Earth Notes: We are failing to preserve Mother Earth

By Rev. Robert Plaisted                                                    

My wife Sue and I recently traded our old gasoline-powered automobile and bought a hybrid. We went from about 25 miles per gallon to over 50 mpg in one jump. That’s not only good for our finances, but also good for the earth.

How much difference will our decision make in the attempt to stop climate change? By itself, not much, but imagine what would happen if every car owner on Earth made the same decision in the coming years.

Current data indicate there are about 1.2 billion gas-powered vehicles being operated on planet Earth, projected to increase to two billion in the next 20 years. If everyone replaced that old gas-guzzler with a hybrid the next time they bought a car, carbon dioxide emissions would plunge during the coming decades. Also, the resulting financial pressure on recalcitrant fossil fuel oligarchs might just motivate them to stop funding those phony climate-science-denial “debates,” which now take place only in the United States and only in one political party — our beloved, reactionary Republicans. As legendary folk singer Pete Seeger used to sing, “When two and two and fifty make a million, we’ll see that day come round.”

That day must come round, and soon, if our generation is to have a fighting chance of providing a stable future for our descendants. Let’s state it bluntly: human civilization will not be burning fossil fuels a hundred years from now, whether we do anything to stop it, or whether we don’t. One way or another, our carbon fires will go out. Nature will not wait much longer for us to smarten up.

At the beginning of the 20th century, our grandparents had to choose what kind of world they would leave to us, their grandchildren. They made a really bad choice, although it was mostly out of ignorance. They had no idea how much damage fossil fuels would do. In 1916, the automobile was just starting to make a serious impact on the world. Our grandparents decided to go all in with the internal combustion engine, and their decision gave us the world we have today. Cookie-cutter suburbs, superhighways clogged with traffic jams, cities smothered by smog, polluted municipal water and breakdown of ethnic communities abound. How long do we think we can go on this way?

Today’s world is the direct result of our grandparents’ bad decision to make the gasoline engine the center of 20th century human life. So now, out-of-control populations choke to death on unbreathable air, undrinkable water and poisoned farmland. Coastal cities prepare to be drowned by rising seas. Wildlife goes extinct at rates not seen in 66 million years. Savage droughts, catastrophic floods and brutal heat waves — Donald Trump might think this is a sinister plot by China to undermine the United States, but that’s just one more thing he’s wrong about.

So it’s 100 years later and we have a similar decision to make. What kind of world do we want to leave to our grandchildren? I have two little ones under age 10. Assuming we keep behaving the way we do today, I ponder what Earth will look like by the time those little ones are in their 70s. It’s all I can do to keep from crying. If we choose as badly as our grandparents did, it won’t be because we don’t know better. We’re failing wretchedly in our duty to preserve and protect God’s creation, but we can’t blame our failure on ignorance, just stupidity.

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