Editor’s note: This commentary is by Bob Stannard, a former lobbyist, who is still an author and musician. This piece first appeared in the Bennington Banner.
Two days ago I looked to the east and I could see my neighbor’s house. Overnight the leaves arrived and the view that I had become accustomed to over these long winter months vanished. I look to the south and I can see the greenery racing up the side of Equinox and Mother Myrick mountains. Within the next 24 to 48 hours my ability to be able to see two 200 yards into the forest will be reduced to 50 feet. I will be corralled by foliage.
I am grateful for the month of May, because it is this month that we are reminded of how quickly the world around us changes. We know that everything changes every day, but we forget. Oh yes, there are other reminders that help us to remember. Things like grandkids. At this stage of his life my grandson, Ernest, a.k.a. Ernie, is changing at the same speed as the forest’s leaves. One day he could only crawl; the next day he stood up on his own. A few days later he took his first step. A month later I can’t catch the little guy.
The warp speed of change is breathtaking yet for the most part we never see it happening. There are those who don’t want to see change and there are those who deny change is happening. Sadness fills my heart when I think of these folks, for it is the dynamic of change that presents us with opportunities. One day that cell in your body that you know is there, but can’t ever hope to see, may have become cancerous. That would be unwelcome change. Denying it has occurred might very well prove fatal. An opportunity exists to try to fix the problem.
Denial is not partisan, racial or secular. We are confronted with it every day.
The news last week of the rapid melting of the glaciers in West Antarctica is another example of how fast things are changing around us. When my father came home from World War II there was no worry of Earth losing its polar icecaps. A generation later (or was it just a couple of days?) we are losing our polar ice caps. According to the article, which makes it clear that man burning more fossil fuels is substantially to blame for the problem, the process of the ice melting is no longer reversible. Sometime back, maybe a few hours ago, we had a chance to reverse the process, but we didn’t see it happening. Or did we? Some saw what was happening and let it be known, but the rest of us opted to deny that change was occurring. Some change is too unthinkable to think about. Choosing to deny the problem and thus not working on solutions to deal with the change may prove fatal in the long run.
The verdict from scientists was that destabilization of the Antarctic ice could lead to the seas rising 10 to 20 feet. Remember when we were worried about the seas rising an inch or two, or did we choose to ignore that warning, too?
The following is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Daily Kos showing how those in a position of power are reacting to the news of melting glaciers:
“The North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission has found a solution to the political impasse posed by the conflict between science, which predicts the acceleration of sea level rise as the glaciers of western Antarctica collapse into the Southern Ocean, and money-driven politics tied to coastal development. The Coastal Commission voted to ignore long-term sea level rise. The Commission voted, with one lone dissent, to limit the period of consideration of sea level rise to 30 years. Keeping the period to 30 years allowed the Commission to avoid considering the consequences of the collapse of west Antarctic glaciers, the speed up of the melting of Greenland’s ice cap and the slowing of the Gulf Stream. This vote will end the conflict between the Republican dominated state legislature and the Commission that happened in 2010 when the Commission’s panel of experts predicted as much as 5 feet of sea level rise by 2100. The legislature rejected that report and prohibited state and local government offices from considering the possibility that sea level rise would accelerate.”
This is comparable to rejecting the word from your doctor that the tiny cell in your body that was fine yesterday is cancerous today. Sure, you can take the position that you are only going to look six months ahead and after that it’s someone else’s problem. The problem, of course, is that it’s still going to be your problem.
Denial is not partisan, racial or secular. We are confronted with it every day. Here in Vermont we have politicians in positions of influence who are not convinced that climate change is caused by man, but instead could be the result of some natural phenomenon.
And maybe I can deny that those green leaves that obstruct my long view through the forest behind my house don’t exist and I will have my view back, and that my once red beard is not really gray.