Monday, February 10, 2020

Future Spring

So, I finished Silent Spring a month or so ago.  The remaining chapters were even more prescient accounts of Rachel Carson's fears of where we were headed should we continue to work against nature rather than with her. 

To be honest, it is not a book one should read in this particular time.  While the few decades after the publication of Silent Spring brought an amazing litany of successful environmental progress, including the creation of the EPA (by Richard Nixon in 1970), we seem to have passed a tipping point whereby the majority of people are far too willing to sacrifice clean air and water, too complacent about the mass extinction of species that is occurring, and far too easily convinced that we have reaped the benefits of all those regulations and programs and revelations about how horribly we were polluting our environment, and that now, the battle over, we can stop caring.

I guess it is understandable that such a time would follow those accomplishments.  History is filled with examples of mankind coming to realize a drastic situation, addressing it, making it right, and then going back to the behavior or actions that caused the problem in the first place.  It is certainly easy to forget how problems like acid rain, lakes without marine life, and waterways on fire, were tackled through public and private cooperation, especially when we can see how other nations have not progressed as far as we have. 

I have no doubt that climate change is real, and that we are a contributing factor.  The very advancements that make life so much easier than it was in the past, are now threatening how future generations will live.  While we can wait for the disaster to be upon us, and then do what we do best, wouldn't it be better to start now, with reachable, incremental goals that create the least amount of stress?

I am not quite sure how many of those who support the current Administration. also support the denial of climate change.  I understand why they embrace that denial.  Change can be difficult, challenging, hard work even.  It is much easier to pretend that we can return to a time when we allowed industry to spew its refuse into our air and water, and sent our fathers and brothers into mines to dig into the earth for coal, but that is a dead past, not a future. 

What is ironic is that we all have benefited from the environmental success stories of the past 50 years, those who scoff at the idea of climate change, and those that work to avoid its most deadly ramifications.  When industry fought the addition of scrubbers to reduce the pollution being sent from those thousands of smoke stacks, the resulting reduction of air pollutants was enjoyed by all children, even those of the men who decried the requirement.

It will not be easy to transform our economy from fossil fuel dependence to a greener one.  But at some point, we will have to grapple with the cost of inaction now compared to emergency action later.  Like the frog in the pot of water that doesn't notice the slow incremental increase in the temperature until it has been cooked alive, so are we experiencing more extreme weather, milder winters, arctic ice melt, rising earth temperatures. 

But unlike the frog, I and many of those who are reading this post, will not be cooked alive.  And that is worrisome, because the more people who remain the frog, unaware of the changes, or who take the position that they will be gone before the shit really hits the fan, the worse it will be for the future Spring for my children, their children and the generations that follow.