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Outside of Houston, a small town rallied to save a local 100-year-old historic oak tree, and mounted a creative campaign to raise $200,000 in funding, that involved 5 powerful CAT tractors working in Unison to move the living tree 1500 feet, out of the way of a new road. Why does it matter. When an entire community cares that much about saving a living symbol for the future, and mounts an effort as resourceful as that of moving the Endeavor Space Shuttle through the streets of LA, it deserves our notice, and respect.
See the “moving” video. http://youtu.be/BFTj0hM3DHM
Today, it is predicted that Oklahoma City can expect their highest recorded temperature — 114 — ever! Yet cultural disinformation efforts designed to discredit 6,000 peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate that global climate change is rife persist. Not one such study demonstrates the opposite. There is not a comprehensive energy policy in the U.S., much less a climate change policy. Neither Presidential candidates mention climate change, much less make public warnings nor propose comprehensive initiatives related to climate change.
Yes, unemployment and economic disruption and erosion of education are major American issues. But without an effective strategy to reduce the negative effects of climate change, we are burying our head as to the future. None of these other issues will be solved with addressing climate change. One of the few leaders to address climate change through constructive analysis and positive proposals is senator John Kerry, in this address before Congress just yesterday. Take a listen: http://sn128w.snt128.mail.live.com/default.aspx#n=180166905&fid=1&fav=1&mid=7e19162a-dc33-11e1-8362-00215ad8015c
Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney, please make climate change policy a priority, now! Humans are almost surely the cause, but even if we are only part of it, climate change is real, and we can act to moderate and reduce its effects on humanity, which there is still some time left.
Last night governor Perry reiterated his belief that the “science is unsettled” on whether man’s carbon emissions is the primary cause of climate change, and whether we should change our economies on that basis. He raised the example of how Galileo was considered crazy in believing the world is round by the preponderance of scientists in his time.
In our time, today, the preponderance of science is on the side that mankind has accelerated potentially devastating climate change through our increase in modern carbon emissions related to burning fossil fuel. Yet there os also a historical perspective that suggests that monumental natural climate change has taken place several times before, but that the consequence to mankind is now greater because of the size and dispersal of our human population.
For example, after hurricane Katrina, some said that the answer was not to rebuild New Orleans in its aftermath, as has been done, but to rebuild a “new” New Orleans at another location that is not in the natural path of catastrophic storms.
I’d like to propose, not as a scientist, but from the perspective of a thinking person, that mankind should be taking a hedged approach to climate change: assume that to some extent that it is inevitable, but also assume that mankind should reduce carbon emissions that can only make climate change worse. For example, perhaps we should begin moving populations inland and to higher ground, at the same time we strive to reduce use of fossil fuels and develop alternative energy sources. Perhaps what we need to do is BOTH evolve our cultural footprint on this world and change our intensity of use and sources of natural energy.
Here’s a segment of my 2007 essay, “The Masai Mara Hood Ornament,” which can be found at http://www.chilit.org, that reports one scientist’s expert opinion on this issue:
“The guest speaker was Richard Leakey, the renowned paleoanthropoligist, former director of the National Museum of Kenya and of the Kenya Wildlife Service. Yes, he is the 64-year-old inheritor of the legacy of famed fossil hunters Louis and Mary Leakey. Richard has devoted his life, as did his parents, to helping conserve the habitats of wild species in Africa and elsewhere.
“He shared an increasingly familiar concern when he said, “I think the most threatening crisis facing us and our descendants is climate change. No single thing is going to do more damage or wreak more havoc than the climate change cycle we are now entering on.”
“He observed that many byproducts of human activities, such as carbon spewing into the atmosphere, have a negative impact. But he went on to share his view that the human race, our very species, might not be what and where we are today but for naturally caused climate change, in earlier prehistoric times.
“The first of such changes was 2.6 million years ago, when the response to fairly rapid desiccation or drought was the development of the earliest record of technology – the first time primates started to use sharp edges to access a meat diet.
The second sweep of climate change took place in Africa about 1.8 million years ago, when early humans first left Africa, and we began to find their fossils in parts of Europe and later in Asia.
“Some of you may have participated in the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project, a landmark DNA study of the human journey out of Africa to populate the world. Vicki and I sent our DNA samples in, and found the portions of Africa from whence our earliest descendants moved on into Europe.
“The last major pre-historic climate change, and one that still affects us, occurred just 8 or 9 thousand years ago, when humans around the world underwent pressures from desiccation that led to the domestication of plants and animals.
Leakey concludes, “Had there not been such climate change in three separate episodes, we probably would not be where we are today, as a species.”
“The difference is that in previous times there were relatively few people to be effected by climate change, but today it can affect an enormous population – some 6 to 8 billion people across the continents. He believes that today there are far too many people on the planet to absorb such change, particularly if we go through a period of years when rainfall patterns change dramatically, mean temperatures rise, and most significantly, ocean levels also begin to rise.”
Last night, I witnessed, along with more than 150 other agitated citizens, a City Council meeting in the small Wisconsin resort town of Lake Geneva, where the mayor and aldermen, including two women, “entertained” with a stylized Kabuki performance in which the local government’s secret greed for geographic growth was pushed into the open through challenges by dozens of local citizen speakers intent on restraining such growth urges and preserving the small-town character of their community.
At issue was a massive 710-acre partially wooded rural site, a major watershed into pristine Geneva Lake, with important wetlands, adjacent to a State Park, which separates the site from the rest of Lake Geneva. The property had been purchased from local farmers by a developer more than a decade ago. He tried to get it rezoned for residential building by the Town of Linn. Failing that, he urged the land be annexed by the City of Lake Geneva, where he thought he’d get a better development deal. But when he property was annexed, and the developer came forward with plans for more than a thousand homes and a golf course community, the citizenry balked, and opposed such a massive development that would over time almost double the size of their city. Plans were revised, but the city council rejected the project, under increasing pressure from it citizenry.
Last night, dozens of the citizens present spoke out, with passion, intelligence and even rhetorical brilliance, on the need to protect and preserve this land in a natural state, for a variety of environmental reasons and to constrain the long-term growth of their small lakeside community. The City Council listened to hour after hour of such heart-felt testimony, then quickly moved to a vote, with most of the council members saying nary a word. One alderman had the courage, at the last-minute, to point a finger at the mayor, suggesting that an under-the-counter deal had been made with the developer. to drop a $120 million law suit against the city claiming it had unfairly blocked the developer, in exchange for a vote to remap the land from rural holding (meaning 20 years — a generation — before residential development could be considered) to residential. Such remapping would be the first step in rezoning the land to allow housing development. The city’s corporation counsel hushed the nervous alderman.
The citizens argued that the community’s Comprehensive Master Plan, adopted less than 18 months ago, requires the land to remain rural. The City Council seemed to view their own master plan as being just as irrelevant as they viewed the citizen speaker opinions. The City Council chose to ignore a previous community referendum which had overwhelmingly turned down the proposed development.
The dance played out, as choreographed by the City Council. After the mayor mumbled that the city, which currently already has 1100 other approved residential development sites, at a time when nothing is being developed, must plan for the future, and have an area to grow, the council voted to let its small town character slip away, delivering on its decade-old secret promise to give the developer exactly what he wanted. It was nearly midnight when the dejected citizens could go home, having witnessed a performance that left them further ashamed of and estranged from their community’s government.
This dance may be over, but the play continues.
A visit to Black Point Estate is a high point of any visit to historic Geneva Lake, Wisconsin. The well-preserved house, standing high on a wooded bluff on the south shore of the 21-mile circumference lake was built by a Chicago beer baron in 1888 as a summer home for his family. Original furnishings and decor make the house feel like it should be in the Smithsonian museum. For information on how to visit Black Point by water or land, go to their website: http://www.blackpointpreserve.org/ The lakefront grounds of Black Point are permanently protected by a conservation easement jointly held by the Geneva Lake Conservancy and the house association.
Yesterday’s 50-degree overnight temp swing in Chicago gave me new impetus to write on climate change, as I sat down to a bowl of hot chili in a neighborhood restaurant and read the lead story in the June 13-20 issue of The New Yorker, “Storms Brewing,” by the observant Elizabeth Kolbert. She succinctly reviewed the increasingly alarming aberrant climate conditions around the globe, and then proceeded to give one of the clearest explanations for it all that I’ve read. I wish I had her perspective on hand when at the Shakespeare Theatre the night before, a friend responded to me when I lamented our wildly vacillating local weather, “Well, no big deal, we’re just seeing some extremes.”
Kolbert wrote: “For decades, climate scientists have predicted, that as global temperatures rose, the side effects would include deeper draughts, more intense flooding and ferocious storms…the underlying science is pretty simple. Warm air can hold more moisture. This means that there is greater evaporation. It also means there is more water, and hence more energy, available to the system. What we are seeing now is these particular predictions being borne out.”
I was going to use the fading of the snows on Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya, Africa’s two highest peaks, as examples of global warming I have witnessed. But I checked and found a new theory is that deforestation is causing the receding snow, because mountain winds used to pick up the moisture from the trees and turn it into snow on the peaks. Attempts are now being made to restore the climate by replanting lost trees.
As to world climate, Ms. Kolbert maintains that today’s “new normal” of tornadoes, hurricanes and wind damage will change even more. “Each additional ton of carbon dioxide that is spewing into the atmosphere contributes to further warming, thus increasing the risk of violent weather.” Some of the reactions to this knowledge are bizarre. In Australia, some are proposing the killing of more than a million feral camels in the outback, each of which emits a ton of natural emissions a year.
Is is time for radical rejiggering of energy policy? Ms. Kolbert makes a wise distinction that is not widely recognized, especially by many leaning “right” politically, “It may be beyond our power to control the climate, but we can determine it. This is precisely what we are doing now, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.”