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Urgent climate crisis demands our WWII unity in response

Urgent-climateUrgent climate crisis demands our WWII unity in response

Pollution accumulating as dirt on Greenland’s icebergs compound the problem of warming and melting.

If the United States responded to World War II with the same attention and focus that we’re giving the climate crisis, today we’d be a German-speaking nation ruled by an “Aryan super race” that used all the rest of us “lesser beings” as fodder. But when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941 and their allies Germany and Italy declared war on the US three days later, we lost no time mobilizing the nation and acted as one to beat back our foes.

The climate equivalent of attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941 came to me in these ominous words last week.

     “Greenland is warmer than it has been in more than 100,000 years and climate disrupting feedback loops have begun. Since 2000, ice loss has increased over 600 percent, and liquid water now exists inside the ice sheet year-round, no longer refreezing during winter.” 

Pollution accumulating as dirt on Greenland’s icebergs compound the problem of warming and melting.

It hit me like the first bomb may have hit Pearl Harbor. I’m not shocked that glaciers are melting faster, since we haven’t done much to curb pollution. But knowing the melting effect of running water over ice, I understand that water running in the glaciers will melt them even faster than projected, leading to faster rising seas. The fresh water will change the salinity of our oceans, eventually disrupting the currents that help regulate climate around the globe.

I refuse to believe that if the American public knew the facts in these blunt terms, they wouldn’t be motivated to act out of self-interest. Projections of the most dire consequences start around 50 years from now, which may seem like an awfully long time unless you have a newborn grandchild like we do. When he turns 50, he can expect to be living in hell on earth.

I’ve gotten a ton of other emails with petitions to save wolves, butterflies and other wildlife. But I’ve only received this vital piece of information from one source. I immediately followed up, researching it online. Which brings me to why we don’t have the coordinated national approach that won WWII: the lack of vital information reaching the public from sources they know and trust and the lack of coordination and unity in the environmental sector.

The failure to engage the growing diverse public is well documented. There is a little movement on that front, as demonstrated in this press release from the Raben Group, dated March 6, 2015!! But it feels like we’re standing around looking up at the sky and taking notes of how many bombers are coming in when we should be sounding the alarm and calling everyone to their battle station.

We are still thinking too small and operating in silos, when the job to be done requires awakening the entire population.  We clearly cannot depend upon the majority in our Congress to lead the way, but if people really knew what lies ahead for us and our descendants in the very near future, I believe we’d be prepared to make Congress listen, and act.    Imagine these Greenland icebergs the size of towns melting fast and dumping water into our oceans.

Many state and local governments are just as “flat earth” as some in Congress, for reasons having to do with greed more than ignorance. In Florida, my home state Gov. Rick Scott’s longstanding mandate prohibiting state employees from using the term “climate change” only recently came to light. Since we are among the areas most at risk for sea level rise, I went looking for information about the state’s response and found this in an official report:

     “The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact (Compact, 2011) projects that the sea will rise by approximately nine to 24 inches by 2060 in south Florida….Three fourths of Florida’s population resides in coastal counties that generate 79 percent of the state’s total annual economy…sea level rise will have four major impacts  of concern: Coastal inundation and shoreline recession; Increased flooding from severe weather events; Saltwater contamination of groundwater and surface water supplies, and Elevated coastal ground water tables.

Really? Well shouldn’t I know that? Everybody in America knew we were attacked December 7, 1941, but despite the fact that we’re in the information/technological age, only a scant percentage of our population really knows the threat climate change poses, and that we can do something about it. The lack of a coordinated national campaign deprives us of the opportunity to make sacrifices that we might gladly make to turn away from the horror.

My mother in law Veta Mae was in her 70s when I met her. Until the week she died she wore fine nylon stockings to go to the supermarket. Yet she spoke with great pride about years when she’d happily gone without stockings, with little sugar, light or gas, as part of the war effort.

“Baby girl, we had to beat back that Hitler! He was crazy!”

Frank told me how his dad happily cut down his boss’ car and made it into a truck so he could get a greater ration of gas to do his work tending the orange groves. He still fondly remembers the army uniform his mother bought him as a 10-year old, that she was so pride to see him wear.

“I think that was the last time we all came together as one country,” he muses.

We have historic precedence for national collaboration in response to a threat. We can learn the lessons from WWI at National Park sites such as Rosie the Riveter in California,  WWII Valor in the Pacific National Memorial in the Hawaiian Islands, and the World War II National Memorial in Washington, DC. It’s time to use them.

For starters, the people at the top of the chain must connect with each other, agree to work together and embrace the necessity of working with all the people. The leadership of the federal land management agencies should get together with the leadership of the large national environmental organizations that drive the conversation, along with the environmental leadership of diverse communities.

We must define and develop a strategy of how to engage the public in a serious conversation about climate change. We must inform the public so that they are prepared to petition our government to respond to change. Conservation measures such as a national program to reduce energy consumption and close coal-fired power plants that add to climate change are a dire necessity.

What might the effect be of a coordinated campaign where the entire population is informed about the imminence of climate change and what they can do about it, by people from their community that they know and trust? This is the challenge for the environmental sector and the media, and we’ve made the solution easy by organizing delnsb.com.

We came through a crisis together in WWII. We can do it again, but we have to do it together. And we must do it now that we expect to take the lead on protecting our environment.

(P.S. A salute to our beloved grandson Yero Winborne who turns 20 today, and all our other grand and great grandchildren. I feel I’m discharging my responsibility to share what I know.)

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    About The Author

    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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