Community Perspective

Has climate change been forgotten during the pandemic?

Our nation and our world are in a sorry state right now. The implications are deeply troublesome for me of the COVID-19 outbreak originally ignored by President Trump because he wouldn’t accept sound scientific advice from his medical advisers, his subsequent arrogance in simply refusing to wear a mask in the face of the largest number of casualties from this pandemic in the world, his unreasonable resistance to universal health care, then his total lack of sympathy and leadership during the recent protests against profiled killing of African Americans by police officers and the systemic racism and racial inequality in the country. These and so many other of the foolish actions he has taken should lead every American to question the basic competence of this person who happens to occupy one of the most powerful positions in the world. In all of this, too, we should recognize the immense distraction from the even greater threat to the entire world and its ecosystems of the climate change crisis.

All of the scientific indices of continuous deterioration of the earth’s climate and the consequent degradation of its support systems inform me that we don’t have much time left if we are to stave off a situation of worldwide chaos of even more staggering proportions than the COVID-19 has brought us.

Earth’s average monthly (and daily) increases in temperature, more powerful hurricanes and heavier rain downpours, increasing melt rates of tidewater glaciers and the continental ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica, escalating permafrost thaw-down, warming and acidification of the oceans, coral reef bleaching and die-off, devastation of fish populations, insect infestations of forests, catastrophic forest fires, and biodiversity loss everywhere are all evidence of this constant rapid deterioration.

Add to the above the senseless exploitation of our forests and arable soils, witless super consumption of our finite fossil fuel resources, plus our rampant destruction of wild habitat everywhere — these ultimately caused by exponential growth of the earth’s human population, corporate greed, mindless manufacture of useless and unnecessary material commodities and their thoughtless consumption. All of the above, I believe, are both the cause and effect of the extreme conditions that have led us so quickly into the morass of the climate change crisis.

Sadly, we’ve become alienated and disconnected from our primal roots in nature, and as a result we have been unworthy stewards of our environment. And, I say to everyone that if we do not change our ways sooner than later, our collective human lack of responsibility will very likely lead us to the brink of the same fate as that of 99% of all the other millions of species that have ever existed on this pale blue cosmic dot called Earth.

So, I ask what will happen to our world and nation after the COVID-19 pandemic is finally under control? Will we return to the status quo, business as usual, and our ensuing calamities, or will we, can we, reimagine and reinvent a different world where the problems mentioned above are seriously tackled at the same time and we eventually end up with a world that lives more rationally, responsibly and sustainably. It’s possible the Green New Deal is a good place to start. In any case, this may be our final opportunity to try to change the status quo and give future generations a chance to see and hear and feel at least some of what my generation was lucky enough to experience.

What a good friend wrote me many years ago pretty much sums up our quandary: “We are like yeasts in a vat, mindlessly multiplying as we greedily devour a finite world. If we don’t change our ways, we will perish as the yeasts perish — having exhausted our sustenance and poisoned ourselves in the lethal brew of our own wastes.”

Frank Keim lives in Fairbanks.


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