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December 8, 2009 – It’s funny. The size of the group of people who are impassioned about the need to do something about climate change has, I suspect, reached critical mass. The fact I only suspect our numbers have reached the tipping point is attributable to our not all being together in one place (other than cyber space). That makes it hard to tell. That’s also the reason we’re not doing anything. We don’t have the impetus provided by hearing someone yell “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” What ARE we doing? Sitting in front of our computers and nodding in agreement. It’s awful when you realize that’s exactly what the politicians are hoping we’ll do.
The number of global warming experts who are now genuinely frantic about the need for us to change our behavior seems to be growing. Maybe that’s the missing piece of the puzzle: when they begin holding up signs and protesting, that will be the signal for the rest of us to join them. Until then, we seem to be left signing online petitions, online letters to our congressional “representatives,” or subscribing to online newsletters. The politicians know a secret we don’t: life doesn’t happen online. And global warming isn’t a virtual problem.
So taking people by the shoulders and shaking them has to really happen. It can’t be done over the phone, by email, on Facebook. Skin has to touch skin. If you’re frantic about something, the inflection of your voice reflects that. People raise their voices when they’re scared, as well we should be. People go where they’re not welcome and make a big fuss. And they do it again and again.
Unfortunately, climatologists (the aforementioned global warming experts) are scientists. While the tone of their writing has recently changed substantially, let’s not forget it’s their business to be dispassionate. They deal in empirical facts – facts which are, in this case, represented by numbers. We’re waiting around for test tube jockeys and number crunchers to get mad enough to take to the streets. We want them to act as leaders. More bad news: just because a person is smart doesn’t make him or her a born leader.
Another thing worth mentioning is that protesting requires serious inconvenience. Changing the course of human history takes time and lasting commitment. It requires organizing, a willingness to be disappointed by your fellow human beings, dealing with the possibility of being physically injured, dealing with the further possibility of going to jail, and just in general putting your personal life on hold. Ask Cindy Sheehan.
That’s what it’s going to take, however. The Chinese government is too repressive; it won’t happen there. The vast majority of the Indian people are busy surviving; it won’t happen there. The EU has acted in limited fashion, but hesitates to provide leadership on a global scale. The whole world is waiting and watching while we steadfastly maintain that somebody needs to do something. Pray God it isn’t us.
The whole world is watching.

P.S. Reason to Celebrate: An article appeared in today’s Cincinnati Enquirer (bottom of the front page!) with the title “EPA Paves Way to Limit Greenhouse Gases.” It was written by H. Josef Hebert and Dina Cappiello of the Associated Press, and the first paragraph reads, “The Obama administration took a major step Monday toward imposing federal limits on climate-changing pollution from cars, power plants and factories, declaring there was compelling scientific evidence that global warming from manmade greenhouse bases endangers Americans’ health.” Yes, that’s what it says. Major step. Climate-changing pollution. Compelling scientific evidence. I’m eager to find out what those limits will be.


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