We are not helpless to fight global warming
I AM writing this in response to my conscience tugging at my typing fingers.
Last week I saw the film "An Inconvenient Truth," by the man who "used to be the next president of the United States." While the mention of Al Gore's name often brings up emotionally charged sentiments on both sides of the political aisle, he is sharing a message in this movie that makes political quarrels seem trivial.
The movie, as you've probably heard, is about global warming, particularly illustrating the scientifically proven relationship between carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere with the earth's temperatures. Especially poignant was data shown from ice cores (read in layers, like tree rings) showing 600,000 years of temperature changes and carbon dioxide levels -- and their close correspondence. Skeptics who say that current global warming is simply part of Earth's normal cycle need to realize that carbon dioxide levels today are already far higher than what the atmosphere has ever seen in 600,000 years -- and temperature patterns are beginning to follow, not over hundreds or thousands of years, but within a few decades. Earth is getting warmer -- fast.
The movie dispels several misconceptions, one of which is that there is disagreement in the scientific community about the causes and seriousness of global warming. That debate exists in the media, not among scientists.
It's strange to me that issues of "morality" are debated ad nauseam in our government while the largest moral issue imaginable -- that of preserving our planet for future generations -- is shrugged off with the idea that economics is more important than ecology. In reality an economic system based on environmental sensitivity is inevitable; the sooner we jump on board, the better our economy will be in the long run.
The movie showed startling images of disappearing glaciers all over the world. The polar ice cap at the North Pole has -- by U.S. military measurements from submarines -- shrunk 40 percent in 40 years. Huge ice shelves are beginning to melt and fall into the sea off western Antarctica. This is no joke, folks, nor is it radical speculation. This is what's happening, and yes, we are doing it. Higher sea levels, drowning cities (especially of concern here in Hawaii); depleted water sources; more violent storms -- all are consequences of global warming that already have begun to take form.
I was heartened when the movie presented real, feasible solutions to this growing global crisis. Amazingly, we already have all of the technology we need to slow down, or even avoid, more cataclysmic environmental change. All we need is the personal and political will.
Some things we can do personally:
» Change a light. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 60 percent less energy than regular incandescent bulbs. Switching to CFLs also will save about 300 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
» Drive less. Walk or ride a bike. Every gallon of gas used produces 20 pounds of carbon dioxide.
» Check your tires. Properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage by 3 percent.
» Recycle. If you recycle half of your household trash, you will save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
» Use less hot water. Low-flow shower heads save an average of 350 pounds of carbon dioxide a year; washing clothes with warm or cold water, 500 pounds.
» Adjust your thermostat. Setting your thermostat two degrees warmer will save 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
» Plant a tree. One tree can absorb a ton of carbon dioxide in its lifetime.
Film critic Roger Ebert said of "An Inconvenient Truth" that "you owe it to yourself to see this movie." I can't second that notion strongly enough. Please see it. If you can't bring yourself to see it, at least do something about its message.
Take a moment and think: Is there a single issue more crucial to our generation that protecting our planet?
Joe Dallin, a massage therapist, lives in Palolo Valley.