Remember the Emergency Broadcast System? When I was a kid, that eerie, creepy sound sent chills up and down my spine. We wondered if someone in the Kremlin pushed the button, and if we were all going to have to fight radiation-enlarged cockroaches for the last scraps of food on the blistered planet. All until that deep baritone kicked in, saying, “this is only a test….”
We were all afraid of nuclear war back then. It was the early 80’s, and the arms race was out of control. We ran bomb drills in school, and television mini-series like “The Day After” gave us fuel for a month’s worth of nightmares. And that creepy sound. Little did we know that a quarter of a century later, our most realistic threat to a worldwide meltdown wouldn’t come from nukes from the other side of the Iron Curtain. No, the meltdown is coming from our own backyards.
Yesterday, the New York Times published an article saying that an international network of leading climate scientists proved that human activity has caused most of the rise in global temperatures since 1950. As a result, more extreme heat waves and hurricanes are likely. Another Katrina likely. We’re crapping on the planet, and it’s fighting back.
The same article states that the United States, though only 5 percent of the world’s population, contributes 25 percent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. We’re the single largest emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. See, we didn’t need the Soviets to blow up the planet together; we’re doing just fine on our own.
Sure, we can point the finger at China — #2 greenhouse gas provider — or India, who’s also in the Top Ten. We could let that keep us from signing any kind of environmental treaty. But can’t we just leave the “that’s-not-fair-Johnny-gets-to-do-it” mentality on the playground, and take real leadership here? Didn’t Michael Jackson once sing, “If you want to make the world, a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change?” And it’s just plain sad that you don’t hear that kind of wisdom from the Gloved One anymore.
More importantly, in all of this, I can’t help but think we all — governments, corporations and individuals — are grieving God. The first job he ever gave humankind was to “work [the Garden] and take care of it.” We’re supposed to take care of this great, round, blue work of art we call Earth. As we take care of her, she’ll take care of us — that’s how it was all designed. But we’ve raped her, drained her of precious resources, filled her skies with pollutants, killed her inhabitants to extinction. And — ding! — the Earth has come out of her corner, swinging harder than Ali. Watch out: her hurricanes float faster than a butterfly and her heat waves sting harder than a bee.
Can’t we just get along? America: consume less, recycle, plant trees, bike, research, seek alternative fuels, carpool, ratify Kyoto, vote — do whatever it takes to care of the planet. Because if we take care of her, she’ll take care of us. And we’ll get a chance to honor the Great Artist too.