Climate change is in the news again due to the devasting storm known as Hurricane Sandy. Scientists, activists, journalists, and politicians are telling us that Sandy is not just another “unpredictable event” brought to us by “Mother Nature.” Will we listen this time?
Hurricane Sandy is a human-made and entirely predictable and sure to be repeated environmental consequence of the use of fossil fuels, especially oil and coal. Burning fossil fuels puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This raises the global temperature in the air, land, and sea. Melting of polar ice caps is a result of the rise in global temperatures. This will cause a 3 foot or more rise in the seas, leading to the permanent flooding of the seacoasts and sea coast constructions, including homes, restaurants and shops, office buildings, and harbors and ports.
The warming of the seas is also producing extreme weather conditions, including high winds and hurricanes, along with colder winters and hotter summers. Extreme weather conditions will lead to regular storm-related flooding of rivers and sea coasts, erosion of hills and mountains in winter, followed by catastrophic fires in summer. Prolonged droughts and unseasonal rains will devastate farms and food production. Wildlife habitats will be destroyed. Places where people live will become too hot, too cold, too wet, and generally unfriendly to life.
Despite these well-known facts, climate change was not an issue in the recent US electoral campaigns. Romney denied it. Obama took cues from corporations, and he may also have felt that people do not want to hear more “bad news.”
Climate change is very bad news. This is why denying that it is happening or not thinking too much about it seem to be the preferred choices for most people and most politicians. Discussing the rapid change in public opinion regarding gay marriage, a gay rights activist commented, “If you are in favor of gay marriage, there is a happy ending. There are weddings.” One of the problems with environmental activism is that there are no easy solutions and not many happy endings.
Mike Tidwell writes that there are three solutions to the problems faced by coastal cities around the world: “(1) abandon our coastal cities and retreat inland, (2) stay put and try to adapt to the menacing new conditions or (3) stop burning planet-warming fossil fuels as fast as possible.”
“As I outlined last year in these pages, there are changes we can make that actually have a chance of getting our emissions down to the level science demands. These include relocalizing our economies (so we are going to need those farmers where they are); vastly expanding and reimagining the public sphere to not just hold back the next storm but to prevent even worse disruptions in the future; regulating the hell out of corporations and reducing their poisonous political power; and reinventing economics so it no longer defines success as the endless expansion of consumption.
“These are approaches to the crisis would help rebuild the real economy at a time when most of us have had it with speculative bubbles. They would create lasting jobs at a time when they are urgently needed. And they would strengthen our ties to one another and to our communities— goals that, while abstract, can nonetheless save lives in a crisis.”
Chris Hayes warns that we cannot count on Obama to solve the problem of global climate change. Governments that are wedded to large corporations will propose solutions that will fill the coffers of the corporations. These include nuclear energy, fracking for natural gas, large scale industrial wind farms, and building dikes around coastal cities. Small scale solutions such as home and office energy self-sufficiency and cutting back our consumption and use of fossil fuels are not as attractive to corporations. Governments will only move towards real solutions if they are pressured by citizens.
If we stopped denying the problem and worked together to solve it, there could be a happy ending. Global climate change could be stopped and then reversed. Human beings and other species could survive and live in harmony on planet earth.
Do you agree that Hurricane Sandy is a wake-up call on global climate change? What do you think we can do—what do you think you can do—to protect the conditions of life on planet earth?
Carol P. Christ has been working with the Green Party other environmentalists in Lesbos for regional sustainable energy solutions and to stop the Greek Aegean islands from being turned into industrial wind farms. She teaches online courses in the Women’s Spirituality program at CIIS. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions. One of her great joys is leading Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete through Ariadne Institute.