Local Commentaries
3:31 pm
Wed April 21, 2010

Bill Knight - April 22

Macomb, IL – The 40th Earth Day this week sparks thoughts of the saying, "Think globally, act locally."

Further, helping to moderate humanity's effect on the planet isn't reduced to a 24-hour period, but years of effort, and it starts not in our nation or state, but our neighborhoods and homes - even our rooms.

The need is serious - more serious than thought by scientists such as the esteemed United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or by policymakers like Al Gore.

Charles Greene, who co-authored "A Very Inconvenient Truth" in the current issue of the journal Oceanography, writes, "Even if all man-made greenhouse gas emissions were stopped tomorrow and carbon-dioxide levels stabilized at today's concentration, by the end of this century the global average temperature would increase by about 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit, which is significantly above the level which scientists and policymakers agree is a threshold for dangerous climate change.

"Of course, greenhouse gas emissions will not stop tomorrow, so the actual temperature increase will likely be significantly larger, resulting in potentially catastrophic impacts to society unless other steps are taken to reduce the Earth's temperature. The temperature rise we see this century will be largely irreversible for the next thousand years.

"Society should significantly expand research into geo-engineering solutions that remove and sequester greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. Geo-engineering solutions must be in addition to, not replace, dramatic emission reductions if society is to avoid the most dangerous impacts from climate change."

Elsewhere, environmental activist and writer Bill McKibben, who authored "The End of Nature" in 1988, has a new title out this month: "Eaarth" (with two A's), with the subtitle "Making A Life on a Tough, New Planet."

Arguing that the world already has been irrevocably remade by human activity, McKibben sees hope for people's survival as depending on scaling back, on building the societies and economies that can hunker down, concentrate on essentials, and be the type of community (in the neighborhood, but also on the Internet) that let us to weather trouble on an unprecedented scale. Change - fundamental change - is our best hope on a planet suddenly and violently out of balance, he says.

Change results from grassroots involvement, whether a Tea Party or Green Party rally or a family meeting after supper. And nonpartisan, nonprofit Earth Day Network plans a Washington rally at the National Mall this Sunday to lobby for a comprehensive climate bill to create U.S. jobs, cap carbon emissions, and secure the nation's future.

Earth Day Network president Kathleen Rogers says, "Forty years after the first Earth Day, the U.S. government has yet to produce legislation that will stem green house gases, reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, and power the development of a strong green economy. Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, but it also presents an unprecedented opportunity to build a clean energy economy and to ensure a sustainable tomorrow for future generations."

Earth Day Network also is taking this agenda online to help anyone who wants to organize around progress and sustainability. Earth Day 2010 campaign director Nate Byer says, "Earthday.org, the new environmental action center, is a powerful digital tool that communities can use to mobilize and support responsible environmental policies that will create jobs and secure America's reputation as an innovative leader on the global stage.

"This advocacy site empowers individuals to become serious environmental stewards by providing them with the tools to fight climate change at a grassroots level, and demand that elected officials make a commitment to ending a culture of impunity when it comes to the environment."

The site shows area activities Thursday, Saturday and in the future in Galesburg, Peoria, Springfield, Normal and other towns, and offers various ideas.

After all, there is hope. McKibben recommends reading the book "Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization," by Worldwatch Institute director Lester Brown.

McKibben writes, "This book by our most prominent eco-statistician [shows] there's a wealth of possibilities for change to a more sustainable and more human course."