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Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have stunning vistas and the health of outdoor air : alpine lakes, granite peaks, mountain meadows, and clear skies oxygenated by the trees. To see these views and breath the clean air, we must be able to see clearly through the atmosphere. Human-caused pollution Visibility (or the average visible range) can be reduced from about 145 miles without pollution to about 35 miles because of pollution at or near the parks. Image: nps.gov/seki/learn/nature/airqualitymon - Labeled for noncommercial reuse.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have stunning vistas and the health of outdoor air : alpine lakes, granite peaks, mountain meadows, and clear skies oxygenated by the trees. To see these views and breath the clean air, we must be able to see clearly through the atmosphere. Human-caused pollution Visibility (or the average visible range) can be reduced from about 145 miles without pollution to about 35 miles because of pollution at or near the parks. Image: nps.gov/seki/learn/nature/airqualitymon - Labeled for noncommercial reuse.

Op-Ed Pandemic Lesson:
We Can Flatten the Steeply Rising Green House Gas Curve with the Same Commitment

Apr 26, 2020

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Concrete Steps Forward

Rather than sugar coat it, let’s just be frank.  The last few months, while tragic in terms of loss of human life and livelihoods, has given us a glimpse of what might still be possible.   Many of us have been liberated from multi-hour commutes, obligatory corporate conferences, sales junkets, discretionary gasoline consumption, crowded classroom teaching models, and other activities which many of us never imagined we could change.  Another incredible fact - in one week, the pollution in New York City dropped by half - unimaginable. There are hundreds of like stories.  There has been a massive cleansing and rebirth of our natural world seen and felt around the world.  Many welcome these changes even if they never imagined this goodness could come from such a horrific global virus.  How can we continue these positive trends for our climate? 

Today, out of a sense of self preservation, we have blown open new avenues for living, teaching, and working.  These last few months have given us a glimpse -  like Ebenezer Scrooge got, of how things could be - before it is too late.  We have been given a glimpse of a rejuvenated, healthy planet that supports all life. Let us be moved to action as was Mr. Scrooge.  The window of opportunity we have now - to see how things could be again, will close in very short order.  Whether we bring our best game again like we did in the pandemic, will undeniably come down to whether or not we take deliberate steps to grab on to the constructive models and legitimate government support just witnessed.

Is a declaration of emergency needed to stop emissions that are exposing us to enormous climatic changes?  When properly implemented, could we survive such a declaration?   The answer is yes.  We can and will deliver.  We can survive and thrive. 

How?  

Just Unleash it — Pent Up Problem Solving Energy

We owe it to our children to follow up on this opportunity that came via the Pandemic. Image: wikimedia- Leonhard Lenz / CC0I sense and see pent up creativity, out-side-the-box thinking, and optimism for the future.  Why not?  We now know how to flatten the curve.  Let’s start by acting on some concrete ideas as to how we can institutionalize what we have just learned - about flattening the curve to address the steeply rising green house gas curve.  I know there must be many good ideas, and I share a few of mine below:  

   • Passing Legislation to phase out nonessential commutes of say 25 miles or more.  That simple, rational act, given the incredible adaptability of workers and companies and given the advances in telecommuting with which we have quickly become familiar, is low hanging fruit*.  Zooming is pretty fun and these experiences will only improve.  

   • Just say “no” to monies earmarked to prop up fossil fuel interests.  Clean modes of transportation deserve and could greatly benefit from a financial boost. 

   • Aggressively fund retraining of those out of work, or those seeking ethical work- like fossil fuel tradespeople.  Jobs in solar and wind energy, pollution control technology, restoration, regenerative farming, manufacturing of clean running trains, are all areas needing skilled, hardworking people who desire to have stability and to go to work for a healthy future for their children.  

   • Reduce deforestation by adequately funding conservation; land banks (aka conservation easements), parks, wilderness areas, wildlife corridors, healthy watersheds which provide water and temperature mitigation which we need now and well into the future.

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons 

The tragic effects of a virus that crosses political, socioeconomic and geographic boundaries make more obvious - to those who might have once thought themselves invincible, the personal and societal threats of the global climate catastrophe.   We now know, thankfully, that  widespread threats can be met with the rapid, spirited, and cooperative commitment which is being demonstrated during this global pandemic.  Similarly, saving the atmosphere that protects us, requires this same energetic focus, creative solutions, and earnest commitment.  Let’s move forward based upon the recent lessons learned and keep the momentum going.  Creative and life saving climate solutions, will require substantial support as did treating the sick and protecting the country from COVID-19.  To win the struggle to reverse the damage done by enormous emissions of green house gases,  rapid and temporary commitment of local, state, and federal funds will be necessary and be totally worth it.  And again, there is not time to waste.

Saving our all important atmosphere may seem unimaginable to some, however we could look back in a year and say, we did come together and removed another gigantic threat to us and our children. Like with the virus, no time to waste. 

We are on the precipice of something great. Image: Kimberly Burr ( author )

On the precipice of something great..

“Balance - When we are urged to weigh the environmental impacts against the interests of developers, consider this...."We've lost nearly two-thirds of the world's wildlife since the first Earth Day 48 years ago."

The Nature Conservancy

Note: ​*Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation account for about 29 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor of U.S. GHG emissions. Between 1990 and 2017, GHG emissions in the transportation sector increased more in absolute terms than any other sector.  source: https://www.epa.gov/transportation

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