Activists wanting to solve the crisis of human-caused climate change face a serious dilemma. The threat appears neither close enough to get our sustained attention, nor distant enough to postpone doing something about it now.
Most high school science teachers across the country now teach climate change, but about a third explain it away as a natural phenomenon. Another third tell their students that it comes from both natural and human causes. Meanwhile California almost reached its average reservoir and snowpack levels as measured at the end of March, and reports from around the world say that the oceans keep rising faster than expected and that annual temperatures continue go up. Last year finished as the hottest yet, following a decade of record-breaking annual tallies.
As if this weren’t happening, the fossil fuel folks keep pressing ahead. Our state’s three major privately-owned utility companies filed applications for a rehearing at the Public Utilities Commission, seeking a rollback of its recent rules encouraging rooftop solar panels. The big guys never give up.
So is there any good news this spring?
Last month my wife Susan and I drove to Phoenix to visit family. We had never spent much time there, and my relatives wanted us to see some sites they thought would interest us. They took us to two places where an ancient people had lived for about a thousand years, reaching their height of power and size between about 950 and 1350 C.E.
This society built water canal systems that, anthropologists estimate, ran for a thousand miles. From what is now downtown Phoenix they took water from the Salt River and distributed it for farming across the local valley. Further south another group did the same on the Gila River. The main channels can be up to 30 feet across and 10 feet deep, all dug by hand, and so well engineered that water planners use some of the same routes today.
Love. Joy. Peace. That’s the message of the season. From carols to holiday cards to street signs, even shopping mall windows. These words hover next to the pervasive images encouraging us to buy, but somehow they persist despite the maze of mercantile messages, because they are the deep longings of human beings.
“No justice, no peace!” is what workers and activists often chant on picket lines. It turns out that without climate justice, we will also have no world peace. A recent Los Angeles Times story on El Niño and its potential “long-distance” or “teleconnected” effects quoted researchers arguing that “it doubles the risk of war in much of the Third World.”
Peace activists have long identified war and the preparations for it as a major source of human-caused climate change.
The story of Mary and Joseph leaving their small town for Bethlehem has spawned dramatizations, poems, carols and a lot more since it was first told in the late First Century CE. The Latin American enactment, called Las Posadas, runs for nine nights, from December 16 through Christmas Eve. Each night families make a procession through their communities, walking from one house to another, begging for space for the holy couple and a birthing place for the baby Jesus. At every home they are turned away – until one family welcomes these poor wayfarers, usually with warm drinks and sweets.
The festival reenacts the ancient commandment from the Jewish tradition that we should welcome the stranger, the foreigner, the immigrant – because at one time we were all newcomers to this land.
Most Americans have forgotten this and have instead become very fearful after the November Paris attacks. Even while 9,000 refugees from Syria,