Earth Day: raise a ruckus about climate chaos

Feature story - 21 April, 2006
Earth Day (April 22nd) was born in 1970 in the US, at the peak of an awakening in environmental awareness that led to the Clean Air Act and a flurry of effective legislative responses to an ecological crisis. That's the spirit we need today!

What will you do to save the world today?

Earth Day 1970 proved to American politicians that the environment was apopulist issue, that people cared about their planet, and that electedofficials were going to be held accountable for what they did about protecting the Earth's future.

Today, we face an environmental crisis of far greater, planetaryproportions.

Climate Chaos is already changing our world. Withinthe lifetimes of children being born today, it  may challenge oursurvival as a species. Yet the response by governments and industry to date has been very late, and very little.

 "We know so much more about the science of globalwarming now than we knew about the science of leaded gasoline and autoemissions in 1970 when we wrote the Clean Air Act," Leon Billings told Christine Larson in Grist. Billings was staff director for Senator Ed Muskie, one of the principlearchitects of a number of landmark environmental laws in the US.

So what's different today? Why is industry able to strong-armgovernment into putting the brakes on  a response? Why is Exxonable to demand more research and more certainty before the world takesaction? Why does the US government's willingness to take actionseem to be shrinking, while the threat is growing? And why is US inaction slowing down the rest of the world?

Part of it has to do with all of us. Governments need to know that itisn't just a few treehuggers who are worried about a 7 metersea-level rise, mass extinctions, increasing occurrences ofKatrina-like storms and hundreds of millions of homeless refugees.Earth Day in 1970 brought truck drivers and housepainters out into the streets. It wasn't just ecologists, and itwasn't just lefties. It was anyone with a stake in the future.

Have a look at this clip from the upcoming film, "An InconvenientTruth." In terms of the magnitude of what we're facing, this saysit all:

And if that'

s not scary enoughfor you, perhaps you'd like to see what your home or your favouritecoastal town might look like in a few decades if we don't act now.

Ifthe Greenland ice sheet collapses, predictions call for a sea levelrise of up to 7 meters. If the Antarctic goes, some models project 12meters of rise. Have a look at these Google Maps, based onNASA elevation data, of what a sea-level rise of 7 meters could looklike. Click on the links to lookat the impacts of  various amounts of sea-level rise anywhere inthe world. 

This Earth Day, we  all need to pledge to do more to get thisissue to the top of the agenda for governments and industries aroundthe world. Read up, speak out. If our leaders won't jump, it's up to every one of us totake positive action to avoid the worst consequences of global warming. Ifpossible, buy your energy from a renewable energy supplier. If yourpolitician doesn't act on global warming - vote for someone else whowill.

And as your gift to your planet this year,why notadopt just a few of the following tips for making your life a littlegreener?

What's needed is an energy revolution -- one which overturns theancient fossil fuel regime and brings forth a new vision. Revolutions don'tcome from the top. They come from the people. The cost ofinaction is, quite literally, the Earth.

Now, send this page to a friend. There, you've done something to save the world already.

(Earth image screen shots © Google.  Thanks to Alex Tingle for creating the sea level overlay maps.)

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