There are reports from the weather service stating this has been the worst draught in 50 years and in some place since the infamous Dustbowl of the 1930s. Worse, climatologist do not see a way out. They are describing what they call aridification of a large part of the country. And they see the conditions creating it as relatively permanent, a result of major factors, especially global warming. If any of you don’t understand the implications, I’d suggest reading or re-reading Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, the story of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. It is no exaggeration to say that aridification on that scale is terrifying. Farms were destroyed, their topsoil blown away in walls of dust that choked the lungs and made it impossible even to go outside. Farmers, their families, all those who depended on them and many who merely lived in the area became refugees in their own country, streaming onto the roads heading toward rumors of work. Many died, families were ripped apart, and many more forced into the most impoverished and demeaning existence.
The drought is in our present, not some distant future. All the harmful consequences of global warming, from aridification to extreme storms, disappearance of many forms wildlife, the movement of tropical diseases to our shores and the inundation of many lands are already beginning. The problem with things that will eventually bite us is that they eventually happen. And it is happening. Too many people have been thinking about global warming as some distant phenomenon that won’t affect them. I’ve never understood how people can casually dismiss things that will affect their children and grandchildren. Do they care? One woman I spoke to said she didn’t want to think about it because it was so awful. But not thinking about it, not taking action and not demanding action on our water supply and on global warming is becoming part of the problem.
On global warming, it is absolutely the case that if you’re not part of the solution you are part of the problem. And the stakes are huge – our lives, our children, and our country. If you are a decent person, parent, citizen, patriot, you must take action on climate change – now. If you don’t, you are letting our world, our country and our children suffer unnecessary destitution and permanent disaster.
Yes, dealing with these issues is not free. We cannot save our children and grandchildren from global warming without making any sacrifice in the short term. We have to put the lid on burning of carbon based fuels, whether from oil, coal or corn. We have to encourage people, with their pocket books, to turn to solar, wind or similarly carbon-neutral power, and to conservation.
It is time to return to John F. Kennedy’s call to serve, together, to save ourselves, our families and our country. “Ask not,” as he told us, “what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” That is a noble endeavor, and a selfish endeavor. It is the only hope, and dealing with global warming as opposed to ignoring it and hoping it will go away, is essential to be able to hold our heads high, and seek the good will of our creator.
— This commentary was broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, July 31, 2012.