"Earth, we still have a problem." That is the transmission from the Aspen Environment Forum held over the last three days in Aspen, Colorado. Because we have had a change in administrations with a president who relishes science and believes in energy independence does not mean we can sit back, sigh and relax. The Congress and some of the country still separate climate and energy imperatives from the economy and other issues. That is just backassward.
Experts on climate, energy, the Arctic, and the oceans convened with Governor Ritter of Colorado, Jane Lubchenco, the new head of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and President Obama's head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley.
Governor Ritter, a dedicated leader of state initiatives to start up renewable energy projects emphasized the positive -- the creation of jobs, jobs, jobs. Words we can live by in recession times. Dr. Lubchenco spoke about a NOAA climate service program that is developing. This service will tell us what will be occurring in our region of the country in the next 30 years. Climate change is causing subtle and severe changes everywhere and knowing how to anticipate those changes will be an invaluable tool for agriculture as well as life and limb. NOAA issued alerts on February 5th and March 19th about the flood potential in Fargo, North Dakota, from satellite images and other data. This is dramatically beneficial material. The technology will be essential to help cities and communities in planning growth and water management.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, a marine biologist, known as "Her Deepness" because of her deep diving record, states emphatically: no blue, no green. Coral reefs are disappearing, and plants and fish are waning because of warming waters and acidification. Dr. Earle reminds us that when you look at our earth from the perspective of an astronaut, most of the earth is blue. We depend on that blue for life itself: breath, water and food. Most of us think of the preservation of the land as the center of our concerns. Focus on the beautiful, powerful and magical blue liquid that covers 70% of our planet is as critical. Blue and green are next to each in the prism of colors and the rainbow. We should take a hint.
The state of the Arctic was another topic: the need for intergovernmental cooperation on an issue that affects us all. We don't see the ice melt and the biodiversity loss or the projected methane gas release from exposed tundra. But the damage progresses and the threat looms. Getting countries to focus on mutually-assured destruction was hard enough. Now we need to get them to concentrate on mutually-assured survival. Former Lieutenant Governor of Alaska, Fran Ulmer is heading up the Aspen Commission on Artic Climate Change on Arctic rehabilitation. She is a talented organizer and consensus builder. My money is on her.
Author James Howard Kunstler told the Forum that the end is near, as he's been saying since 1994. In The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century, he predicts that we will return to an agrarian society, and hunger and thirst will prevail. Well, yes. It could happen, but we are smarter than that and more practical.
The task ahead is daunting but doable. All we need is commitment and leadership, not just from the President, but from our states, our counties and from ourselves. When we need to do something to save lives...especially our own... we will do it. Hurry up, it's time.
To call us to action, we need compelling communication. As we all have different takes on the problem of climate change, messages need to respond to different concerns and perceptions.
For the unemployed, it is about the recharging of a new economic engine. At the turn of the last century, transportation and energy in the form of oil created great jobs and great wealth. So it can be repeated in the 21st century. The sources just switch from fossil to renewable fuels. Exciting.
National security will be strengthened as never before with fuel independence from unstable foreign states.
For the disadvantaged or those living in the heavy shadow of a coal fired power plant, the message is health and asthma impacts from foul air.
For the evangelists, and for many of the rest of us who are not, the word is about reverence for life and the creation of God. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures."
With so many pluses from adapting to and slowing down climate change, what are we waiting for? In the new world of communications, we are all reporters with a story. Blog yours on the internet. Twitter to friends.
It's like being in an ice cream parlor. The choices are good. I will take all the flavors, please.