(as published, in various editions. See below for links.)
I recall today the events of the past summer and Hurricane Irene. Remember how it became the 24/7 total focus of everything?
The entire east coast of the United States was taken in fear by the approaching mega-storm. The news reminded us, relentlessly, of the unmatched power of Mother Nature.
What strikes me now, however, is the complete apathy we display towards the bigger picture regarding our weather. Significant changes in the chemistry of our climate, and key ecosystems, have been established: The global coral reef network is dying; the oceans are becoming acidic; the arctic is melting. Record heatwaves have been recorded around the world, as have droughts and flood. Mother Nature (unlike our media) is talking to us.
Yet we are not listening.
While the newscasters repeated with adolescent incessence, the obvious - "HURRICANES ARE DANGEROUS" - not a whisper was uttered about the bigger picture; the actual news that Changing climate has arrived. New and extreme conditions are ‘normal’ and we…are just watching passively.
Noted environmental writer Julia Whitty has documented the dramatic weather patterns well in Mother Jones (“The New Normal: Billion Dollar Disasters” -- http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2011/07/new-normal-billion-dollar-disasters). Citing data from the National Climatic Center (NCDC), Whitty states that “the U.S. has racked up more mega-expensive natural disasters in 2011 than ever before.”
All year the ‘news’ was inundated with stories of
hundreds of tornadoes in the Midwest and Southeast, record wildfires and massive drought in Texas, massive flooding on the Mississippi River; similar dramatic extremes – heatwaves, tsunamis, floods (not to mention the continuing melting arctic) were reported all over the globe.
At the same time, the scientific community has agreed that greenhouse gasses contribute to global warming and the erratic nature of climate change we are seeing today.
The key factor is the level of carbon in our atmosphere and how it reacts with the myriad of other gasses and conditions which influence climate. Most scientists agree that we are now close to the maximum threshold of carbon “particles per million’ in the atmosphere – meaning that any substantial new carbon emissions beyond the current levels will likely exacerbate relatively sudden, if unpredictable, changes in atmospheric behavior. It’s not politics – it’s chemistry and physics. (www.350.org has excellent, accessible scientific references to this complex issue).
It is nothing short of absurd, then, to imagine the ‘controversy’ surrounding the single most important (if under-reported) environmental issue today: The proposed Alberta Tar Sands Keystone XL Pipeline. The project will open up a massive new oil field (perhaps the world’s largest), initiate huge new oil consumption – and introduce massive, new amounts of carbon into our atmosphere.
This project would build a 2,000 mile pipeline stretching from Alberta, Canada, across the entire north-south plane of the U.S., to refineries in Texas.
Few people know about this project. Here are a few basic facts:
• This project is “the most destructive project on Earth” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC.ORG)
• The Alberta Tar Sands contains the world’s second largest supply of oil.
• The pipeline would bring 900,000 barrels of oil, daily, to the United States. This would double our reliance on oil (aren’t we supposed to be moving AWAY from oil?)
• The type of oil production here (Bitumen) is the dirtiest, most polluting oil production on Earth, producing three times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil production.
• Tar Sands produces immense amounts of toxic water as a byproduct: 400 million gallons of toxic water PER DAY will be produced which contain highly toxic substances such as Cyanide.
• Massive strip mining will be required: this will destroy much of Canada’s Boreal Forest, one of the last remaining intact ecosystem on Earth – itself a natural Carbon regulator.
(for more details see www.foe.org/sites/default/files/Tar%20Sands.pdf)
This may seem like an absurd notion – but I believe that now is NOT the time to introduce massive new quantities of fossil fuel into a world already reeling from weather ‘mega-disasters’.
President Obama must approve this project (the project does not require Congressional approval). Hundreds of protesters have gathered at the White House this week calling on Obama to reject the pipeline.
The implications of his upcoming decision remind me of a scene from the 2004 Hollywood disaster movie: The Day After Tomorrow (Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal), in which a US Vice President, upon observing the sudden, massive storms around him, turns reluctantly to his environmental antagonist-activist(Dennis Quaid) and admits “You were right”.
Fellow green people: We ARE right. Or more importantly -- the laws of chemistry and physics are right. The time to act is now. Demand President Obama reject this “Most destructive project on Earth.”
Noted NASA Climatologist James Hansen said that if the Tar Sands pipeline is approved, it will be "essentially game over" for the climate".
To learn more about the Alberta Tar Sands project and the effort to urge the President to reject it, see. www.tarsandsaction.org
To sign the petition to President Obama telling him to reject the pipeline, go here: http://www.tarsandsaction.org/obama-petition/
Here’s a great letter, prepared by Rabbi Michael Lerner (Tikkun Magazine), to help spread the word with friends and family:
The above article was published in various editions, including: