy saying that a UN plan for global sustainability was a blatant attempt to create a one-world government. As a result, climate change is not only continuing. It’s accelerating at a pace faster than the worst case scenario climate scientists predicted some 20 years ago.

The glaciers on Greenland are melting at the rate of more than 27 feet every year. The Arctic ice pack is melting. Even the ice shelves and glaciers on Antarctica are melting, prompting climate scientists to predict truly catastrophic results.

It’s estimated that just the melting of Greenland’s glaciers alone will result in a sea level rise of roughly 21 feet, flooding 80 of the world’s 100 largest cities! Such a rise will displace approximately one-third of the world’s population and flood many of America’s largest cities, including Baltimore, Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and more. And that’s just from the ice on Greenland!

Far from being frightened by that prospect, many conservative Christians actually welcome the news. They view the crisis as Armageddon…the return of Christ. They even hope to speed the event and the resulting “rapture.” Traditional Republicans fail to recognize the crisis because they believe that acting to prevent climate change would cause harm to the economy and the large, multinational corporations that contribute to their campaigns. More extreme Republicans can’t accept the possibility that Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth was an undeniable truth. Tea Party Parasites simply don’t believe in science. And far too many others simply don’t know and don’t care.

All of this might be humorous if the consequences of climate change weren’t so severe.

Addressing the problem would not only stave off disaster. It could re-energize our economy. In order to decrease the burning of fossil fuels, we could be building a robust alternative energy industry that would create tens of thousands of US jobs and lead to the export of goods and technology overseas. Restructuring our cities to replace automobile traffic with modern, efficient mass transit would make our cities cleaner, more liveable and create additional jobs. Rebuilding our cross-country rail system to replace long distance trucking would lower transportation costs, reduce traffic on our highways and reduce pollutants in our air. Re-fitting diesel trucks to burn cleaner LP gas would not only reduce CO2 emissions, it would help reduce chronic diseases such as asthma. Certainly, some industries will suffer. But those industries would eventually fail anyway and they’ll be replaced by new, more sustainabile industries.

The cost to do all of this will be many, many times less than the cost of moving or rebuilding just one of our major cities faced with rising sea levels. In all likelihood, the cost could be offset by a single catastrophic hurricane caused by climate change and a couple of seasons of fighting the growing number of wildfires caused by global warming.

We can do this! We can actually fight climate change and profit at the same time. Just because conservatives have a death wish, that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to go along with them.