By FRANK CARINI
We have been warned. Repeatedly. Yet, because of a toxic mixture of political will that is for sale, staunch resistance from special interests, societal inertia, collective denial and a PR-manufactured package of lies constantly puppeted by ignorant media and elected officials, we continue to ignore the accelerating loss of our planet and, thus, our future.
If we managed a traditional farm in such an unsustainable manner, we’d all be fired. But the continued plundering of Earth’s natural resources is done at humanity’s peril. We like to spout, especially during political campaigns or against anything that might change the status quo, about the need to protect future generations.
It’s all about the future until it comes time to sacrifice in the present. The future is important in speeches and rants, but our collective inaction speaks loudly.
We, humans, are having an impact on the global systems needed for the continued survival of life. It’s plainly obvious, but it’s far easier to do nothing and more profitable to discredit the science and the scientists.
In 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists warned:
“We the undersigned, senior members of the world’s scientific community, hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”
We responded to that warning by marketing gas-guzzling SUVs and Hummers to soccer moms and corporate lawyers.
In 2005, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment warned:
“Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of the Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.”
During the past nine years we have responded to that warning with an all-out assault on climate-change science. The status-quo crowd peddles profits before all else. Just look at the laws passed, bills filed and rhetoric spewed. Our elected “leaders” don’t even attempt to mask their greed and blatant disregard for life — present or future.
A Kansas state bill would prevent public funds from being used for sustainable development. Introduced into the House Energy and Environment Committee, the bill would prevent public funds from being used “either directly or indirectly, to promote, support, mandate, require, order, incentivize, advocate, plan for, participate in or implement sustainable development.”
The sponsor of the bill, Republican Dennis Hedke, is the chair of the House Energy and Environment Committee. He’s also a contract geophysicist whose client list includes 30 regional oil and gas companies.
Hedke is the same Kansas legislator who introduced legislation mandating that teachers must provide students with information that counters scientific theories. Specifically, the bill states that teachers must “provide information to students of scientific evidence which both supports and counters a scientific theory or hypothesis.” Climate change is the only scientific topic mentioned.
This elected corporate shill also has introduced legislation that condemns the United Nation’s Agenda 21 environmental plan, which focuses on sustainable development. It, of course, was never ratified by Congress. But Hedke’s bill is a resolution “opposing and exposing the radical nature of United Nations Agenda 21 and its destructiveness to the principles of the founding documents of the United States of America.”
Unfortunately, his isn't the lone voice in a rapidly disappearing wilderness. This type of nonsensical bullcrap is now all the rage, even though no country, international organization, or even the United Nations has seriously begun to address the concerns of a changing climate, the ongoing loss of biodiversity, the accumulating amount of carbon pollution in the atmosphere and a human population that is multiplying faster than the deer population on Block Island.
We deny our role in the record-breaking wild fires, droughts, heat waves and storms we are experiencing year after year. The sixth mass extinction of life on Earth is trivialized and ignored, even though these extinctions are happening so fast they are disrupting the planet’s intricate web of life — the natural process that sustains us.
The Center for Biological Diversity has warned:
“Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural ‘background’ rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day.”
Songbird populations have declined by about 50 percent in the past four decades. Populations of large ocean fish have declined by some 90 percent since the 1950s. Honeybee colonies are disappearing at an alarming rate.
But there’s little room for articulate public discussion because:
The Tennessee Legislature passes a measure that would protect teachers who allow students to criticize evolution and other scientific theories, such as climate change.
Texas and Louisiana introduce standards that require educators to teach climate-change denial as a valid scientific position.
South Dakota and Utah pass resolutions denying climate change even exists.
A 2012 presidential hopeful calls climate change a “hoax,” and dismisses the threat with a rudimentary understanding of science. “The dangers of carbon dioxide? Tell that to a plant, how dangerous carbon dioxide is,” Rick Santorum says.
Last year, The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed entitled “In Defense of Carbon Dioxide” that celebrated the rising levels of greenhouse gas as a boon to plant life.
Not a single climate scientist appeared as a guest on the influential Sunday morning TV talk shows during the previous four years, according to a January 2013 Media Matters report. Most of the people invited on to those shows to speak about climate change during that time were either media figures or politicians, according to Project Censored.
A law in North Carolina bans the state from basing coastal policies on the latest scientific predictions of how much sea level will rise.
Foundations and "think tanks" are paid handsomely by the status-quo crowd to spew lies and question established science.
For example, since 2008 the Heartland Institute has organized and hosted eight International Conferences on Climate Change. It’s nothing but a gathering of corporate-backed climate-change deniers, and its sole purpose is to debunk the large body of scientific evidence showing that human activities are contributing to a changing planet.
On its website — which includes the laughable tagline “Ideas That Empower People” — the organization brags that it is the “world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.” Yet, worldwide scientific consensus continues to back the fact that we are altering the planet’s climate by our actions, such as the enormous amount of greenhouse gases we have spewed into the air since the dawn of the Industrial Age.
Of course, the Chicago-based nonprofit, which is financially backed by ExxonMobil, other multinational corporations and the egomaniac Koch brothers, is the same institute that worked with Philip Morris in the 1990s to question the link between secondhand smoke and health risks.
We need to start addressing some very important concerns now. We owe it to future generations.
Frank Carini is the editor of ecoRI News.