Letter: Climate change is a greater global threat than ISIS

    On March 6, Rosemary McDonough asked: “When all is said and done, what will our own obituaries say? How will each of us be remembered?” I hope to be listed as one who stood up for global caring action against climate change.

    On March 6, Rosemary McDonough lamented the absence of a shared bond among Americans in light of a fearsomely successful Islamic State in the midst of its first couple of years of terrorism/military and socio-religious cultural success.

    She asks: “When all is said and done, what will our own obituaries say? How will each of us be remembered?”

    I hope to be listed as one who stood up for global caring action against a future Earth unlike anything imaginable in recorded human history. Even if one nit-picks any aspect of the denial, skepticism, regulatory or big business obsessions with staying the current course of global economics, the size of the risk of an ISIS pales in comparison to the impending and geologically sudden risk of climate change.

    As to risk management, think about it as comparing a strategic defensive plan to an essential caution — such as any parent feels toward their young children, or grandchildren, et al. In other words, you can run from trucks bearing occupying soldiers with long knives, automatic guns and shoulder-fired rocket grenades. But you cannot run from freak storms, interminable excessive heat, agriculture that can no longer sustain the local population stripped of its ability to merely import vegetables from across the continent or from the opposite side of the world. These are not comparable risks.The risk of decimating change to the status quo of climate change and global warming is so gigantic that to care about anything less might be said to be sticking one’s head in the sand.

    The world’s economic system is based on fossil fuels, based on wanton wasting or poisoning of the natural resources (trees, coral ecosystems, potable water from the earth, arable land, historically reasonable patterns of local weather, etc.). This applies to the United States and our trading partners in the northern hemisphere, southern hemisphere, the continents of Asia and Africa. It applies to the devastated societies of northern Africa and the Middle East, suffering under the short-sighted peoples under influence of radical Islam and its lackeys.

    Resources with which to live, to make, to learn and to move about things and people underlie all cultures. Harsh environments are not unfamiliar to the evolution of humanity — we migrated north out of the Rift Valley (or thereabouts) during the episodes between ice ages. Some of us remained further north as each succeeding ice age descended from north to south, or remained further afield as warm periods permitted viable population growth back in home lands. There have always been such small percentages to push the envelope, and I am sure there will be such peoples in the next climatic period.

    But tell me how the threat of the caliphate and of its motivators’ principles compares to a few hundred feet of ocean level rise, more or less, on every landmass around the world. The homebase of the Islamic State seems to be higher and farther from the edges of the seas, likely so even a thousand years from now, as far as I know. But how will the majority of humanity care about them, when the very ground and water and air are unlike anything our species has ever seen?

    I don’t care how far in the future you or any reader think that the “real evidence” or “real impact” of the Anthropocene Epoch will seriously matter. (FYI, it has been mattering already for numerous limited areas of the globe. Just read National Geographic monthly, for example.) It will matter to an extent that ISIS will be a negligible force, an isolated tribe in a world of isolated tribes. And as our sciences and understanding continue to grow, it appears that such a climate will have taken an overwhelming control of “life as we know it” in a century or less.

    I will acknowledge this, however: When environmental conditions are exceedingly hard on people’s ability to survive, we often fall back on belief in a higher power — immune to mundane things like starvation, thirst, disease, flood, typhoon, mudslide, crop failure. To me that is a science-fiction future from a dystopian novel. I’d rather die working for a state of affairs in which a truly living world is loved, protected and integrated into the open and compassionate human state of mind.

    Bill Marston gave up the architecture of large buildings in order to redesign existing buildings into high-performance near zero-energy facilities. Acting as a “green building design” citizen lobbyist on Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., and as a member of action groups of kindred spirits across the range of professional backgrounds, he lives without a car in an 1880s urban rowhouse cooled by Virginia creeper and a North American maple tree with prevailing westerly breezes off the nearby Schuylkill River.

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