“Cause hell is boiling over

And heaven is full

We’re chained to the world

And we all gotta pull”

– Tom Waits, Dirt in the Ground.



Today was kind of a downer day.

I could care less that the Packers beat the Vikings.  The  real bummer is that it is December 2nd and the world outside looks and feels like September. With temps in the mid-40s, my wood shed is still bulging with oak reserves as there has been little need to feed either of our two wood burning stoves.

I am frustrated. No actually I am  outraged and saddened at the recent news, that the Arctic and Antarctic ice is melting at a much faster rate than scientists had predicted. With Greenland’s ice disappearing five times faster than it was in 1990, we now learn that at current rates the sea levels will rise nearly four feet in less than 100 years.  That means that entire coastlines and cities found there will be totally flooded. Refugees will head inland in need of diminishing resources. And with the global population increasing by 200,000 humans every day the potential for conflict is very real.

I’m glad that Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon, admitted last June to climate change. But I’m not glad that he thinks it’s blown out of proportion and that we humans will simply “adapt.” Oh really? Why is it that the folks at the Pentagon, in charge of national security, are not so secure about the ability of nations and citizens to adapt?  The Pentagon has openly stated that they see global warming as a destabilizing force that will likely add fuel to conflicts over resources and therefore put US troops at risk around the world.

An October Huffington Post article reported that retired USAF General Charles F. Wald testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee, reiterating the CNA finding, saying that “we must… now prepare to respond to the consequences of dramatic population migrations, pandemic health issues and significant food and water shortages due to the possibility of significant climate change” and that “Energy security and a sound response to climate change cannot be achieved by an increased use of fossil fuels.”

Closer to home, Minnesota is experiencing some very real and very freaky weather related incidents. These include  two 1,000 year floods in SE Minnesota, a wildfire that nearly burned the northern town of Ely, a record setting number of tornadoes in 2011 and an extended drought.

I’m mad as hell at news that the United States oil production is among the tops in the world. Not patriotic you say? I’m not a short-term, fair weather patriot. I’m looking for the long haul and that means an energy that is sustainable for my grandchildren and their grandchildren. Extraction, whether it’s oil or minerals, is always a boom and bust. There is only so much of it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am for a strong economy but I fear that news of more oil and a growing population in the US  will only slow down our need to reduce fossil fuel consumption. In essence, with oil up, climate change discussion is down.

I am equally frustrated that climate change was practically a non-existent talking point during the recent elections. I can hardly believe there isn’t more outrage on the subject.

I’m not releasing my outrage based on looking out the window. We have felt and witnessed the subtle and not-so-subtle changes. No, I am basing my frustration on science. The overwhelming majority of scientists of the world are confident in pointing the finger at human consumption of fossil fuels as to the primary contributor of carbon in the atmosphere, and consequently climate change.

While spending time in the Yukon Territory in Canada, I picked up a  2009 Yukon Government Document: Yukon Government Climate Action Plan. It stated “It is the belief of the Yukon Government that climate change is happening, that human behavior is a major contributor, and that a coordinated response is needed.” Wow! A North American government jurisdiction, with a Conservative Premier no less, stating a bold fact that is contentious and usually promotes ostrich-like behavior in the United States and much of Canada as they bury their collective set of denying heads. And yet, both the US and Canada are major carbon emitters.

As an optimist I prefer to  reframe the issue as a positive. While we are experiencing the ill effects of rising carbon levels in the atmosphere and the negative impacts it has on weather (more storms, droughts, etc.), rising seas, national security, food security, biological integrity and so on, we have an incredible opportunity to  reduce those threats while creating more jobs and and building a stronger economy. The U.S. has always been known for its unbridled innovation. I say let’s release the creativity and take what we already know and move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. Some would argue we can’t afford to make that change. I say we can’t  afford not to break the oil and coal habit.

So what can we do?  Practice critical thinking. Speak up! Don’t whisper timidly about climate change. Speak out with family, friends and most important with your legislators.

I often go to the Rocky Mountain Institute for positive  and hopeful information on ways to avoid our dependence on fossil fuels. Their book, Reinventing Fire is an excllent blueprint for breaking the fossil fuel habit while growing an economy.  Even the former national security advisor to President Reagan feels this book “deserves a permanent place  on the desk of whoever holds the chair in the Oval Office.”

Ultimately it will come down to political will and leadership. But as we often witness, power is often sought through the games of politics. John Adams, one of our Founding Fathers, wrote, “Religion, superstition, oaths, education, laws, all give way before passions, interest and power.”

It seems that until real science can supersede myth and superstition we will fail to realize the genuine power of the sun.

Speak up.

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