Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: No time to delay climate action

We are unsettled, anxious, heart-broken by the images of the inferno in Australia. Tens of thousands of people are displaced, millions of animals have died and Primal Spaces are burning, some having been wet and unignited for eons. Prior to the fires, unprecedented years of drought and heat had already ravaged the landscape and the wildlife in Australia. It was a slow and less dramatic devastation and we barely noticed it.
The bush fires now raging in Australia are of biblical proportion, apocalyptic. They are, perhaps, equal in significance to the continual razing and burning of the Amazon rainforest, which has gotten scant sustained media attention. (We will see how sustained the attention to this event will be). But, at the moment, Australia is too hot to look away from. You know how fire mesmerizes, draws you to the center of the flame. How can we not watch? How can we turn away from this amount of heat — these fires dwarf those that have been annually devastating California? Your face feels hot when you look into this hell. Your heart cracks when you see iconic koalas succumb to thirst and heat, or burn to death because they are slow movers who live in especially hot-burning eucalyptus groves. Birds drop out of the sky from the heat; kangaroos flee by the hundreds as flames lick at their tails. And when it is over and the fires are out, wildlife survivors will have no habitat to return to.
Most of us understand and agree that Australia is burning as the result of climate change caused by carbon emissions from human activity that are heating the planet, now at an alarming and unpredicted rate. Information and opinion diverges depending on where you look for it. Today, anyone who is awake knows that Australia is burning. Anything beyond that fact — which is being undeniably caught on video — is still disputed by some. For instance, as Australia has been observably and dramatically heating up over the past years, its government has ramped up its use of fossil fuels. The nations of the world in general, and the U.S. in particular under the Trump administration, are not going after carbon emissions nearly fast enough to save a burning planet. Even governments who accept the science are not acting on the immediacy of the problem.
But Australia is burning and There. Is. No. Time!
It sticks in my mind from fire safety training classes I took years ago for my job. There is no time! A catchy by-line; it pops into my head when I think of a smoldering building. It is the most important thing to remember. When the house is on fire — get out! There is no time! There. Is. No. Time!
I am trying to move towards a metaphor here — if your house, or the earth, is on fire, there is no time. Get out! Get out….
But the metaphor falls flat of course, because we cannot “get out.” We cannot leave. We might temporarily go into the ocean as some Australians had to do to escape the flames, or live underground as some Australians are doing to escape the annually escalating heat. But, then what? There is, as has been said, no Planet B.
The effects of climate change have been smoldering for decades as we coddled and debated. The Garnaut Report stated in 2008 that, in Australia, the effects of climate change “could be directly observable by 2020.” Imagine that! Bells and whistles, smoke alarms and dead canaries in mines have been vying for our attention since the 1970s. Through all those decades reliable information has been suppressed, ignored, disbelieved. The health of the planet has been proxy for greed, convenience and complacency.
Now we live with slow burns in the ceiling, behind the walls, under the floors. Flames erupt into sight here and there. We stamp them out, push them underground. But Australia has put us on notice. The house is clearly and undeniably on fire.
There. Is. No. Time!
We have, ALL of us, to wake up and see climate change as the catastrophic emergency that it is. We cannot leave — so we must start tearing away the walls and the timbers that are keeping us from removing what feeds the flames!
Be alarmed. Be scared. Be conscientious. Be active.
Get Trump out! Let climate change be the issue of the 2020 elections. Demand that the presidential candidates give climate change top billing — a media blitz! Let climate change be the only war. Let’s fight it. Let’s throw everything we’ve got at it — starting now.
THERE IS NO TIME.
Carol Talmage
Lincoln

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