I saw Jim Balog’s photography of “Extreme Ice” on television’s NOVA two weeks ago depicting the accelerating melting of glaciers nearly everywhere. It has been difficult for me to sleep since. As I close my eyes I see gigantic glaciers the size of small countries turning into running water, as if a tap has started gushing that will soon overflow our seas, destroy coastlines, dry up major rivers, and turn the planet into a place that is less munificent and more dangerous. The world’s thermostat is breaking rapidly, and most of us, including those in power, barely notice.
So I turned to Bill McKibben, a steadfast, prolific and exceedingly clear writer on the environment, for his take on where we are. His online talk from when he was speaking at a Middlebury College dedication of a new generator that feeds on wood chips, not oil, which will heat the college with both an enormous savings in terms of money and pollution (a 40% drop in carbon dioxide emissions), is clear-eyed, responsible and energetic. In fact his talk is emblematic of what colleges should be doing in a leadership role.
McKibben agrees that we are in dire straits, and that a climate as stable as the one we have had for thousands of years is over. But he and Middlebury students have also created a new movement (that I had never heard of) called 350.org. The number “350″ represents the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, measured in parts per million, that indicates the upper limit of safety. We are now almost forty points higher than that. This movement, with a global day of action scheduled for October 24, is determined to help bring that number down and revive the planet.
It is quite clear that this is an emergency. The question is whether we will recognize that we are in a state of emergency fast enough and respond in as many ways as we possibly can. The alternative is too ugly to contemplate.
I urge you to visit the site, to sign up, and to do what you can to help. If you need any convincing, visit Jim Balog’s “Extreme Ice Survey” as well.