ON July 4 last year, we were huddling around fires to keep warm in Seattle.
This year, weve had 78 minutes of summer so far (i.e., temperatures over 80 degrees). Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, where politicians are wasting taxpayer money fighting over a phony debt crisis and trying to eliminate the Clean Air and Water Acts, EPA, and conservation and alternative energy programs, theyre sweltering under record waves of heat and humidity.
Is climate change (CC) afoot, or are these weather gyrations just isolated events that are part of the Earths natural cycles, as the CC-deniers assert?
In the interest of full disclosure: these natural cycles have wiped out all life on Earth a dozen times. The Torah mentions The Flood, as if that was the only time such an event occurred. It also notes smaller, devastating environmental events erasing Sodom and Gemorrah, the Egyptian plagues, swallowing Korach & Co. But it doesnt offer much guidance on how we can address man-made environmental dangers, or climate changes other than to tough them out, or migrate (e.g., the story of Joseph). We have become renowned for that latter skill over the ages as Wandering Jews.
But most of the worlds habitable places are already settled, so migrating to new, more promising lands is not a viable option. Everyone is in the same boat or Ark. So in addition to the consequences of natural cycles, CC-deniers might add a little more, previously unmentioned information to their claims, to wit:
Human output of greenhouse gases is demonstrably overloading Earths Carbon Cycle, helping glaciers disappear from South Pole to North Pole, and Himalayas to Andes to Kilimanjaro eliminating runoff water for drinking and irrigation worldwide;
Changing ocean currents and weather patterns are affecting growing seasons, patterns of rainfall, drought and migrations, and disease vectors; rising ocean acidity levels are adversely affecting sea life, and posing threats of hydrogen sulfide blooms;
Uncontrolled human population growth and poor resource management are running the world out of seafood, game birds and animals, and depleting fresh water and arable land for growing food.
To hedge their bets, a large group of Congressional, CC-denier politicians is working to cut federal funding for the agencies and programs that measure, report and take action on climate change. Its simple logic: you cant prove or disprove a claim if theres no evidence. Its also ironic: science works if it agrees with ones ideology (natural cycles), but not if it doesnt (climate change).
WE humans have survived climate changes before.
We seem to have first appeared, as homo ergaster, about 2.3 million years ago, during a hiatus in our current ice age, the Pliocene-Quaternary glaciation, which started about 2.58 million years ago.
Since then, world ice sheets have advanced and retreated on roughly 40,000- and 100,000-year time cycles. But another full disclosure note to CC-deniers there were 7500% fewer people, more food per capita, and no global, human-made environmental threats back then.
The explosions of our population, food supplies, inventions, and global pollution threats have all occurred in just the past 10,000 years, during the environmentally benign period since the last glacial retreat.
Today, were learning to survive in new normal Earth climates, with new patterns of heat and cold, rainfall and drought, etc. And we Jews, who are arguably historys People of the Greatest Impact, now have a golden opportunity to become the worlds People of Greatest Sustainable Impact.
As the Manhattan-based Beavan family discovered in their documentary, No Impact Man, the simple act of living impacts the Earth. In fact, humans and their planet are resilient and designed for this; appropriate, sustainable impacts create mutual, positive effects.
On the other hand, neither we, nor our planet is resilient against traumatic and catastrophic injury, carcinogenic and mutagenic poisoning, acidic waters and soils, and low-oxygen atmospheres. With the exception of natural disasters, everything on the list above is caused by humans wars, pollution, oil rig and nuclear plant accidents. And theyre all avoidable.
Its irrelevant whether or not climate change is afoot. If CC-deniers are asserting that humans will survive in most natural conditions, I can agree. History shows that were an utterly adaptable, innovative species. And of all peoples on earth, we Jews have been among the best of survivors, because we are so good at making things up as we go along.
To give ourselves the fighting chance we need, however, we must create the healthiest possible circumstances for ourselves and that means eliminating the pollutants, dangerous processes and man-made catastrophes that make us less resilient, and able to face what the future will bring.
Copyright © 2011 by the Intermountain Jewish News