Two converging stories crossed my bow this week, which connect the issue of global warming and why it is imperative that we act now. The first one is a short documentary currently airing on HBO called “Sun Come Up.” While I was looking for something to invest a brief amount of time in before heading to bed, I found this 39 minute documentary which personalizes the issue of global warming better than anything else. The second one was an article on a court ruling buried on page 9 of my morning paper entitled “Court backs EPA’s emissions rules.” The ruling is highly impactful, but our news editors felt that it belonged on page 9.
In the documentary we learn of the plight of the residents of Cartaret Island which is located near New Guinea in the South Pacific. The documentary records the travails of the people who have been asked to go to the mainland 50 miles away by boat to see if they will let the Cartaret people live there. Why? Their island is slowly being consumed by the ocean due to global warming. The ocean has encroached on their island with the salt water already flooding their farms. The mainland is a bigger island called Bougainville which appears to be governed by town councils. The documentary follows the Cartaret ambassadors from town to town as they beseech the various town citizens with their story. These towns are not plush either, so including more people will spread few resources farther. So, they are told no to their request. They finally meet with a town who embraces them and says we must look out for our neighbors.
Throughout their travails, these islanders speak openly and candidly about global warming and the rising sea. People understand the story as they see what is happening around them. While Bougainville is a bigger island, it is also susceptible to rising sea. The Cartarets, as they are called, are witnessing the problems at hand and endeavoring to do something about it before it is too late. The story is a metaphor for the rest of the world, especially the US who is now seeing encroaching tides on its coastlines and the other detrimental impacts of global warming.
In the US, I need not tell you that we have a group of naysayers who are shouting at the wind claiming global warming is a hoax and it is contrived by others to place requirements on corporations. Usually, all regulations are thrown together for a party line mantra of “job-killing regulations.” When I hear this, my first reaction is you have to be alive and be in good health to have a job and we need to have regulations to govern as well as we can activities that are hazardous to our US and global citizens. In this case, it is not only protecting regulations which are of concern, we are in the “failure to act” stage of the global warming crisis.
Yet, there is hope. Yesterday, a three judge panel of the US Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was “unambiguously correct” that the Clean Air Act requires the federal government to impose limits once it has determined that emissions are causing harm. The judges unanimously dismissed arguments from the industry that the science of global warming was not well supported and that the agency had biased its judgment on unreliable studies. The court upheld rules under the EPA’s “endangerment finding” setting limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and limiting emissions from stationary sources. The president of the National Association of Manufacturers said “the Clean Air Act was not designed for greenhouse gases.” My question to him (and fortunately the Court agreed) is what the hell is it there for then? I also found of interest in the article, industry is somewhat divided on this. On the “hobble the EPA” side rests the oil, gas, coal and utility sectors. Yet, on the opposing side which supports emissions limits are the automakers.
According to a spokesman for the Clean Air Watch group this was a “slam dunk victory for the EPA and for the Clean Air Act.” This is great news for US and our fellow global citizens, whether they recognize it or not. We need a powerful EPA to help govern practices that are endangering to humans and our planet. We need enablers like this to heighten the conversation around the topic of global warming and other hazardous practices that are harmful to our people and planet. I personally see these issues as the greatest ones facing us, as if we do not get this right and right now, we will be perpetuating a death spiral for the citizens of our planet. This will affect not only our coastal cities, it will affect the air that we breathe and our ability to feed and provide fresh water to people.
Let’s focus on the water for now. I am currently reading Steven Solomon’s excellent book called “Water – the Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization.” Great civilizations such as the Assyrians, Egyptians, Romans, Chinese, Ottoman, United Kingdom and the United States have risen and fallen based on their ability to manage water and sanitation flow. The intermixing of the two or keeping them in too close proximity has been equally damaging as diseases such as cholera, dysentery, etc. could wipe out a public. The ability to manage water for farming was crucial. Why is this important now? With encroaching seas, heated planet, petro-chemicals used to maximize crops, fossil fuel recovery and poor mismanagement of fresh water sources, we are sealing our own fate unless we address these and other related issues now. According to Jim Rogers, the CEO of Duke Energy, “water is the new oil.” Beside air, it is our dearest resource and we have become poor stewards of both resources.
So, what do we do now? Let’s make this an issue of import. When we hear people naysaying global warming, you can say I heard that an US Court of Appeals said the above statement in bold print. We need to challenge our lawmakers to move beyond partisan issues and begin addressing these issues now. We need everyone at the table for a concerted planning effort. We truly need to move away from fossil fuel now, but I recognize this divorce has to be well-managed. And, we need to do our own little parts on conservation, the best eco-energy solution. I love the hybrid car commercials talking about how infrequent the owners go to the gas station. That is a great example. Yet, we should find new ways to conserve as well as exercising the current known ways. I have witnessed the best ideas tend to be closest to where the action is occurring. There are many neat conservation ideas occurring all over the place. As they occur and appear to work, let’s highlight them, celebrate them and tell others about them.
Let’s be like the Cartarets. They have identified the problem and are doing something about it. We need to do the same here.