By Glynn Wilson —
WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s hard to get any official sources in the nation’s capital to talk openly about the reality of climate change due to global warming from the burning of fossil fuels.
With the climate change denier in chief in the Oval Office ordering federal agencies to wipe science information from their web sites and ordering them not to talk about it with reporters, I turned for answers to an Earth First activist who I met in a campground 13 miles from the White House (see video).
To set up the interview and story, I turned for information to NOAA, which is allowed to talk about the economic impacts of all the weather related disasters we’ve experienced this year.
“Though September was warmer and drier than average for the U.S, it will long be remembered for the devastating impacts from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, as well as the remnants of Harvey, to southern parts of the U.S. and the Caribbean,” NOAA says.
This year we saw three major hurricanes and one minor hurricane hit the Gulf Coast, bringing devastation to Texas, Florida, Louisiana and minor damage to Alabama and Mississippi. Some of us have been warning that this was coming for years, all the way back to the 1980s, when Bill McKibben wrote his book on The End of Nature and I covered a Sierra Club meeting on the Gulf Coast and wrote about it myself. The science on this seemed settled already in the 1990s, but the political argument continued until this year, when the Trump administration in Washington just ordered everybody to simply stop talking about it.
When I asked an official with the National Park Service about this in a meeting recently, I was told that the civil service staff is still talking about it internally.
“Presidents come and go,” one official said. “But we’ve been here 100 years and we’re still talking about it.”
According to raw data, the year to date average temperature for the U.S. was 57.7 degrees Fahrenheit, 2.7 degrees above average, the third warmest on record.
“Above-average temperatures spanned the nation for the first nine months of the year,” NOAA says.
So far this year is also the wettest on record, in some places, the driest in others.
But what Trump’s NOAA is focused on is the cost.
“Since June 2017, six … weather and climate events impacted the nation with costs exceeding $1 billion,” NOAA says.
This includes the three major hurricanes in the South, a major drought in the Northern Plaines, and wildfires all over the West.
“This brings the year to date total to 15 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters, tying 2011 for the record number of events for this period,” NOAA says.
So when are we going to face the reality that climate change is happening now, that global warming is real, and begin to do something about it? What can we do about it?
“We’ve got to change now,” said Jesse, a long time environmental activist who has worked with Earth First and other groups.
“We need to keep on putting pressure on the government … and the corporations,” he said. “But we have to put pressure on the people. We have to say, ‘What the hell are you doing,’ maybe with banners over super highways … if we want to save the planet we live on.”
He says the people who have to do it are in the United States and Europe primarily, where lifestyles result in the most carbon pollution. He says conservatives are dumb to deny the science of climate change, but the liberals are just as guilty for denying the engineering.
Solar panels and wind turbines are not going to be enough to allow people to keep living in big houses with air conditioning and heating systems and driving cars as much as they do now.
“I don’t want to get rid of technology all together, but technology has to go in a different direction,” he said. “The most beautiful machine ever built was a bicycle.”
We talked about the religious right not getting on board with the science because of their belief that the end of the world is nigh anyway and that a god will come down to earth to save them from disaster.
“If the liberals were doing what they are supposed to be doing, we could totally negate the Jesus freaks,” he said.
As a sort of libertarian socialist, he does not think the solutions or the change we need will ever come from the government, from the top down.
“The hierarchy is controlled by the corporations,” he said. “There has to be a cultural change (from the grassroots). The best place to start that cultural change is with the people who are already aware and protesting corporations. They should take a leadership role in changing the culture, and a lot of them are.”
“It’s the only thing that’s going to work,” he said. “We have to get rid of the car culture. We have to get rid of what I call the ‘comfort culture,’ the idea that we need air conditioning and heat all the time. People want their houses to be 60 degrees in the summer and 80 degrees in the winter. I mean what the hell is that?”
He said liberals talk about the importance of the individual action of voting, but discount the individual action of changing the way we live.
“This isn’t about majority rule,” he said. “When you vote, you actually have to get a majority. If you can get 10 percent of the people to drive half the time, you can kick the oil companies in the f—ing balls, and go from there. You don’t need 51 percent. You only need 5 to 10 percent to get it rolling.”
Some people are doing it, he said, by reducing the consumption of meat drastically. Some people stop driving. Some people live in the woods.
“I try to do most of those things,” he said.
He gave up a high paying corporate job about 15 years ago and now lives in a tent in campgrounds around D.C. most of the year on a retirement income and Social Security.
“You don’t have to immediately move into a tent in the woods,” he said. “Set up some serious car pooling, for example. That goes a long way. Turn your thermostat up in the summer, down in the winter. Get a car pool going. Combine your trips. You can easily drop your energy consumption to less than half of what you are doing now. Eat half the meat. Drive half the time. Use half the energy in your houses, for starters.”
He said that’s not the end of it.
“But we have to get going on this now. And it has to be up to the people. We’ve been banging on the government about this, banging on corporations, for years, and it’s done nothing.”
He said we should not be building and buying more airplanes.
“That’s the worst way to use our carbon because it puts it in the upper atmosphere,” he said. “Slow your life down. Do you really need to get there that fast?”
© 2017, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.