Monday, November 5, 2012

Environmental Leadership: some, but not enough, are looking to the future

On the eve of the U.S. presidential election, I thought I would share a little observation I heard that reinforced my feelings regarding politics and the environment.  I was watching a political talk show the other day and on the discussion panel a conservative and a liberal were going at it regarding climate change.  The conservative, a former congressman, was questioning the validity of the science that supports climate change and the liberal was taking the standard position that the science is overwhelming - the usual standoff, positions and arguments that many of us have heard before.

The conservative than said something very revealing.  He acknowledged that temperatures in the oceans and atmosphere have changed but said, as a sort of counter-argument, that scientists have claimed that if we stopped producing CO2 today, it would take a hundred years for temperatures to cool down by a few degrees.  To which the liberal replied, "And so that is why you suggest that we don't need to do anything?  That it will take a hundred years to see any results?  That's why we should have been doing something decades ago, but we didn't know any better.  But today, we do."

One of the biggest challenges facing the environmental movement is that so much of what needs to be accomplished is long-term in nature.  Sometimes very, very long term.  The benefits of reducing overfishing, of restricting CO2 emissions and cutting back on ocean acidification - these may not be apparent in the short term.  We may not see it within a politician's term in office, we may not see it in our lifetime, or even in our children's lifetime.  Nature has an amazing ability to heal itself when given a chance, when not pushed to the point of no return.  But it can be a slow healing process and we have become a very impatient people.

Mankind seems to be a species that thrives on crisis.  We don't like it, yet time and time again we push ourselves to the edge before we act.  We've done it with our economies, we've done it with political conflict and wars, but we can't do it with the environment.  As Dr. Greg Stone of Conservation International is fond of saying (I heard him re-tell this again at a recent reception saluting the Phoenix Islands Protected Area), earth is a spaceship hurtling through the cosmos at thousands of miles per hour.  It is a spaceship that comes with a life support system that cannot be replenished or resupplied.  What we have is all that we have.

However, while current politicians cajole us with a chicken-in-every-pot promises and ignore the hard issues that won't garner them immediately positive poll numbers, there are some organizations, even government institutions, that are looking at long-term problems like climate change, considering the myriad of implications which lie ahead and taking steps to address them.

The World Ocean Observatory is an online information exchange that runs a series of weekly 5-minute podcasts.  I came across a recent podcast "Who's Thinking Ahead About Climate Change" that noted the efforts of two very different groups, the U.S. Navy and the International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies, in acknowledging the current state of climate change and preparing for the consequences.  Accepting the scientific data, they recognize the implications and are preparing to deal with the environmental changes that lie ahead.  Here is the podcast:  Click here.

We demand leadership from our politicians and decision makers, but true leadership goes beyond promises of quick fixes back to the "good old days" of expensive homes, SUVs, and mindless consumption.  It requires decisions that move beyond immediate gratification and look to a future where succeeding generations of earth-bound astronauts will have a life support system that they can depend on.  It's paying it forward on the grandest of scale and the most noble endeavor mankind can undertake.

Source: World Ocean Observatory


LoveStrikesAgain said...

Hello! I was thrilled as soon as I opened up this page of your resource. What was the main goal at that moment when you decided to create your first site?

RTSea said...

Blogs are an interesting form of communication. Some serve as bully pulpits for folks to spout off and be very opinionated. Others look at them as a way to communicate important issues, sometimes looking at all aspects of an issue.

Thanks for reading my blog. Nature and ocean conservation are critical issues that don't get the priority they deserve.