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The Double C

KAREN ELIAS

Lock Haven

Our planet is in trouble.

In the past week alone we have experienced record-breaking temperatures in California, a “flash drought” in North Dakota and Montana that withered the grain crop so severely that some farmers didn’t even bother to harvest, ash from forest fires falling so thickly in the Pacific Northwest that people there were reminded of the eruption from Mount St. Helen’s – and these are not the events that made the headlines. Hurricane Harvey is now being declared the most expensive weather event and the one with the greatest rainfall ever measured in our history. And Irma, wrecking unprecedented havoc across the Caribbean and into Cuba and up the Florida coast, may very well surpass Harvey’s record for economic catastrophe.

In the face of such catastrophe, Americans show ourselves to be heroic and compassionate, revealing in acts of courage and generosity, large and small, that we are able to step outside the limits of our own lives and tackle difficulty head-on. But then it’s over. We breathe a sigh of relief and go back to the tasks at hand.

Until next time.

It’s tempting to treat environmental disasters as unique, one-off events, products of circumstances that happen to converge in unpredictable and unfortunate ways. But the events of this past week are not a spate of bad luck. They are part of a larger pattern that scientists have been predicting for over 30 years. Our addiction to fossil fuels is directly responsible for the excess CO2 and methane in the atmosphere that is now warming our planet, and we are seeing the results in the form of drier land and stronger storms, with heavier rains and lashing winds – and the heartbreaking devastation that comes in their wake.

It takes a kind of stubborn courage to insist on staying in this difficult place and facing the truth. As references to what is now being called “the double C” are being removed from government websites, even speaking about climate change, much less acting to remedy the problem, can seem like an act of heresy. The White House has now pulled us out of the Paris Accord. The EPA is not only intent on removing environmental regulations but is now – in an effort to sow doubt and confusion — creating a “red team” of ersatz scientists who will soon debate the hard-won consensus of 97% of publishing climate scientists that global warming is in fact human-induced.

Years of bad habits have caught up with us. The experts have taken our body temperature and found that we’re running a fever. Our symptoms are proliferating. And we have a choice. We can deny that there’s something terribly wrong and go back to our daily lives. We can buy time through distraction by turning this into a political issue. Or we can show courage and compassion, toward ourselves and our planet, by opening our eyes and facing the hard work and difficult decisions that lie ahead.

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