by Diarmuid McGuire
If my head exploded in front of a United States senator, would he notice?
OK, there might be some hyperbole going on here, but not as much as you think. As far as exploding heads are concerned, it’s just a matter of paying attention. A few facts fly in through an open mental window and BOOM!
For example, I was listening to Jefferson Public Radio last week and heard Professor Burke Hales of Oregon State University mention that acid levels in our world’s oceans are reaching levels that have not been seen in 50 million years.
So what’s the problem with a bit of pH? Well, it’s actually a big problem. Up to 40 percent of the CO2 that we are pumping into the atmosphere dissolves in the oceans forming carbonic acid, which prevents organisms like plankton, coral and shellfish from metabolizing calcium carbonate. Hence they have no shells. Zillions of critters die. These guys are the foundation of the oceanic food chain so the entire marine ecosystem starts to collapse. Note that, in addition to food, we depend on the ocean for a big portion of our oxygen.
The last time something like this acidification happened was about 56 million years ago in the Paleocene-Eocene era when the oceans pretty much died. How will Fox spin that?
More importantly, how will Senator Jeff Merkley handle this news? First, full disclosure: I love Jeff Merkley like a brother. I have met him. He is exactly what you hope for in a leader: an honest, unassuming guy whose dad carried a lunch pail to work. He is also the smartest guy in the room with degrees from Stanford and Princeton and a deep understanding of just about any policy issue.
Jeff is working very hard to be the most effective senator that Oregon has ever sent back east and he is on track to pull it off. The problem is the context. The climate of our planet is jumping off its track. If we do not act now to stabilize it, nothing else will matter. Filibusters, the Middle East, the economy, wealth, poverty, social justice, the Kardashians: you name it. It won’t matter.
We need to change the game. This will require effective measures at the state, federal and international levels to cap greenhouse gas emissions and start reducing them. Yes, this means rebuilding the global economy but scientists and economists at Stanford and elsewhere say this is possible and more affordable than catastrophe.
Meanwhile Jeff is still willing to trade jobs in Coos Bay for a pipeline that will send more carbon fuel to Asia, where it will hasten environmental collapse. This is politics as usual and it simply must stop here and now.
I’m going to send this column to Jeff wrapped around a haironfireOregon.org bracelet bearing our motto: Nothing Else Matters. I urge you to do the same. His mailing address: 313 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510.