April 1, 2015
Too Hot Not to Notice?
Posted on May 3, 2012
By Bill McKibben, TomDispatch
And across North America, as the sun moves westward, activists in Halifax, Canada, will “swim for survival” across its bay to highlight rising sea levels, while high-school students in Nashville, Tennessee, will gather on a football field inundated by 2011’s historic killer floods.
In Portland, Oregon, city dwellers will hold an umbrella-decorating party to commemorate March’s record rains. In Bandelier, New Mexico, firefighters in full uniform will remember last year’s record forest fires and unveil the new solar panels on their fire station. In Miami, Manhattan, and Maui, citizens will line streets that scientists say will eventually be underwater. In the high Sierra, on one of the glaciers steadily melting away, protesters will unveil a giant banner with just two words, a quote from that classic of western children’s literature, The Wizard of Oz. “I’m Melting” it will say, in letters three-stories high.
This is a full-on fight between information and disinformation, between the urge to witness and the urge to cover-up. The fossil-fuel industry has funded endless efforts to confuse people, to leave an impression that nothing much is going on. But—as with the tobacco industry before them—the evidence has simply gotten too strong.
Once you saw enough people die of lung cancer, you made the connection. The situation is the same today. Now, it’s not just the scientists and the insurance industry; it’s your neighbors. Even pleasant weather starts to seem weird. Fifteen thousand U.S. temperature records were broken, mainly in the East and Midwest, in the month of March alone, as a completely unprecedented heat wave moved across the continent. Most people I met enjoyed the rare experience of wearing shorts in winter, but they were still shaking their heads. Something was clearly wrong and they knew it.
Square, Site wide
The one institution in our society that isn’t likely to be much help in spreading the news is ... the news. Studies show our papers and TV channels paying ever less attention to our shifting climate. In fact, in 2011 ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox spent twice as much time discussing Donald Trump as global warming. Don’t expect representatives from Saturday’s Connect the Dots day to show up on Sunday’s talk shows. Over the last three years, those inside-the-Beltway extravaganzas have devoted 98 minutes total to the planet’s biggest challenge. Last year, in fact, all the Sunday talk shows spent exactly nine minutes of Sunday talking time on climate change—and here’s a shock: all of it was given over to Republican politicians in the great denial sweepstakes.
So here’s a prediction: next Sunday, no matter how big and beautiful the demonstrations may be that we’re mounting across the world, “Face the Nation” and “Meet the Press” won’t be connecting the dots. They’ll be gassing along about Newt Gingrich’s retirement from the presidential race or Mitt Romney’s coming nomination, and many of the commercials will come from oil companies lying about their environmental efforts. If we’re going to tell this story—and it’s the most important story of our time—we’re going to have to tell it ourselves.
Bill McKibben, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of “Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet,” is the founder of 350.org, which is coordinating Saturday’s Connect the Dots day. You can find the event nearest you by checking climatedots.org.
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Copyright 2012 Bill McKibben
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