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The Crime of the Century

How much does humanity have to suffer before it learns that having healthy children in a healthy environment is the greatest of all riches, asks Peter G. Cohen

Power plant.(Photo: UniversityBlogSpot / Flickr)Well-being cannot be measured by the Gross Domestic Product. It cannot be improved by continuous economic growth, no matter what the majority of economists may say. No amount of profits from the sale of nuclear reactors abroad will preserve our genes, which took billions of years to develop. Sharing, preserving and replacing the natural living systems that we humans have damaged or destroyed is far more important to life than growing the bottom line.

In developing the Gaia theory of Earth, James Lovelock examined the surface conditions and temperatures of the planets. They were determined by their distance from the sun, with one exception, the Earth. Without life, Earth would be a very different place. It would be barren and hot and have no oxygen. Life – all life – has created its own atmosphere, its mostly liquid water – neither frozen nor boiled away. It is the abundance of Life, especially the forests, that makes our planet livable.

But that is not good enough for us. Clever humans have roofed and paved and poured concrete with little regard for nature. We have cut the forests since we learned how to plant grain in fields. We have thrown our garbage in the nearest river and believed that the vastness of the ocean would absorb all the waste we threw into it. And now these unthinking abuses, vastly expanded by our clever chemicals and powerful machines, have gone beyond nature’s ability to absorb or correct. The result of our growth obsession is that we are ruining the atmosphere, killing ocean life and extinguishing thousands of species – possibly even our own.

What Can We Do?

If we care a whit for our children and their children, we must do what we can to leave them a habitable Earth, rather than a polluted desert. Right now, we must stop burning fossil fuels as quickly as possible. That energy must be replaced with wind, solar and other renewables as polluting energy systems are shut down. The International Panel on Climate Change, using the work of thousands of world scientists, has determined that global warming is happening even faster than predicted. If we delay, greenhouse gases will accumulate still further, and the destruction wrought by floods, fires, heat waves, tornadoes and droughts will increase beyond our control.

Nuclear reactors are not the answer. We already have thousands of tons of dangerous, life-threatening nuclear waste that we still don’t know how to dispose of. Reactors require a continuous flow of cooling water, which is returned to rivers and lakes heated and radiated. The cumulative effect is to waste our vital water supply and increase diffused radiation. The uncontrolled disaster of Fukushima is a high-speed example of what reactors do in the long run.

The coal, oil and gas corporations want to continue their blasting, drilling and fracking – without regard for the damage they are doing to human life and the natural systems on which life depends. They have spent hundreds of millions denying science, spreading confusion about global warming and corrupting many in the Congress and government – all to protect their profits! This is the Crime of the Century! Thousands of people are dying from the climatic events across our nation – not to mention the death and destruction wrought by climate events abroad.

We urgently need to elect candidates pledged to shut down fossil fuels and convert our nation to sustainable, green energy now! This is not a matter of party or belief; it is essential to passing on the gift of a livable world to our children! We must not vote for anyone who has not taken this pledge. If the parties won’t do it, it is up to us.

Green energy is also essential to our economic well-being. When a fire, flood or tornado destroys a house, a business or a job, it often takes years to recover. The billions lost to climatic events are an irreplaceable drag on our economy. Changing to sustainable green energy will require investment and create jobs. We have tried the privatization route; it has failed. We need government to order cutbacks on our greenhouse gases and plan for as smooth a transition as feasible to green energy. We also need to build a modern, hardened transmission system across the nation to bring the electricity generated by wind and solar from where it is generated to where it is needed to run our homes and businesses. That too means more jobs.

Is our society, our democracy capable of guiding us through this century of suffering into a more secure and more natural way of life? Can we create a climate that encourages long-term livability? Are we determined to accomplish this, or will we allow the Robber Barons of fossil fuels to lead us into a wilderness of changing climate that humans have never known?

©2014 Peter G Cohen

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