I'm in Washington D.C. this evening to join the Climate Change march Sunday, organized by Sierra Club and 350. Fighting climate chaos. Fighting a cold. Fighting a massive panic about this entire endeavor. But I've decided I have come to a time in my life when I will not let fear inhibit me.

When I was eight years old, my parents took me and my sisters and brother to the World's Fair. 1964.  Queens, New York. It was a thrilling, dazzling, dizzying, marvelous, insanely glittering and magical experience. I was in a daze. I decided right then and there that I wanted more than anything else to become an astronaut.

And then I got lost. My parents lost me. Somehow (my mother had this habit of distractedly walking away) we were separated, and suddenly, I was alone and small and terrified and soon enough, sobbing. I had no idea what my parents's names were, when a policeman asked. Dr. Daddy Browning? I had no idea what town I was from. I had no idea what was going to happen to me. I was abandoned. There was no end in sight to the panic of loss. Eventually I was lined up with seven or eight other children whose parents had also gone missing; we were televised, and we were eventually claimed.

All these years later I still have a massive anxiety about being separated from loved ones in crowds. Just the thought of heading into a crowd gives me stomach ache and sweaty flashes. So why am I here?

Because I don't want to be separated from my loved ones.

Let me explain: I don't want my children's Earth to be utterly alien to the one in which I grew up. We, my generation of parents, have been indulging in decades of denial about a simple problem of air pollution. It was one thing when we were all ignorant of the science. Now, there is no excuse. Already, the climate in which our children are growing up is changing rapidly. And this is just the beginning. There is no new normal. That's the whole point. There isn't going to be any normal.  The extreme, unpredictable, lashing, destructive storms that have been piling on in the last few years? More to come. The surging seas? More to come. The floods, the droughts, the wildfires? The infestations that are wiping out forests? More to come.

We are facing a global crisis of epic proportions. Spend any time with climate scientists, people who really understand this stuff, and you will understand: We must move with urgency, speed, dedication and focus. And it's personal. At this time in my life, I have to know that I am doing everything I possibly can to raise my voice to demand solutions. I do this for my children, all of our children--and I am honored to do it on behalf of anyone who supports the effort.

The World's Fair in which I was lost was the third such international exposition; its theme was "Peace Through Understanding: Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe." I am heading into the first protest march of my life--because of the backside of humankind's breathtaking achievements since the 1960s. Our globe has, indeed, shrunk, in ways that were unimagined back then. And we have literally--and it is almost unfathomable, I can barely wrap my mind around it, but there it is, hard cold science--we have literally altered the chemistry of our atmosphere, and of our oceans, puff by carbon puff.  But we misunderstood something critical about that expanding universe. There isn't going to be the same kind of delightful, gorgeous, comfortable, reliable room for us--if we don't clean up our ways.


jill weiss said...

Hi William....what you say seems like an intractable problem: "Reducing emissions for them reduces growth and that's just not something either is motivated to do."

Isn't the underlying problem employment? We live in a world that requires employment. People in China need to be employed just like here, and everywhere. So employment can be seen as the problem--when most times we think of unemployment as a problem....How to employ the people of the world without, at the same time, polluting it? [or, we can give up employment as a requirement but that takes too huge a leap of the imagination at this point in our evolution...]

Donna Baker said...

We need to follow the problem to its nexus. Over-population of our planet. There are approximately 6 billion more people than our earth can sustain (critical mass). Our animal extinctions, pollution and climate change are the results. I don't have the answer, but I hope it is part of the discussion/fight.

Judith said...

I wish I could be there with you all today. I am in spirit. Last night I held my neighbor's 5-day old son in my arms, and remembered my own boys at that age. I agree, D., we have to do everything we can so that our children and grandchildren won't grow up on an alien planet.

Sandy Donn said...

I'm applauding your courage and dedication - so few of us act upon what we are thinking. Bravo - I hold you in the highest esteem! May the experience leave you glowing inside.

Lynn said...

May I suggest "Why in the World are they Spraying" it can be found on YouTube.
A collection of thoughtful, intelligent and informed individuals who shed an interesting light on the issues we face regarding our weather.

William said...

Jill - we are not returning to an agrarian world society - not in the cards. Inasmuch as crazy Republicans like Michelle Bachmann run around saying China owns us, they don't. (I'm a Republican, so I can call her crazy - and before a bunch of women jump down my throat for calling her crazy - yes, I would call her crazy if she were a man, too). The best thing we can do here to help with this global crisis is to put economic pressure on China and U.S companies who manufacture there by boycotting products from China, starting right here and right now - and yes, I am including iPhones. THINK and READ before you buy. Next time you type a message about how much you care about doing something about global warming on your iPhone or computer, or frankly any other phone or computer, remember that you are supporting the country by buying that very phone or computer that is the biggest contributor to providing the emissions that are destroying the environment for now and future generations.

Slowlovelife said...

Emissions from both those countries are skyrocketing--and so is their citizens' discontent, indeed outrage, with levels of pollution that are poisoning them. China is laying on coal plants--but it is also investing heavily in solar and wind, good clean renewable energy. We've got to ramp it up here, even more, if we want those things Made in America. It may be that old-fashioned market competition keeps us in that game. No one seems to be willing to accept a reduction in growth, outright, but that may just happen anyway. Look what's happening with China's labor market. Anyway, the point is, we have to cut emissions, all of us, the world over. Because this problem is only going to reverse course if we all pitch in. Every world leader, every single one, knows this. We are the ONLY country in denial mode, and it is breathtakingly dangerous.

slowlovelife said...

William, I wonder why we aren't hearing from more Republicans on the issue of climate change. If anything should become a bipartisan effort, this should. You are always reminding us that you speak as a Republican. What would a Republican solution involve? I'd love to get some conversation going about this. My partners at ConservAmerica are thinking hard about this too; we're all looking for answers. d

slowlovelife said...

William, I am wondering what is the Republican solution to climate disruption? I ask you because you do remind us that you are a Republican, and I would genuinely love to get some conversation going here on that. What sorts of ideas/proposals do you find appropriate? d

Darlene said...

I think Dominique is off to a good start. The Climate Change Movement is modeling the Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Movement - demonstrations, pressure on politicians, and real change through the legal system. William, I think it would be easier to get the law changed, making it illegal to trade with counties who have not reduced their emissions, than it would be to get our citizens to stop shopping at Walmart.

slowlovelife said...

POPULATION GROWTH: A couple of you have started a conversation about whether or not the Earth can sustain the population we have; I'll jump in here. This certainly isn't an issue that is ignored by policy makers. I tend to prefer to focus on what we do know, but there is tons of interesting research out there modeling growth predictions and their subsequent impacts on resources. Here's a great "clock" that shows you real time data:


In short: We are at 7 billion people on Earth.

China and India make up 37% of the world's population.

North America: 5%

So we have had a hugely outsized impact on environmental pollution and degradation over the last decades, with our smaller population. That's why climate scientists worry about the impact of growth in China and India: fossil fuel use intensifies at a far greater scale. But China, especially, may also lead the way to a cleaner future with their increasing development and use of renewables. China will prove that fossil fuels aren't the key to a robust economy. Energy is. Actually, in many parts of the US we are already proving that. It is just not a fact that makes oil and gas companies happy--and they are actively spending millions of dollars fighting renewable energy. In other words, they are spending millions to protect their right to pollute.

Back to population:

World population growth rates seem to have peaked in the sixties, at 2.2%

Now we are looking at 1.1% growth rates.

That's a steady decline. Will it keep up? No one can know.

Remember Malthus? in 1758 he predicted the world would exhaust global food supplies by the mid-19th century. Wrong.

The opposite occurred--because of fossil fuels. Natural gas is the basis of most industrial agriculture's fertilizers. Oil yields most of its pesticides. Global transportation...fossil fuels.

One of the positive things that lowers population rates? Education and opportunity for women.

I grew up during a Z-pop movement (zero population) and I well remember struggling with the idea that it was immoral to have children. Ridiculous, of course. But such is the power of political sloganeering. At least it makes you think. If it doesn't brain wash you.

As far as I can tell, there is no agreement about what population rates will do: I see everything from predictions of zero growth to more escalation. Will population issues take care of themselves?

No one in their right mind is ever again going to recommend wholesale removal of populations. We've seen that, too, historically. But if we don't improve our energy supplies--and really, that's what it comes down to, it is that simple--we may well see devastation of huge swathes of population. That would be tragic.

Mia said...

Thats not the only reason folks shouldn't shop at Walmart, how about the fact they don't pay their help a decent wage and don't give any benefits at all. Talk about making a fortune on the backs of your employees!

Mia said...

Unfortunately people don't always have the choice to not shop at the Walmart, folks look for the best deals because they have a budget to live on. As for going without phones and computers, we must be realistic, that's not happening! Not too long ago while shopping in Macy's I started looking at where clothing was made, almost everything was made in China ect., so its not just places like the Walmart. I whole heartily agree with you on Michelle Bachmann, one has to ask oneself, how people become so terribly lost.

Mia said...

Well, listening to Sen. Marco Rubios R-Fla rebuttal should give you an idea of the republican view on climate control, it came through loud and clear to me.

William said...

Dominique, The best thing most of the current crop of Republicans could do for their sake and for the sake of business is to get their heads out of their asses. There is only one solution to this mess, and that's reducing carbon omissions - it's not a Republican or Democrat issue. If the environment goes to hell there will be no people ans as a result no business - and nothing could be worse for business than that outcome. One thing I know for certain, the solution will not fully be the result of government regulation - it will be the result of a collaboration of government and business and, most important, a shift in the mind-set of people. Cutting carbon emissions is not cheap but business needs to understand the initial economic hit will preserve business in the long run - it's truly the forward thinking approach. As for consumers, be smart about what you consume. China makes a lot of what is consumed in the United States and Western Europe and their manufacturing processes are dirty - much dirtier than here. Be mindful of that next time you are out shopping - ask yourselves before you buy anything "do I really need this?". Also, get out of your cars and walk or take a bus or a train. Buy food that comes from nearby producers as much as possible. Foie gras from France is permitted however - no one can quite do that stuff like the French.

bmoretti said...

We need to look at a bigger picture and a bigger philosophy…what really defines quality of life and identifies the superfluous excesses that have been brainwashed into us by a consumerist society.

You speak of cutting carbon emissions and buying locally...well for us in
Canada to follow this lead, we would have to stop buying all produce from the
USA that is being shipped up here to replace our own fruits and vegetables that have put our small local farmers out of business. 90% of our produce in my supermarket comes from the US and Chile...and I live in a rich soil farm belt of Ontario and can't buy their products because they've been out-priced by cheaper American imports that are produced by migrant workers who may or may not be legally in the US and whose labour is exploited.

The layers of complexity are overwhelming.

And William, we can't just pick and choose which path of integrity suits us...that's why I said that we have to look at the big picture. Paths of social
change have to better the world and not just for individual countries. We can't isolate yourselves and think about what would benefit only us and ours. The
USA signed the Kyoto Protocol, but did not ratify it. Before the Protocol was
agreed on in 2000, the US Senate unanimously prevented ratification of the
international agreement meant to reduce greenhouse emissions. Under our Conservative federal government, Canada withdrew from their targets in 2011. Nothing has replaced this attempt to reduce carbon footprints.

And lastly, as one who also loves pate...but gave up on Foie Gras because of the inhumane and cruel way in which it is made...I believe our intention to live with more responsibility towards a future world for our children should extend to all living things.

"...collaboration of government and business..." in North America alone will not resolve anything. A global movement is needed to arrest the tide.