Sunday, April 20, 2008

Special Earth Day Post

By Ed Smallwood

I promised after MLK Day that I would attempt to be more topical; that I would attempt to remember special days more often. This Special Earth Day edition is my first attempt to do so. Look for my Special Free Comic Book Day Edition next month (the joke is: I’m not joking.) Rest assured that this Tuesday (the actual Earth Day) I will return to my usual purely political rantings.

All humor aside, Earth Day used to be really important when I was younger. It was supposed to bring attention to environmental issues, hopefully so we could do something about it before it was too late. Somehow in the last decade or so, it has become almost irrelevant. We have allowed it to disappear and today I am wondering: “Why?”

It certainly isn’t because we don’t need it. I’m sure many holidays have disappeared because they outlived their usefulness. Earth Day can hardly be considered to be one of those.

It can’t be because nobody is concerned about the environment. I have a hard time turning on a newscast without something being mentioned about Global Warming or Carbon Emissions, even if something much more important is happening, like The Pope marrying Britney Spears and Robert Downey Jr. while paparazzi have a shootout over the rights to crash into their limo before they disappear permanently from a Dutch colony.

Is it because we have Republicans in the White House? I doubt that would be the cause. Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970, under the Nixon administration.

So what could the cause be? Is it because we’re so concerned about the environment all the time that having a special day to raise awareness is unnecessary? I would like to think so, but I doubt it.

Actually, I believe that we have never had as urgent a need for Earth Day as we do now. If we use it to it’s fullest, we should be going to Earth Day celebrations and using that time to network, to start to apply more pressure on our legislators to take the environment much more seriously than we have in the past several years.

Under the current administration, environmental regulations have been loosened, at a time when they are becoming more important. California has petitioned the EPA for a variance that would allow the state to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from cars the way they do other smog producing emissions. First the EPA stated that they had no authority to do so, and after California sued them in the Supreme Court, and the Court told the EPA that they do indeed have that authority, the EPA has decided to ignore California’s request on the assumption that they actually don’t have to pay attention to the most populous state in the Union.

The President first stated that he didn’t believe that global warming was happening. He later changed his stance to the idea that it was a natural event that we didn’t have to worry about. He has recently changed his mind again to agree that it is human caused, but his solution to the problem hasn’t changed much: Let polluters trade Carbon Credits. This would allow some polluters to put out much more carbon dioxide than they do now, under the assumption that others would put out less. This is a non-solution.

My gut feeling at this point is that we have a much bigger problem with global warming than we realize; that it is much further along than we have been told by a media that doesn’t understand the problem. The main evidence, and problem, that I can point to is that the permafrost is melting. This may not sound important, but it is huge. The permafrost is the land area starting around the Arctic Circle and going north of there. This is land that has been frozen solid essentially since the last ice age, more than 10,000 years ago. Think about that for a bit. Many of the things that live in that part of the world that have died over tens of thousands of years were left in a frozen state. It is a giant ice-box, storing tens of thousands of years of leftovers. Now, it’s on a defrost cycle. Think of what happens to the food in your freezer when you have a week-long power outage.

Now think of all of the grasses, rats, mammoths, and other now-dead things rotting and releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide and methane gas into the atmosphere. Over 10,000 years worth. That could easily amount to much more greenhouse gas than our entire civilization has ever released.

Considering how long carbon dioxide stays in the air (about 30 years on average,) my feeling is that we would have needed to go carbon neutral 20 or more years ago to prevent our current situation.

Now that I’ve scared the bajeezus out of you, we can still fix this. We have time. The temperature is not going up too quickly yet, however we do need to get on top of this problem as quickly as possible. I keep hearing people saying that we need a World War II type mobilization to fix this problem, and I think they have something there. It is possible, and things like this have been done in the past.

So let’s use Earth Day this year to start this mobilization. Go over to the Earth Policy Institute and purchase at least one copy, preferably several more, of the book Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization by Lester R. Brown. This book has the best roadmap of what needs to be done in my opinion. After reading it, you will want to lend it out. Trust me on this—virtually everyone I know that bought a copy of the last edition of the book bought at least one other for someone else. Next, Contact your Representative in Congress to let them know you are paying attention, and remember their reaction this November. You can also buy them a copy of Plan B 3.0 (the more you buy, the better the price gets.) And don’t forget to vote this November.

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