Seasons in the Era of Climate Change
Each of the seasons of the year can evoke, for many of us, an image of what we most enjoy about that period. It may be the sequence of warm spring days with clear blue skies during which the outside world exerts a strong pull and diminishes our commitment to work or study, that period we call “spring fever.”
For others, it’s the summer days of sunshine and high temperatures when many leave work to vacation at the beach and enjoy the water, sand, and sunshine.
The familiar images and anticipated enjoyment are inexorably moving towards the remembered and unpredictable. Climate change is transforming everything, including our experiences of the seasons, and those changes will challenge our physical, visual, and emotional lives.
The extended period of spring fever may shrink to a series of brief periods of ideal weather followed by drenching rains or intense storms.
Summers at the beach may become less enjoyable with temperatures consistently above 100 degrees, or far higher in the southwest.
The spring return of the birds, with their repeated, characteristic calls, their newly visible nests, and frequent trips to a feeder will become less noticeable, for 314 species of birds are at risk from the effects of climate change, according to the Audubon Society.
Each week that the willful denial of climate change by corporate executives or government officials impedes actions to mitigate these effects, we condemn ourselves and future generations to a far tougher life on this planet than experienced by our ancestors.
We have seen such willful denial and accompanying obstruction before:
- Lead was introduced into gasoline around 1926. For many years, low doses (3 cc per gallon) were considered safe. The first warnings were raised in 1959 about the adverse health effects of lead at very low levels—one effect of lead in a child’s blood stream is mental retardation. It took about 25 years, multiple studies, and repeated challenges and lawsuits by the manufacturer of the lead additive and the lead industry, before lead was phased out from gasoline use. In 1988, the government estimated that 3-4 million children had lead in their blood at a level considered toxic, and that the phase out had spared about 3.4 million children from growing up with a hazardous concentration of the metal in their bodies.
- A similar pattern of corporate behavior manifested after theoretical predictions and experimental verification showed that a chemical in spray cans was widening the hole in the ozone layer. That opening would admit more ultraviolet radiation and put the world’s population at risk of elevated levels of skin cancer and eye damage. It took over a decade of battling corporate denial and repeated calls for more studies before the Montreal Protocol was signed, phasing out the use of the offending chemical.
- A third instance occurred with cigarettes. Medical findings showed how smoking could damage the lungs and epidemiological studies demonstrated that smoking was correlated with several illnesses, such as lung cancer and emphysema. The denials, for decades, by the tobacco industry impeded progress by the government in asserting an unambiguous connection between smoking and health.
This time the denial and obstruction are jeopardizing the future habitability of this planet—placing at risk the hospitable environment humans have known for millennia.
We know how to mitigate climate change and its multiple effects, but are trapped in the familiar pattern that values short-term financial gain over all other considerations.
Consider what we love, consider the endearing characteristics of each season, and consider biblical teachings that instruct us on how to live in the natural world created by God. Join with others who seek to bring about a transition from fossil fuels to non-fossil fuels for our energy needs. We still have time to limit the damage, but time is not on our side. Respond like Abraham: Hineni (Here I am).
The above blog entry was written for and originally posted to the Wellsprings of Wisdom website. Please see: