Half of all the species on Earth have disappeared in the last 40 years. In Malaysia, Indonesia, Africa and Brazil, the destruction of rain forests continues almost unabated endangering thousands more species of plants and animals while belching tons of carbon and methane into the atmosphere. The resulting increase in world temperatures from deforestation, gas and diesel-powered cars, and coal-fired power plants is causing the Greenland glaciers to lose 17 feet of elevation every year. Likewise, the Antarctic ice shelves and glaciers are melting at alarming rates. In addition, the Arctic sea ice is disappearing putting the future of Polar Bears, even indigenous people in jeopardy.
Greed has led to the near extinction of Northern White Rhinos with only 5 now left on the entire planet, and they’re only alive because they’re guarded 24/7 to protect them from poachers. Ivory poachers are killing African elephants at the rate of more than 33,000 per year. If that continues, wild African elephants will become extinct within 12 years! Tigers and many other species are also nearing extinction in the wild. Even bees and butterflies are endangered by our overuse of pesticides.
We have destroyed most of our great ocean reefs and we continue to dump oil, agrichemicals and trash into the oceans creating large dead zones and “islands” of plastic. Hundreds of large factory ships scoop up anything that swims into nets 24 hours a day, keeping those species that are valuable for sale and killing the rest.
Factory farming of cattle, pigs and poultry has led to the overuse of antibiotics that pollute our bodies and make bacteria increasingly immune to medicines. Dairy cows are treated like milk factories, fed a steady diet of hormones intended to cause them to give more milk. And most of the animals are confined in pens with little room to turn around. Moreover, the waste from these meat and milk factories pollutes our ground water and the animals create enormous amounts of methane released into the atmosphere to add to the greenhouse gases. At the same time, corporate farming of grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts have incorporated more herbicides and pesticides while stripping the flavor and nutrition from our food supply.
Oil companies, subsidized by US taxpayers, are searching farther and deeper for oil and gas while polluting the land and water wherever they go. Not only are they responsible for massive spills in our oceans. They are pumping millions of gallons of benzene and other chemicals into the ground which pollutes our ancient underground aquifers. Coal companies are removing entire mountaintops in Appalachia while destroying forests and streams. Manufacturers and refineries quietly dump their toxic waste into our streams or, if it is so toxic that it might raise alarms in the US, they ship it to third world nations for disposal.
At the same time we are destroying the planet with our greed, holy wars are being waged around the globe displacing millions of people in the name of God and Allah. The destruction is spurred on by military contractors who pump out weapons by the millions then traffic them globally in the name of “defense.”
Given all of these crises, you might expect that Congress is working overtime to find ways to end the destruction. But you’d be wrong. While the planet is quite literally melting down, our crack politicians are playing golf with the polluters; vacationing with the weapons manufacturers; sucking up to billionaire campaign donors; doling out subsidies to corporate farmers. And, instead of addressing the real issues, the GOP and its propaganda arms (Fox News Channel and talk radio) have voters in a tizzy over such issues as the religious freedom to discriminate against others, the imaginary “war on Christians” and the false narrative that “tree huggers” are standing in the way of job creation and higher wages.
And when GOP leaders are asked about climate change, they begin their denial with “I’m not a scientist” or “climate change is unproven.” Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But I have eyes and ears. I can see the effects of pollution. I can see films of rampant deforestation. I can read reports from climate scientists and environmental scientists. And I can listen to experts who flatly state that 2015 may be our last chance to begin the necessary changes to head off the cascading effects and downward spiral of climate change.
So what is the downside of committing to policies that will slow and eventually reverse the destruction of our planet?
There is none. Certainly, some industries and jobs will be negatively impacted. But far more will be created. Making positive changes such as reducing our consumption, changing to a more plant-based diet, and switching from carbon fuels to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biofuels should not be difficult. And the new industries these changes create will be the economic engines that drive our future…if we are to have a future on this planet.