Oh what a beautiful day on the Green Springs. Summer is half over and the forest floor is still carpeted in lush green. Balmy afternoons merge into cool evenings. The lakes are full and the fish are biting.
This is paradise. Why am I uneasy?
Is it the carbon dioxide that’s making me nervous? You can’t see CO2 or smell it. But, along with other so-called greenhouse gases, it traps heat in the atmosphere. Since about 1750 AD, we humans have been burning lots of carbon fuels and releasing lots of CO2. Coincidentally, our planet has been warming. Last year was the hottest on record, as was the one before that. Scientists say that we can stabilize our global climate if we hold CO2 around 350 parts per million. In June, 2015, that number reached 402.80 ppm. Last month it was 406.81 ppm.
Everything feels so good this summer, but I hear an alarm. Am I awake? If I’m not dreaming, why isn’t everyone strapping on tools and getting to work? Yes, building a new energy economy is a big job, on the order of winning World War II. But we actually know how to do it and, if we put our minds to it, we can do it smarter, better, faster and cheaper.
The problem, of course, is that life is just too darn good. We had a couple of drought years and that pesky El Nino is warming up the Arctic Ocean, but we still have white water to run, excellent local microbrew to quaff and a whole season of Game of Thrones to binge watch.
OK, agreed, irony will get us nowhere. But how do we wake ourselves up and wake up the leaders who purport to be leading us? We have a presumptive first female president who talks about climate change but has neglected to mention that doing something about it might require a significant national and international effort. We have a governor who has signed various accords but whose legislative ambitions seem to be focused on building more roads.
Incidentally, both of these officials (one of them between jobs) are prone to brag about big environmental victories that involve substituting “clean burning” natural gas for ugly old coal. Guess what folks: natural gas, aka methane, is just as bad or worse than coal when one considers all the greenhouse gas emissions involved in extracting, transporting, compressing and utilizing that fuel. In other words, converting coal-fired power plants to gas may reduce smoke but, from a climate change viewpoint, it is meaningless. To say otherwise is fraud.
So how do we keep ourselves focused on an invisible but existential threat while our world offers seductive pleasures like an excellent burger at Green Springs Inn? I don’t have a perfect answer, but I can offer a bracelet with this inscription: Nothing Else Matters. As in, “If we don’t…” So come by for that burger. I’ll throw in a free bracelet. Maybe it will help us get organized.