An opinion piece by Mike Hoffmann, executive director of the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions.
The whistle was unmistakable, followed by screams of “incoming” and then the explosion, the blast. As a young Marine serving in Vietnam in 1969, these sounds took me from a deep sleep to a hole in the ground, in an instant. I did not sense grabbing my rifle, the ground passing beneath my feet, or the other sounds around me — it was basic survival instincts at their best. Survival being the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of … difficult circumstances. Those were difficult circumstances. Today we don’t hear the whistle of incoming rockets or the horrendous sound as they strike, like I did during the Vietnam War, nor do our neighbors yell “incoming”. Yet we do face a rapidly approaching and existential threat from a rapidly warming climate. We are approaching a point of no return.
Except for the timescale, climate change is not so different from incoming rockets especially now that we only have a dozen years before things will really start to deteriorate according to the recent IPCC report. The climate change rocket has been launched and we are starting to hear the whistle.
The US Department of Homeland Security has it right — If you see something, say something. And most of us see something — 70% believe that global warming is happening, but not enough of us say something about climate change. Only 38% of us discuss the issue occasionally. And many of us fret about just being one person who can do so little, so we do nothing. What we need now is action andaction at a scale that makes a difference. And that will be possible for many of us on Nov. 6 and everyday thereafter. We need to steer our great ship in a new direction — away from oil, natural gas, and coal and towards renewable energy like wind, solar and geothermal. Away from carbon emissions, increasing inequalities, and a national security threat and towards a prosperous and healthier future. It is possible if enough of us raise our voices.
Think about your children and grandchildren, your investments, your beachfront property, your food, your travel, your life — look around, they are all in the bullseye — climate change is changing everything. Become aware, the data are solid as are the predictions. Accept the reality, much like accepting a diagnosis of cancer. If 97 out of 100 opinions by medical experts make it clear that we needed treatment, we would act. It is no different with climate change. It is time to act.
To get us beyond the denial, the avoidance, the lack of action, we need a great awakening, a social movement like this country has never seen before. We have done this in the past, women’s rights, civil rights and the anti-Vietnam War movement. We need a climate roar across the country, like that heard at the start of the People’s climate march on Sept 21, 2014 in New York City. I was there. There was a moment of silence followed by a roar that surged like a wave through the marchers — all 400,000 of us. It gave us hope. Maybe, just maybe, we can beat this grand challenge of climate change but we need to change the direction of our ship. Today, more than ever.
Maybe you can’t start with a roar but start speaking up about climate change. At home, your place of faith, your workplace, with youth (it’s their future), with parents (it’s about their kids), your grocer (it’s about food), and over your next cup of coffee or beer.
But on November 6 and everyday thereafter, let’s raise our voices, let’s roar.
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