I was taught the value of balanced writing free of slanted language. “Let the facts speak for themselves,” my noble university professors proclaimed. “Don’t appeal to emotion.” But as a working environmental journalist emotionally and intellectually saturated with dismal reports like BPs never-ending pursuit of carbon-emitting fossil fuels, and temperatures escalating as a result, I frequently want to dump the nicey nicey and say Hey! Wake up. I like my job so I don’t dare. But Bill McKibben, the acclaimed author of Deep Economy who has plenty of job security, does dare. In a recent diatribe published all over the world, he finally dropped the F-bomb on the energy policies (or lack thereof) that have set our planet on fire.
First, in a Huffington Post article, McKibben sets the stage with the kinds of facts that are meant to speak for themselves, that should rise any sentient being out of a deep slumber, after which they should march down to their local government representative to say “Yo, what are you doing to fix this?”:
* According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the planet has just come through the warmest decade, the warmest 12 months, the warmest six months, and the warmest April, May, and June on record.
* A “staggering” new study from Canadian researchers has shown that warmer seawater has reduced phytoplankton, the base of the marine food chain, by 40% since 1950.
* Nine nations have so far set their all-time temperature records in 2010, including Russia (111 degrees), Niger (118), Sudan (121), Saudi Arabia and Iraq (126 apiece), and Pakistan, which also set the new all-time Asia record in May: a hair under 130 degrees. I can turn my oven to 130 degrees.
Even more dismal reaction
Then McKibben demonstrates America’s political apathy resigned to let us all boil in this hot pot of climatic misery:
* And then, in late July, the U.S. Senate decided to do exactly nothing about climate change. They didn’t do less than they could have — they did nothing, preserving a perfect two-decade bipartisan record of no action. Senate majority leader Harry Reid decided not even to schedule a vote on legislation that would have capped carbon emissions.
Our own leaders are similarly slow to act. Although America is guilty of contributing a bigger plume of emissions into the atmosphere, a lot of oil and gas originates in the Middle East, and we keep generating incentives to keep up the pursuit. For example, our headlines this week alone revealed that Israel gave Egypt’s East Mediterranean Gas Company a 20-year tax exemption for gas exports.
The atmosphere ain’t no open sewer
So how do we fight these short-sighted, profit-driven conglomerates, according to Bill? We do it in three steps.
First, we stop skirting the issue and state the truth in terms that every person understands: we’re heating up, the heat is causing a gushing avalanche of climate change, and we have to put a stop to it.
Second, we state the necessary terms. Carbon emissions must be taxed, not rewarded.
“That undoubtedly means upending the future business plans of Exxon and BP, Peabody Coal and Duke Energy, not to speak of everyone else who’s made a fortune by treating the atmosphere as an open sewer for the byproducts of their main business,” writes McKibben.
Get mad! Organize
And then, we get mad, and we organize. McKibben’s non-profit organization 350.org amassed a gathering of 5,200 concerned citizens who brought awareness to the importance of keeping carbon emissions below 350 parts per million in order to maintain the conditions conducive to current life.
On 10-10-10, they’re getting together again to form a Global Work Party. People from all over the world will install solar panels, dig gardens, and lay out bicycle paths. While McKibben realizes these projects won’t stop climate change, and that we’re up against a formidable economic foe (oil and gas money), the project will at least demonstrate the people’s willingness to work for change.
We can join the Global Work Party on 10-10-10. And every day before and after we can ride bikes, reduce our waste, and recycle; and hopefully we will continue to support the independent farmers and artists and entrepreneurs who have eschewed the careening capitalist model for something more holistic, something more sensible.
But if we want to cool down our planet, apathy is not an option.
More Maddening News from the Middle East: