As someone who doesn’t have as much time to read as I would like, I still read whenever I can. I enjoy reading about American history. Whenever I go into a bookstore, I’ll scan the history section, as well as the section labeled “current affairs.”
For me, that’s the dividing line since it occurs to me as I get older that to really understand the importance of a specific period, one has to to be far enough away to gain perspective.
I don’t know exactly what constitutes “far enough away.” Opinions differ, but I have some guidelines. For example, I’m not at all certain we’re able to assess the impact of the Bill Clinton era 20-plus years removed. We can’t even get a full picture of the impact that 9/11 has had on our lives and how it has shaped us. We’re just now starting to sift through the history of these events to try to make some sense of them. That’s why I mostly avoid books, often labeled “current affairs,” that are really just first drafts of history.
However, a desire for a quick fix on the most recent events can lead to problems, especially in relation to climate change and global warming. sea-level rise.There are many challenges. The subject is so large and so global. It is difficult to grasp the scope of the subject. We don’t spend much time thinking “global;” we focus on what’s right in front of our faces — the weather outside our window, and how things look in the neighborhood and around town.
Another challenge in thinking about this subject is that we can’t observe directly incremental increases in global temperatures or or sea levels; we can only see the consequences of those things. Maybe it gets easier if we think of the planet as a medical patient, and understanding that we can’t see the actual disease, just the symptoms. This approach can help when we’re talking about Arctic melting, rain forest destruction and ozone layer depletion. These are all things I see from my kitchen window as I ride around town.
Finding some way to organize things also helps when we’re talking about an issue that’s so complicated, at least to someone like me, who knows little about CO2 or methane, or whatever else happens to be contributing to the problem. I hear many smart people argue and discuss these topics and, somewhere along that line, I have to accept the information on faith the way I would when my doctor tells you that I have an electrolyte imbalance.
Compounding the problem of understanding global warming and climate change and placing them in context is that we don’t have time to wait. By the time we’re far enough removed to understand the current moment, history will have overtaken us in unimaginable ways.
My generation’s frame of reference for all things environmental links back to the 1971 “Crying Indian” TV commercial,Iron Eyes Cody is a Native American actor shed a tear over pollutionAfter getting out of the canoe, you will be observing litter along the shoreline as well as on the highway. It was a public service announcement for Keep America Beautiful. Since then, it’s been a flat learning curve for most of us. We’re still inclined to measure the truth by how things look outside our windows. So long as things aren’t too disrupted and upside down, it can all stay in the background.
But, nature won’t be ignored. The rumblings are out there and they’re getting loud. Maybe it’s water in places that have never had water before. Maybe it’s the fact that there is no more wildfire “season,” just whole sections of the country burning year ‘round. Perhaps it’s catastrophic flooding and snowstorms that we’ve never seen before.
Although it’s difficult, we must learn how to think globally and allow those in authority to act globally in regards to climate change and global heating and their impacts. We simply don’t have the luxury to wait until we’re far enough removed from this current history to figure out who was right and who was wrong.
Bridgeton’s mayor is Albert B. Kelly. You can reach him by calling 856-455-3230 Extension. 200
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