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Earth, the only home we know

Published May 15. 2010 09:00AM

Dear Editor:

The Plain Truth - A letter to the good, the bad, the greedy, the ignorant and both the Republican and Democrats.

DRILL, BABY, DRILL; you have caused a catastrophe with "OFFSHORE" drilling that will have consequences around the world.

HEAVEN AND HELL: THE EARTH IS A LOVELY AND MORE OR LESS PLACID PLACE. Things change, but slowly. We can lead a full life and never personally encounter a natural disaster, more violent than a storm. And so we become complacent, relaxed, unconcerned. But in the history of nature, the record is clear. Worlds have been devastated. Even we humans have achieved the dubious technical distinction of being about to make our own disasters, both intentional and inadvertent. On the landscapes of other planets where the records of the past have been preserved, there is abundant evidence of major catastrophes. It is all a matter of time scale. An event that would be unthinkable in a hundred years may be inevitable in a hundred million. Even on earth, even in our own century bizarre natural events have occurred.

The principal energy sources of our present industrial civilization are the so-call fossil fuels. We burn wood and oil, coal and natural gas, and, in the process, release waste gases, principally CO2, into the air. Consequently, the carbon dioxide content of the earth's atmosphere is increasing dramatically. The possibility of a runaway greenhouse effect suggests that we have to be careful. Even a one-or-two-degree rise in the global temperature can have catastrophic consequence. In the burning of coal and oil and gasoline, we are putting sulfuric acid into the atmosphere. Our stratosphere even now has a substantial mist of tiny sulfuric acid droplets. Our major cities are polluted with noxious molecules. We do not understand the long term effects of our course of action.

But we have also been perturbing the climate in the opposite sense. For hundreds of thousands of years human beings have been burning and cutting down forests and encouraging domestic animals to graze on and destroy grasslands. Slash and burn agriculture, industrial deforestation and overgrazing are rampant today.

Our lovely blue planet, the faith, is the only home we know. Venus is too hot. Mars is too cold. But the earth is just right, a heaven for humans. After all, we evolved here. But our congenial climate may be unstable. We are perturbing our poor planet in serious and contradictory ways. Is there any danger of driving the environment of the earth toward the planetary hell of Venus or the Global ice age of Mars?

We humans now represent a new and perhaps decisive factor. Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished.

The job of politicians in America, whether at the local, state or the national level, should be, in good part, to help educate and explain to people what world they are living in and what they need to do if they are to thrive within it. And the Republicans in their peculiar recklessness of their agenda for the planet (and, as well, for outer space, which they intend to fill with high-tech weaponry) while they ignore the ever-worsening threats of global warming, air pollution, and the disappearance of endangered species - among many other looming ecological disasters.

Who speaks for the earth? If Pres. Obama is looking for a legacy project, there's one just crying out - a national science initiative that would be our generation moon shot: a crash program for alternative energy - independence. He should also create a real magnet to inspire young people to contribute to both the war on terrorism and America's future by again becoming scientists, engineers and mathematicians. It's a win-win for ALL humanity. Or will it be more of the same DRILL, BABY, DRILL. Earth can and will become one "Colossal Graveyard."

There are worlds on which life has never arisen. There are worlds that are charred landscapes and ruined by cosmic catastrophes. We are fortunate: we are alive; we are powerful; the welfare of our civilization and our species is in our hands. If we do not speak for Earth, who will? If we are not committed to our own survival, who will be?

Joseph J. Koperna

Tamaqua High Rise

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