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I spend a lot of my time as an advocate. To be able to champion a cause and educate others about the importance and necessity of action at this critical time, I must first educate myself about the reality of the challenges we all face. I need to keep it real.
The wake-up call
Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, reminds all of us what our challenge is regarding climate crisis and the survival of all species in his newly released book, Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth. Climate crisis is not a destination in our future. It is happening now. I don't like the too-well-proven conclusion that I come to: We must act dramatically or lose civilization as we know it. A bold, overused, uncomfortable statement, I know. But in all my reading and research, this is the book that wakes me up in the middle of the night--not in fear, but with profound clarity: It is time to focus.
In our media-saturated world we encounter so many distractions that we easily lose sight of what really matters. Our infatuation with the latest case of corporate corruption, what the First Family wears, and recent celebrity gossip distracts us to the point of inaction. We are too busy texting while driving to see the warning signs ahead.
I unplugged my TV years ago, which undoubtedly influences my perspective on these issues. Maybe you could do it too, but if you choose not to, when was the last time you really looked at what was on television? Whenever I catch the news I wonder where are the solutions that could offer us some hope in the face of ever-expanding climate crisis? Why do we care more about who hosts the Oscars than the systems that enable our survival? Perhaps we are all co-conspirators in avoiding hard truth, choosing mindless distraction over mindful action.
What Will We Do?
In his book, Schweiger offers us a lens to examine our situation and strategies for maintaining the vast diversity of life on our planet. Last Chance informs us that Arctic sea ice may completely melt within the next 10 years. Right now that white ice helps regulate global temperature by reflecting the sun's heat. The warming created when the ice melts and the resulting dark water absorbs the sun's heat will be dramatic. One effect of increase atmospheric temperature could be the melting of the northern permafrosts. This consequence of inaction would release more carbon in our atmosphere than exists in our current coal and oil reserves on this planet, says Schweiger. As a planet, Earth will manage this changing climate , but what about the living species? What will we do?
Many scientists are exploring how agriculture can adapt to a warming planet. I've seen models that show crops will gradually decrease yields as weather warms. But few can predict the disruption in food production caused by climate shifts. One study showed that climate unpredictability could decrease agricultural yields by over 60%. Climate crisis is not just a gradual warming, but an unpredictable dramatic change in temperatures. This might induce early springs, severe frosts, hail storms, droughts, and floods. When we play out those possibilities and consider the consequences of inaction, it is overwhelming. But think about broadcast warnings for an ice storm, a tornado, or wildfires... you leave work early, stay home or change your plans to avoid harm. We intuitively recognize the inherent value of preventative measures for our personal health. It's time we expand that focus to protect the healthy environment we need to sustain life.
Adopt A New Focus
We can be more than consumers and spectators. You and I can use our voices to demand solutions. Action now can create the opportunity for global, national and local policy makers to challenge groups that continually undermine climate legislation. I applaud Larry Schweiger's book for its ability to refresh my commitment to this cause.
These are real challenges, with real solutions, and it is clear what we must do. I must focus. You must focus. Climate crisis is not a destination in our future. It is now.
Once we have focus, we increase our political will--and that means each of us, and our friends and our neighbors, demand a strong, responsive, national climate strategy that supports effective methods of reducing emissions and sequestering carbon in ways that benefit all citizens of the world.
Read Larry's book, this is our Last Chance.
Guest contributor Tim LaSalle is CEO of Rodale Institute.
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