Letter: For our planet, these numbers we dare not ignore

Posted 5/26/19

To the editor:

Four hundred fifteen. One million.

What are these numbers, you ask? They are dire milestones in this continuing journey of destruction of our only home by the hands of …

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Letter: For our planet, these numbers we dare not ignore

Posted

To the editor:

Four hundred fifteen. One million.

What are these numbers, you ask? They are dire milestones in this continuing journey of destruction of our only home by the hands of humans.

The first number: During the weekend of May 11th, scientists at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii registered atmospheric levels of carbon at 415 parts per million, a level not seen on Earth in three million years – before the dawn of humans. Atmospheric carbon is at the heart of the climate crisis, driving the trapping of heat, which leads to global warming and its negative domino effects. 

The second number: A United Nations assessment reported in early May delivered stark news that as many as one million plant and animal species – one eighth of all known species of life on Earth – are at risk of extinction. Such devastation poses a catastrophic threat to ecosystems worldwide – the very ecosystems that humans (and all life) depend on for survival. The report reinforces previous conclusions that we are in the sixth great extinction event in Earth’s history. 

You may have missed these important stories in the past few weeks amidst all the fervor around local budgets, the Game of Thrones finale, or the latest distraction coming out of Washington. Most major news outlets barely gave them more than a casual mention, let alone the top of the newscast as they so rightly deserved.

But alas, we are bearing witness to climate and biodiversity crises of catastrophic proportions, and most politicians – and certainly the corporations pushing them – are simply ignoring it in favor of the continued fallacy of “economic growth” and hyper-nationalism. The consequences of ignorance and non-action are already wreaking havoc – unprecedented storms and devastation; loss of arable land and the insect life that make our “modern” food systems function; substantial melting of polar ice caps and glaciers driving sea level rises; a myriad of environmental justice and public health issues.

This is ecocide, plain and simple. And while it may be difficult to look past our immediate future, let alone generations ahead, we must. The survival of our species and millions of others is at stake. But how, you may ask.

Each one of us wields incredible power when focused. It starts with drastically reducing our consumption of material goods and localizing what remains. The Earth’s resources are finite and corporations will only point to consumer demand as the rationale for their continued pillage.

Next, hold those responsible for this situation accountable for its remediation. Call, write, and engage your elected officials at all levels – our Town Councils, our Sakonnet area State delegation (Canario, Cortvriend, Edwards, Felag, DiPalma, Seveney), and our Federal delegation (Cicilline, Reed, Whitehouse). Tell them that these crises need to be THE top priority and we no longer have decades to deal with it. Tell them that corporate interests do not supersede the basic tenets of life as we know it.

Demand they take immediate action to avoid the worst of what is to come: Keep fossil fuels in the ground; transition to one hundred percent renewable energy; make corporations accountable for environmental costs of their business; do not relax environmental protections aimed at sustaining life and avoiding public health issues; invest in sustainable public infrastructure; be responsible to those most disenfranchised by environmental issues.

Our future literally depends on it.

Bill Gerlach

Tiverton

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.