Climate change common sense


I don’t suppose President Obama attended Bill McKibben’s lecture at Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne last night. I didn’t spot any Secret Service detail.

But for me the president’s announcement that he was stopping the Alaskan pipeline came as a fitting climax to the environmental writer’s appearance the night before in Fort Wayne.

I found lots of things to like about McKibben’s talk. First, he seemed to speak without notes, fluently and in a friendly, non-doctrinnaire tone. He filled his lecture with lots of examples of the effects climate change worldwide.

He fleshed out what climate scientists have been tell us for years.

I hadn’t read that Pakistan has been suffering it worst drought in 50 years. I guess we had seen – and heard – the melting of ice caps when my wife Toni and I toured Alaska this summer.

I perked up when McKibben mentioned the dried river bank in Santa Fe which had been full of water when I jogged along a path lining the river early mornings during an editorial writers’ conference in that city.

From continent to continent, McKibben cited the evidence of man-made climate change. Afghanistan, Ethiopia, India, Siberia, the Marshall Islands, the Dead Sea – on and on his litany of evidence unfolded. No doubt about it, the world has been getting hotter.

No doubt, too, climate change has been inexorable. I don’t think McKibben said reversing the trend with solar power and conservation might not be sufficient to save the planet. That’s what I got from his lecture. It might just be too late.

I assumed a few of the 400 or so folk in the audience could be counted among the deniers of man-made climate change. But the strong applause at the end of his presentation suggested most people endorsed McKibben’s conclusions.

In color slides, he showed a dozen or so mass demonstrations in cities around the world. People everywhere, it seems, are calling for action.

Arrayed against change, of course, are the coal and oil industries whose products keep us warm in winter and cool in summer. On the opposition side, in particular, McKibben cited the superrich Koch brothers who’ve contributed $900 million to candidates who will block change.

At the end of his talk, he invited questions from the audience. Quickly, a dozen or so people lined up behind one of two microphones. I wasn’t quick enough to get in line so I waited and assumed somebody would ask McKibben what citizens should do to get action.

If he addressed that issue, I missed it. I’m sure he didn’t invited people to join the public forum. What I have in mind are the daily newspapers. I recall how strongly worded letters to the editor helped persuade our school district to desegregate its schools.

I also recall how my months-long editorial crusade persuaded the state to move a 14-year-old girl convicted of killing her mother and sister in a house fire from the adult women’s prison to a treatment center for kids.

But in the hallway after the meeting, I did see several friends and others from the community whose letters to the editor have been a regular feature on the editorial pages. I trust they’ll join this growing chorus for action by sending their letters to the paper.

Further, I won’t be surprised to learn that more people from my city have started giving to groups that are advocating for end of our dependence on fossil fuels and the beginning of a new era of clean energy.

Our planet depends on it.

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