I refer often to the Malia-Sasha Horizon, probably because it is such an evocative and powerfully framed concept on the impending and foreseeable impact of climate change.
And as I listened throughout the day Thursday as 311 people spoke at the State Department's Keystone XL hearing in Grand Island, Nebraska, I was equally inspired by the speakers' breadth of knowledge and the rawness of their emotions as they appealed to you as a father. As a future grandfather.
"If this government makes a huge, huge mistake in preventing this pipeline, with the influence of the Canadian government and big oil, we the people will not allow this pipeline to be built," Nebraska rancher Bruce Boettcher told State Department representatives.I am not yet 65-years-old, Mr. President, but I know that I would stand in front of a bulldozer as well, if it meant preserving the planet for my family. How about you?
Abbi Kleinschmidt, 54, of rural York, said she was prepared to stand in front of TransCanada's bulldozers in Nebraska if the pipeline is approved. The fifth-generation farmer said she fears that the half-mile of pipeline that could run through her corn and soybean farm would contaminate the groundwater that has sustained her family for generations.
"I hope it doesn't come to that," she said. "But it's our job, our duty, to take care of this land."
Terry Frisch, a northern Nebraska rancher who owns land on the Ogallala Aquifer, has fought the project for four years. He said he has grown increasingly frustrated that the project, which he views as a threat to the state's groundwater supply. Frisch said some landowners in the desolate ranching country are so angry that some have talked about fighting back if they're moved by force.
"I'm 65 years old, and I've already lived longer than I thought I was going to," Frisch said. "I'm not going to ask my kids. But me? I'm not afraid to stand in front of a bulldozer."(Keystone XL Opponents Brace for Protests in Neb.)
Is this a novel concept, I wonder, this unfathomable fear that the world will no longer be able to sustain life for our descendants? I can recall, long before having the 'birds and the bees' discussion with my daughter, the horrifying realization that I would have to explain to her that she ran the risk of dying from unprotected sex. And then the next conversation, initiated by her some fifteen years later, in which she told me she would never have children and that she didn't recall ever thinking that the world had a future.
I imagine you have had (or will have) similar discussions with your children. I wonder if they also are growing up with a sense that there really is no tomorrow.
One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, "What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew i would never see it again? ― Rachel CarsonBack in the 1960s, as I am sure you know, President John F. Kennedy responded rapidly to support the findings on the dangers of DDT outlined in Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. But it took ten years for our government to ban the use of this toxic chemical on our nation's agricultural lands. Carson herself was the victim of a vicious, well funded campaign waged by Monsanto, Velsicol and American Cyanamid with the approval of the Department of Agriculture. (Time archives.)
There are many similarities between today's battle against tar sands and Carson's war fifty years ago over chemical pollutants.
Her admonition to "Spray as little as you possibly can" rather than "Spray to the limit of your capacity" is today's “Drill as little as you possibly can” rather than “Drill Baby, Drill.”
But we no longer have ten years to wait for our government to take definitive action to drastically change course and address the need for sustainable clean energy in the face of climate change. We need you to act now. To use your executive powers to turn the ship of state around. To change who and what ultimately defines the reality of America today and for future generations.
The cleanup isn’t over yet and so far, more than a million gallons of thick tar sands oil have been cleaned up from the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek.State officials have been looking at possible health risks from the spill.This week, the Michigan Department of Community Health released a report on drinking water wells along the spill zone. From MDCH releases report on drinking water wells after Kalamazoo River oil spill, March 14, 2013 Michigan Radio
Recently, I unearthed the roughly-aged red leather journal which accompanied me, fresh out of college, on my 3000 mile road trip west from New York in 1973. Reading through it again after many years, I realized that many of the memories of America which remain indelibly imprinted in my memory are those moments I wrote about that summer ...
Left Ann Arbor for Chicago about 7. A long ride across Michigan. Stopped at Kalamazoo around 9pm for dinner at a truck driver's stop -- Salisbury Steak, salad, mashed potatoes and vegetables for $1.80. The usual weird looks.
Then into the star-studded deep dark Kansas night with long empty roads, a beautiful mooned sky and miles and miles of nothing ... pull into a gas station; an old man, his face a huge pocket of wrinkles, fills the tank as noise from a Spanish talk show disturbs the silence ... huge bugs, moths, bats? crickets slam to their deaths against the windshield and we pull into a service area, spooked and alone in the middle of nowhere as if some sinister force is following us into the depths of no return. We hardly know who we are anymore ...
Sunrise in Hillsboro, sitting in the middle of the street. The Blues, a parade of Godzilla clouds marching across the sky in silent ceremony. Reverent. The birds awakening. The occasional car's headlights toy with the shadows ... I am so aware of the poignancy, the intensity of this moment. Isolated, fleeting quality of awareness. I know that this moment, these few moments captured and experienced each and every day are really what life is all about.
There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings. The town lay in the midst of a checkerboard of prosperous farms, with fields of grain and hillsides of orchards where, in spring, white clouds of bloom drifted above the green fields. In autumn, oak and maple and birch set up a blaze of color that flamed and flickered across a backdrop of pines. Then foxes barked in the hills and deer silently crossed the fields, half hidden in the mists of the fall mornings. Rachel Carson, A Fable For Tomorrow, excepted from Silent Spring, 1962.And here are the voices of some of Thursday's speakers as they fight for the future of America.
"If we don't get climate change right it doesn't matter what else we get right"
"There are no jobs on a dead planet."
"This is the our lunch hour moment of 21st century. Its about our right to exist on the planet."
"The only job growth that I have seen, is them coming to clean up the spill."
"This is our land. We have to protect our grandchildren."
"We borrow our Earth not from our ancestors but from our children... Kill the damn thing. It's nonsense."
"Putting in this pipeline is like taking an alcoholic to a beer hall and telling them to have a good time."
"The President does not want to mess with angry grandparents"
"This is Nebraska, where our food is grown the middle of our country ... this is the heart of America. We can't spread oil across this land."
His message, Mr. President, was "Do the next right thing"
We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road the one "less traveled by" offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth. Rachel Carson.