A world of wounds
September has gone down in history for its record-breaking warmth. Locally, it has turned out to be one of the driest as well. Each month we hear we broke a record, and collectively each year seems to follow suit. Coincidence? I think not.
Yet even with all of the recent catastrophic weather events that make front-page headlines across the nation, we seem to be sticking our heads further in the climate-denial sand; Puerto Rico’s total devastation from two unprecedented hurricanes in as many weeks, Houston receiving rainfall measured in feet, not inches, wildfires in Montana and Idaho that darken our Midwest skies with smoke, and now devastating wildfires in Northern California.
Climate scientists warn us that we should not look at any singular weather event as being a result of climate change. However, these scientists also contend that when these singular events happen with such frequency and across such a wide range (coast to coast and north to south) that we must connect the dots. Something just doesn’t seem right when you step outside anymore, and we need to be paying attention.
Instead of prudence in the face of overwhelming evidence, it seems that, as a nation, we have taken a “burn down the house” philosophy. Rather than work with the world to find solutions to combat the effects of climate change, we decide to back out of the Paris Climate Agreement, the only collective effort that exists. On Oct. 9, Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt proudly boasts, “We are ending the war on coal.”
Rather than investing in cleaner, renewable energy sources, we are hitching our wagon to one of the oldest contributors to increased atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels. Sonny Purdue, our new chief of the Agriculture Department ignores the science behind climate change and opts to rely on prayer (complete with choirs singing “Amazing Grace”) to end droughts. Most recently, our president has put forth Barry Meyers, a lawyer and CEO of AccuWeather, as chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Meyers has been critical of NOAA because he feels that the agency competes with his company. I guess he wants to control the weather. Do we really want to charge this non-scientist with the important job of keeping his finger on the pulse of the climate? All of this is an indication of a troubling trend of picking cabinet chiefs who are openly hostile to the departments they are charged with leading. This is definitely not a recipe for success.
For anyone who has an interest in the natural world, these are challenging times. Aldo Leopold, in his seminal book, “A Sand County Almanac,” wrote, “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.” This is true on so many levels. In today’s politically charged era of environmental policy, this warning is magnified to global proportions. However, one silver lining is that we have it in our democracy to actually demand more from our leaders. We have an obligation to educate ourselves and require that those we elect to office remove their head from the climate-denial sand and be accountable. It’s up to us. Our future, our species and our planet are in the balance.