Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

February 12, 2013

We the People: Seeing elephants

By Mary deWolf
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — During President Obama’s first term Progressives were disappointed that he overlooked two huge elephants in the room of national politics — America’s gun violence and global warming. Seems the elephants have been sharing the room with a couple of 800 pound gorillas. The gun control gorilla is the NRA. For global warming, the great ape represents those who make huge profits from fossil fuel.

Gun violence, though never a quiet beast, could no longer be ignored when 20 innocent children were slaughtered in their classrooms. Global warming, a less obvious but even more deadly pachyderm, needs our attention now. It was a relief to hear the president start his second term with a call for action on this crisis now in full stampede mode. The science is sure, the effects are catastrophic for all, and solutions are still available — but not for long.

Global warming is difficult to observe on a personal level. We see carbon emissions spewing from buildings and cars daily, adding to the C02 that is warming the earth, but it doesn’t seem to be an imminent, physical threat. The media has not paid much attention in the last five years. It’s easy to ignore.

Fossil fuel entrepreneurs and minimalist government devotees spend billions on disinformation campaigns to convince us that the science surrounding global warming and its causes is still debatable. They are wrong. The preponderance of scientific knowledge now shows, beyond question, that the earth is warming and that carbon emissions from human activity are to blame. We doubt these conclusions at our peril.

Economic challenges have made it seem impossible to fix something so big. Yet, global warming is already costing us billions in lost crops and catastrophic storms. Foods we love including pasta, chocolate, wine, coffee, strawberries and our breakfast table staple, maple syrup, are threatened. Dwindling food supplies, diminishing water reserves and habitat loss threaten all manner of wildlife, from the polar bears on the vanishing ice pack to the pelicans in Peru and, yes, the elephants.

Global warming’s danger impacts all political persuasions. The conservative farmer in North Dakota is as vulnerable as the liberal victim of Super Storm Sandy on the east coast. Evangelicals might proclaim the earth’s demise to be God’s will, but doesn’t the Bible call on us all to be good stewards of Earth? Don’t missionaries seek to help those who are impoverished due to harsh climate conditions? Why wouldn’t we try to prevent others from facing those conditions?

Solutions exist. Individuals can make lifestyle changes involving hybrid cars, light bulbs and recycling. There is an appropriate and essential role for our central government to promote big changes including public transit and international agreements.

This is a non–partisan problem. Speaking of elephants, it was the GOP, after all, who reversed the acid rain catastrophe, at an affordable cost, under the first President Bush.

We give lip service to our children’s future when we fret over debt and an imagined trending to “socialism.” These problems, real or not, are peanuts compared to global warming. Let’s solve this before our country and planet resemble another place for elephants, the fabled graveyard.