The Arctic is Sick, and Florida is Freezing

01/04/2018 11:21 am ET Updated Jan 09, 2018

What is being called 'the bomb cyclone' or a 'winter hurricane' is now striking North America. We are facing a crisis of civilization, an evolutionary crisis, a spiritual crisis. Our warming planet is a warning to us and a call for awakening. What on earth are we doing to God's bountiful Creation?

Ours and our children's generations will have to live in covenant with the Creator and spread that awareness to the world or face consequences no generation has faced. Will the awakening process proceed fast enough to avert the deterioration process? As Rabbi Dov Berkowitz taught, "How do we utilize 3,000 years of spiritual consciousness for the betterment of our contemporary situation?" The role of spiritual leadership is to redirect the course of humanity.

Let's examine that through the lens of today's weather. The Weather Channel said that temperatures in Florida's capital were lower than those in Alaska's capital. 25 people have died so far from the past week of cold. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, “Reinforcing shots of Arctic air will continue across much of the Eastern half of the country through this week, keeping afternoon highs as much as 10 to 20 degrees below normal.” Andrew Freedman of Mashable wrote, "Instead of breaking daily temperature records, as dozens of cities have been, all-time cold temperature records will be threatened.” It is a most extreme weather event.

If the planet is heating at record rates due to human emissions, how could it be that record cold is occurring? Trump asked that question many years ago, and concluded that climate change is a hoax. People who are ignorant of climate science—including the U.S. President, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Senate chair of the Environment Committee—mistakenly think that extreme cold disproves climate change. Is that so? The earth systems, which include the climate and the oceans, are very complicated, and more accurate terms than global warming are climate disruption and global weirding. The planet as a whole is getting hotter, and at the same time extreme cold is engulfing North America and Siberia.

The Arctic region has lost two-thirds of its volume of sea ice since the 1980s, and snow pack has declined at a similar rate. Climate change is likely disrupting the frigid Arctic jet stream and bringing extreme cold farther south to North America. Just a few years ago climate scientists put forth the understanding that “warming of the Arctic can modify the shape of the jet stream—the fast-flowing air currents that circle the planet—enough to directly influence the weather at midlatitudes," i.e. the United States. Scientific research on this has been published in this Journal of American Meteorological Society article, as well as in other peer-reviewed scientific journals.

When the Arctic was healthy, its extreme cold would mostly circle around the North Pole (called the polar vortex) and would not reach the Southern U.S. Now that we have made the Arctic sick, it is hemorrhaging cold, and even Tallahassee, Florida feels its chilling cough. (And in the tropics, the oceans are releasing built up heat through hurricanes, and sending them farther north—i.e. Hurricane Sandy.) As Scientific American titled an article, ’The Arctic is Getting Crazy.' Nature Geosciences provides further research on Arctic jet stream destabilization. While more research needs to be done, if we wait for clarity and certainty from scientists, it may be too late for us to do anything about it.

What is becoming clear is that the predictions of climate scientists have been too mild and timid. The disruptions we are bringing to our home planet are unfolding at a faster rate and with greater intensity than the scientists and computer models were predicting. Time and again, the climate predictions of leading scientists like Dr. James Hansen are taking place, even though many have labeled such scientists as 'alarmist.'

I'd like to share the words of Dr. Gus Speth, former Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies: “I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

The fight for a thriving, sustainable, and equitable human society on this planet is a fight of David and Goliath. The Goliath's are material desire, the fossil fuel industry, and corporate power. The Davids are each of us. One key action is to restore balance within ourselves. This will enable us to live our values from the inside out. A global event takes place this week called "7 Days of Rest: for the Healing and Re-calibration of the Planet and its Inhabitants" is one effort in the right direction. Check it out.

It is chilling that in a year of record hurricanes, wildfires and extreme cold in the U.S., the stock market, corporate profits, CEO compensation, and climate denial in U.S. politics have reached record highs. How could this be? It's as if the economy doesn't depend on nature, and that business as usual can continue from now until kingdom come. But alas, for humanity's material abundance to continue, the earth needs to be healthy. It's like we are sitting on a high branch of a tree. If we start sawing, for a while everything will be fine. But if we continue, we and the branch will suffer a deep fall.

The earth is an inter-dependent system. What happens in the Arctic affects us and what we release into the earth will ultimately affect us as well. Our actions are the true indication of our commitments. In 1992, governments of the world‘s nations came together and committed to curbing climate change and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Every year since humanity’s emissions have risen. So clearly we are not sufficiently committed to doing this. What can shift us to commit? Here are some practical advocacy steps we can take.

We are being pushed to evolve our consciousness and spiritual awareness to know that everything is connected. We need to take responsibility for our own actions and the actions of our family and community as if the whole world depended on it. Let’s start today.

Louis Platt assisted with this piece.

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