When we were little baby boomers growing up, “climate change” meant the weather would be different tomorrow than it was today. Now though, it means a whole lot more. And in this Boomer Opinion piece, contributor Alan Paul of Hawthorne, New Jersey, argues that it must be not just taken seriously, but dealt with, for the sake of the generations that follow ours.
We used to have a stately, elderly oak tree growing in the center of our backyard. Some years ago, owing to an especially violent thunderstorm, a massive branch from this majestic tree, with all the length and heft of a medium-sized tree itself, came crashing earthward. While it badly damaged a favorite Adirondack chair and demolished some cherished shrubs and plants, the branch thankfully fell about eight feet short of the deck at the rear of our house.
The next day I called Rob, our reliable and amiable but quasi-burned-out Hippie tree-guy. He came in with his crew and cleared out the Godzilla branch in a couple of hours. Maybe six months later, on an unusually windy mid-October evening, a second monster branch from that very same tree, fully as ponderous and intimidating as the first, gave way to gravity, crushing the roof of our utility shed but otherwise landing mostly in our neighbor’s yard.
I called Rob again, and he showed up later that day in a faded Grateful Dead t-shirt, unfashionably distressed jeans, and cowboy boots, with a red bandanna knotted purposefully around his thick, wavy-gravy head of salt-and-pepper hair.
“What the hell is going on here, Rob?” I asked, exasperated. “Is it me, or are we having an unusual number of very windy days this year?”
“Not you, man,” he said gravely, while perusing the best angle from which to attack this latest tree-beast. “She’s really pissed…”
“Who’s pissed?” I inquired.
“Gaia, man … Mother Earth. She’s really bummed out about the way we’ve been treating Her. And She’s letting us know about it. Don’t ya remember that commercial back in the day: ‘It’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature’? It’s comin’ true, man, and we’re payin’ the price. Big time.”
The year that this occurred, 2010, was coincidently (or not) one of the worst years on record for natural disasters, worldwide. The globe was ravaged that year by severe droughts in some areas and equally devastating floods in others. One of the worst droughts in U.S. history descended upon Kansas, wheat supplier to the world.
The political climate in Egypt that year was especially volatile, and some historians, looking back at that tumultuous period in the hub of the Middle East, point to the scarcity of flour for bread, as a possible cause. Huh? It’s true. People took to rioting in the streets because there was no bread and the government, such as it was, fought back. Interestingly, the Arabic word for bread, ”aish,” is also their word for “life.” Most of Egypt’s wheat flower for bread-making comes from— you guessed it — Kansas.
As I write this today, the phenomena that I witnessed seven years ago are much more commonplace today. Just look at a deadly hurricane season like none other in history, and a wildfire rampage desecrating parts of California. How can anyone alive today fail to see this as virtually undisputed evidence of a downward spiral of climactic conditions gripping our planet? This is not just my opinion. And, dare I say it, it is not opinion at all, but the clear consensus of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists who have spent the better part of the last few decades studying what was once the “global warming theory.”
Twenty years ago, there was some room for debate. Today, however, there’s not. Climate change is happening. It is being caused, in large measure, by human beings releasing more and more massive amounts of deadly greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere each year. And this climate calamity is occurring much more rapidly than was originally predicted.
What I believe is this: God wants us to take care of this planet by whatever means are necessary. But if we don’t, God won’t necessarily save the planet for us. I certainly don’t trust that our political leaders are capable of agreeing on anything; not even an existential threat like this. What I am therefore left with is believing in scientists to do what is required and convince everyone else that we have to ensure our planet’s livability, for our grandchildren, their children’s children, and beyond. If anyone in power will only display the courage to let them.
God, Gaia, and Science together should be able to ensure a future for the human race, right here on our home planet. All the rest of us really have to do is get out of the way.
Some of retired editor and writer Alan Paul’s other work is available on The Frog Blog.