Goshen News, Goshen, IN

June 10, 2013

SHADES OF GREEN: Think about the future and lower CO2 number


— Conversation between a son and a dad.

Dylan (my 10-year-old son): Hey Dad, the neighbors went to the Indy 500 and I wish I could go some day.

Paul: You know son, I really don’t like the whole idea of driving around in circles, using a bunch of gas and producing a lot of CO2 — especially in this day of climate change. (CBS News says “33 cars started, 21 cars finished, for a total of about 13,250 miles driven. At an average consumption of about two miles per gallon, that’s 6,000 or 7,000 gallons of fuel. Not counting all the utility vehicles, and transporting all those cars and pit crews to the Brickyard, plus the spectators burned plenty to get there.” Not the best mentoring …)

Dylan: Well then I’m going to create a filter that you can put on the tail pipe that will capture the exhaust so that you and I can go to Indy 500 some day!

I love that Dylan is thinking about alternatives. But as adult we need to think about alternatives — now!

Last month we crossed a huge milestone without much fanfare.

On May 10, The Huffington Post quoted former Vice President Al Gore, who now is founder and chairman of the Alliance for Climate Protection, which is beaconing us to think. “For the first time in human history,” Gore said, “concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary global warming pollutant, hit 400 parts per million (ppm) in our planet’s atmosphere. This number is a reminder that for the last 150 years — and especially over the last several decades — we have been recklessly polluting the protective sheath of atmosphere that surrounds the Earth and protects the conditions that have fostered the flourishing of our civilization.

“We are altering the composition of our atmosphere at an unprecedented rate,” Gore continued. “Indeed, every single day we pour an additional 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the sky as if it were an open sewer. As the distinguished climate scientist Jim Hansen has calculated, the accumulated man-made global warming pollution in the atmosphere now traps enough extra heat energy each day to equal the energy that would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima-scale atomic bombs exploding every single day. It’s a big planet — but that is a lot of energy. And it is having a destructive effect.”

I don’t like reading these facts because I don’t want to acknowledge them. I want everything to be perfect. I see sunny skies. I had robins make a nest on my porch. My sons are going to camp, swimming, playing outdoor games and they’re happy. Nothing is wrong — right?

One thing I recently thought about is that we as a people might be ignorant about certain things but we are also ignorant about what we should be concerned about — knowledge vs. emotion.

We as a society are not future thinkers. It’s tough to plan our summer for vacation and now we have to look into a future that might be hotter, wetter, more violent due our lack of thinking futuristically.

What saddens me is we (general term) only think about economy.  We — like Rex Tillerson, Exxon’s $100,000-a-day CEO, said that environmentalists were “obtuse” for opposing the Keystone pipeline. He announced the company planned to more than double the acreage on which it was exploring for new hydrocarbons and said he expected that renewables would account for just 1 percent of our energy in 2040, essentially declaring that the war to save the climate was over before it started.

He added, “My philosophy is to make money.”

At least he’s honest. Dang it.

Money is good, important for our day-to-day lives, but it doesn’t produce air, water or food… But to be futuristic we can’t think that way. Desire for making money is not the problem, but we need to couple that desire for money with stewardship and care for the earth.

According to atmospheric scientist Ralph Keeling, director of the CO2 program at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, “Before the industrial revolution, we started at about 280 ppm. One hundred years ago, levels had risen to around 300, and they crossed 350 in the late 1980s. We think the last time concentrations were as high as 400 ppm was between 3 and 5 million years ago, when the world was much warmer.”  

He also concernedly said, “Crossing from below to above 400 will play out over years, partly because there is a natural up and down with the seasons. But this time next year it will be higher still. In a couple of years we’ll never get below 400 again.”

Mr. Gore also said after crossing that milestone of 400 ppm, “Now, more than ever before, we are reaping the consequences of our recklessness. From Superstorm Sandy which crippled New York City and large areas of New Jersey, to a drought which parched more than half of our nation, from a flood that inundated large swaths of Australia to rising seas affecting millions around the world, the reality of the climate crisis is upon us.”

Yes, we had a cool spring but that doesn’t mean global average temperature is cooling …

Mr. Gore dares us saying, “With any great challenge comes great opportunity. We have the rare privilege to rise to an occasion of global magnitude. To do so, our communities, our businesses, our universities and our governments need to work in harmony to stop the climate crisis. We must summon the very best of the human spirit and draw on our courage, our ingenuity, our intellect and our determination to confront this crisis. Make no mistake, this crisis will demand no less than our very best. I am optimistic because we have risen to meet the greatest challenges of our past.

“So please, take this day and the milestone it represents to reflect on the fragility of our civilization and and the planetary ecosystem on which it depends. Rededicate yourself to the task of saving our future. Talk to your neighbors, call your legislator, let your voice be heard. We must take immediate action to solve this crisis. Not tomorrow, not next week, not next year. Now.”

This means let’s not quarrel about who’s for or against coal (coal creates an enormous amount of CO2 — over 2 pounds per kilowatt hour. Do some calculations and the amount will get overwhelming. We don’t thank the earth enough!). Let’s not push back renewable alternatives — let’s agree that we all emit pollutants — both us as individuals and as corporations. We need to imagine an optimistic future.  We need to think about how our electricity is created, where we get our food, how the dollar from my wallet affects everyone.  

Change is tough, but it can be and must be for the good.

Goshen is known around the region as being a proactive, wise, sensible, rationale metropolitan area that thinks how to improve itself for the betterment of the whole.

So let us as Goshen think about how our day-to- day lives is connected to everything else. Let’s walk more especially if its less than 10 blocks away (thank you Mayor Kauffman!). Let’s invest in bicycles and good bike baskets so we can easily carry things to and from our favorite store. Let’s support stores that are also thinking about their effects. Let’s ask our representatives for better public transportation that is timely and can get us everywhere. Simple intelligent actions.

Let’s think about a future where we become conscious of our interconnections and creating a milestone of lowering our CO2 number below 400 ppm! Let’s be like our children … not wanting to get rid of the fun entertainment in life but find solutions to take care of our Earth as we take care of ourselves!