April 22 marks the 43rd Earth Day. The theme is “The Face of Climate Change.” More people believe what the majority of the world’s scientists say: Earth is getting hotter and the consequences are sure and ugly. Between belief and action lies a vast gulf of politics and apathy.
Warning voices permeate the air, yet climate change was not an issue in last fall’s presidential or vice presidential debates. They, like many of us, resemble ancient kings who prayed that if catastrophe must fall, at least it wouldn’t happen in their lifetimes.
In early March the journal Science released findings that traced 11,000 years of climate temperatures. Studying fossils and other data, scientists say the earth shifted in the 20th century from cooling to heating — the result of years of rising carbon dioxide emissions. Shaun Marcott, the study’s lead author, spoke about the rapidity of warming: “Even in the ice age the global temperature never changed this quickly.”
“Extreme weather” is now as familiar as the Weather Channel’s elevator music. Weather forecasters prognosticate with the zeal of Old Testament prophets: tornadoes, drought, fire, floods, and more. In a fine-tuned universe, everything affects everything. Farmers find it harder to time the planting of crops with rainfall. Rising ocean acidity affects shellfish development. The North and South Poles are out-of-balance — one melting, the other spreading.
Ideas on the causes of and cures for climate change are polar opposites, mainly because of entrepreneurial greed. It will cost money and demand sacrifice to curb what humans have done. Even in the face of facts — the first seven months of 2012 being the nation’s hottest on record; the sinking of land and rising of the sea along our east coast beaches; the dwindling of whole species, such as wading birds and Monarch butterflies — we’d rather waste time arguing Al Gore’s shortcomings.
Scientists are saying, “Prepare for more.” More places on Earth will become uninhabitable. Even things like the U.S. infrastructure of roads, bridges, and railways are breaking down faster because of extreme weather. December 2012 showed another rise in the amount of heat-trapping pollution surrounding us.
Even if the whole world united tomorrow to turn this devastation around, the outlook is bleak. It is the biblical Jeremiah message: Repent — that is, turn and go in an opposite direction — but, even if you do, you will reap what has been sowed. That preaching brought Jeremiah ridicule and a swift drop into the bottom of a well where he stood in the mire weeping, yet still compelled to speak out.
Earth Day participants are zealous for their cause, pointing this year to the faces of those affected by climate change: people, animals, and the earth itself. Their speeches will be good; their actions will be fervent. “Never give up” is a godly principle.
However, there comes a time when all man’s efforts fail, when only the Creator God can solve our problems. “So change your mind and purpose…return to God…that times of refreshing — of recovering from the effects of heat, of reviving with fresh air — may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19 Amplified). Earth Day needs heavenly intervention.
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together—side-by-side.
Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com.