A Dam Breaks. And the Climate Changes.
It’s with much pleasure that I’d like to introduce an inspired new guest blogger to one and all. Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Eban Goodstein, Project Director for the global warming initiative Focus the Nation and Professor of Economics at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Eban has done a lot of important work in the field of eco-nomics and written many vital words in many major publications about this critical subject. You can find out all about him here, but for now let’s let him do the talking …
True story. Central Wisconsin, July 2006. The first six months of the year were the hottest on record in the United States, and this was the hottest day of the summer. Three teens were seeking relief in the city pool.
Teen 1: “Do you think this is global warming?”
Teen 2: “Naah. Government says it isn’t happening.”
Teen 3: “Well I don’t care what the government says. I think it is global warming!”
Another story from last summer, now in Oregon. The fuel line on my pick-up has busted, and the tow-truck driver has been sweating all day in the extreme heat. “Damn global warming” he says, climbing into the cab. And then he adds, “You know, the tsunami last year knocked the planet off its orbit—that’s why its heating up.”
Some sort of US mental dam has broken, perhaps swept away with the levees in New Orleans, and suddenly there is growing awareness that we are doing something weird to the weather. It’s getting hot, and people know it.
And the problem now is not really the misinformed tow-truck driver, but instead the silence that followed the teenagers’ short conversation. No fourth teen chiming in with any solutions. No way forward. Sure it’s getting hot, and people are worried—but there is also a pervasive sense of fatalism.
I know that feeling. For seven years, as I have been talking to audiences around the country about global warming, my own sense of urgency has been growing. The scientists are talking about the possibility of a swing in global temperatures of ice-age magnitude, only in the opposite direction, within my daughter’s lifetime. But in spite of this, I never really knew what to tell people to do. Write their Senator? Change a lightbulb? Nothing that I could point people to could realistically create the kind of social change that could alter our future.