Our travels and global warming

We spent some time this summer in Chile. For part of that time we went down to Patagonia. We got down as far as 53 degrees lattitude. In the southern hemisphere, that’s like the latitude of James Bay, Canada in the northern hemisphere. Our objective was Lago Grey in Torres del Paine, a Chilean National Park. It’s supposed to be cold. And it was their winter. A Chilean researcher asked if it was cold enough for us. I said yes but actually it was in the 20s, hardly a bitterly cold day for those of us who live in the WAMC area. More significant, the guide at our hotel was explaining to us how far the glacier had retreated in just the last 10 years. It takes their boat a half hour more to get across the lake to the glacier. Out there, deep in the natural world, and as far away from urban life as you can get, they were telling us about global warming and the effect it is already having on them. It is affecting the glacier and wildlife that are objects of tourism. And it is threatening their water supply.

A few years ago, we traveled to Africa. With a colleague and friend who is native to Kenya, we headed for a Kenyan wildlife sanctuary at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Perhaps you’ve seen the iconic photos of the ice cap at the top. It’s mostly gone. For the people in the area that has tremendous significance. All of the water in the area is provided courtesy of the glacier atop Mt. Kilimanjaro. They were telling us about global warming.

Our son went to see Glacier National Park in the U.S. When he was there the Park Service had locked it down to protect the delicate ecology which should have been ice at that season but was mush instead.

Islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans are expecting to go under water and their leaders are actively looking for places to resettle their people. Planners in Fiji are trying to cope with damage to its tourist attractions because of global warming. Canadian ski resorts are struggling with global warming because good snow can only be found on higher ground.

Somehow it seems that people all over the globe are talking about the impact of global warming on them. But in the technologically advanced USA we have an enormous industry committed to ignorance, bound and determined to poo poo the threat of global warming that people understand on remote islands, national parks hemispheres away and third world countries.

This isn’t a trivial issue. As global warming makes refugees, and wars, around the globe, the US will have more than its share of problems. Many millions of Americans live at elevations only a few feet above sea level, at the mercy of rising waters. We’ll have our own refugees escaping our coasts and rivers. And that will prove only a small part of the pains that warming will cause. It is time for America to get serious about global warming. And yes, we will all have to share the pain.

There is really only one remedy that would actually make a difference and make it quickly. That is an energy tax. If we are not willing to bear a little burden to save the future of our kids and grandchildren, what are we anyway?

– Broadcast August 18, 2009, on WAMC Northeast Report

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