Global Warming: Time to Get Real

By Eric Francis

Planet Waves – EDITORIAL

By whatever clock you’re using — astrology, the civil calendar, the Mayan calendar or geological time — it’s getting late on the climate change issue. It’s getting so late that the excuse of “too late, we can’t do anything” might even sound convincing.

New Orleans underwater after Hurricane Rita, 2005.
New Orleans underwater after Hurricane Rita, 2005.

For a moment. Until you think of your children and their children, and theirs.

Ten years ago at the Saturn-Neptune opposition, we witnessed the twin hurricanes Rita and Katrina, and the almost unthinkable flooding of New Orleans and Houston.Then we witnessed the compounded disaster of relief services failing almost completely while cops and Blackwater security patrolled rich neighborhoods to prevent looting.

At the time, it was a moment of awakening. People understood that rising ocean temperatures — that is, global warming — were feeding these kinds of superstorms. The more heat, the more powerful the storms.

It seemed, for a moment, like the payoff from the destruction of two cities would be the public waking up on climate change.

The warming trend and the superstorms have only continued, but our commitment has not. Now we’ve arrived at the next phase of the Saturn-Neptune cycle, the waning square. As you sit here reading, we’re approaching the final day of a major climate conference near Paris, where representatives of 200 countries are gathered.

Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, New York City.
Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, New York City.

Today we know that Exxon, one of the inventors of global warming, was also the first to discover its association to fossil fuels, and was the inventor of climate change denial. Exxon reversed the position documented by its own scientists and embarked on a quarter-century of deception, delaying response and feeding more denial.

Maybe making $4.5 million an hour in profits — not revenue, profits — motivated them to keep things quiet.

Now we know with even greater assurance that the witch-hunt against climate scientists headed up by congressional Republicans in 2005 was just more of the same bullshit.

And now we know that if left unaddressed, the problems of ocean warming, sea levels rising, extreme weather such as cold and droughts, crop failures and other earth changes, will continue. They will affect us and our children. But for the most part, we’re acting like there’s nothing wrong, nothing to be concerned about.

To support this denial, we tell ourselves that 1) It’s not really happening or not caused by human activity, 2) That there’s nothing we can do anyway, and 3) That it’s too late.

A village near the coast of Sumatra lies in ruins. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Philip A. McDaniel
A village near the coast of Sumatra lies in ruins. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Philip A. McDaniel

It’s strange to watch a society go through this. It’s strange and it’s very sad. Perhaps the worst element is that at the time when we need to be active and responsive and moving with confidence and a sense of purpose, the morass of apathy has never seemed thicker.

I often envision myself telling this story to the people who are alive 500 years from now, explaining why people did so little. I would have to say, ultimately, it was a spiritual issue. Yes, they were all very spiritual, but didn’t make the connection to actual existence.

You might ask what you can do. Europeans consume half the energy that Americans do, with a lifestyle that’s arguably better. That means that Americans waste half of the energy that we use.

There is plenty we can do. It’s a matter of consciousness and mustering up the will. But this has to go beyond your personal will to survive. This is not about you. It’s about all of us — and everyone who inherits the Earth from us.

Planet Waves (ISSN 1933-9135) is published each Tuesday and Thursday evening in Kingston, New York, by Planet Waves, Inc.