In his book We Are The Weather, Jonathan Safran Foer writes about his family facing the onslaught of Nazi Germany marching on Poland. He speaks of those who refused to leave the country and as a result, thousands died. He quotes Raymond Aron who was asked whether he knew what was happening at the time. He answered: “I knew , but I didn’t believe it, and because I didn’t believe it, I didn’t know.” On the surface, it sounds something like a riddle. Jan Karski, a 28 year old Catholic embarked on a mission to travel from Poland to America to inform world leaders of what the Germans were perpetrating. He had a meeting with Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter ( A Jew) and reported the atrocities in Poland. After hearing the report, Frankfurter said the following: “I didn’t say the young man was lying. I said I am unable to believe him. My mind, my heart, are made in such a way that I cannot accept it.”
This is the way Foer begins his book regarding climate change. His contention is there are some issues that we know to be true and yet we cannot accept them. It is hard for a rational mind to not believe the 97% of the world’s most credible scientific minds that climate change is real and caused by mankind. Yet, we cannot accept it. One might argue that yes they do believe it and yes they do accept it. Foer then asks, what changes, what actions have you taken to back up both your belief and your acceptance.
Later in the book the author describes the cure for polio. He uses this explanation to suggest that there is a reason for individual action as well as proof of an outcome. President Roosevelt was instrumental in the development of a polio vaccine. He helped form the organization that became the March of Dimes. One recipient of that funding was Dr. Jonas Salk. He and his family were the first humans to test his vaccine, next came a clinical trial of nearly two million people. Elvis Presley was photographed getting his shot to promote vaccination. Soon polio was completely eradicated. Foer describes this medical success came about as a result of top-down publicity campaigns and grassroots advocacy. Without the efforts of all, it would not have happened. He ends the chapter with these words – “Who cured polio? No one did. Everyone did.”
So to the point of this writing. If I fall within the lifespan statistics for a male in the United States, I can expect to live about 8 to 10 more years. Sometime between 2027 and 2029. My two sons can expect 30 to 40 more years of life. Sometime between 2049 and 2059. The lives of my two grandchildren should extend somewhere between 2085 and 2089. The best information of the climate scientists suggests without massive worldwide changes, our planet will see the following, long before these years: 143 million people may become climate migrants. Armed conflict will increase by 40 % because of climate change. 400 million people will suffer from water scarcity. Half of all animal species will face extinction. Crops yields will be reduced by 6 to 18 %. Global GDP per capital will drop by an estimated 13%. That is only the beginning of of the list.
So what shall we do? Will we believe the facts but not accept them? Will we simply choose to accept that climate change is “A hoax perpetrated by China.” Say, “What can I do, I’m only one person?”
A good friend of mine says that he always tries to “be responsible for his side of the sidewalk.” By that he means, he does his part. And like the cure of polio, saving this planet will only be accomplished if each of us decides to do our part.
I wonder if our children will ask us, “Where were you when you made your decision?”
“Men Argue. Nature acts.” Voltaire
Go well. David