I remember one summer growing up, I lived in constant fear every time the air conditioner went on in our home. It wasn’t just the air conditioner either; every time I saw someone with an aerosol can I thought they were spraying the black plaque of death in the air.
The end was near. Our ozone layer was depleting.
And when I heard that low hum of the AC turning on, I imaged that hole getting bigger and bigger. We were all going to die. I even convinced my parents to not use the AC unless they really needed to. (This was in Illinois in August… my parents really love me.)
Now I can’t remember what I actually knew about the Ozone layer. I remember learning that the Ozone layer kept out the bad ultraviolet rays. (Which, saying out loud, sounds extremely terrifying. Not just violet rays but ULTRA violet rays). I remember that having an Ozone layer was very good for our environment and not having an Ozone layer was very bad. I remember the hole. I remember it was in Antarctica. I remember that our use of certain things like air conditioners and hairspray caused it.
That is what I remember most. We were the cause.
Fast-forward a few (ahem) years. Here we are today talking about rising seas, ice shelves melting, polar bears and greenhouse gases.
Now before I get any further, I want to do a brief 60-second pop culture history.
In the beginning it was called Global Warming. Scientists began noticing that parts of Antarctic and the North Pole were no longer there. Average sea temperatures were rising. Normal climates cycles weren’t normal anymore. Droughts were larger. Animals were disappearing. This caused some scientists to sound the alarm in an alarmingly fashion.
And all hell broke lose.
Oil companies cried foul. So did Al Gore. Which made Republicans cry foul. Which made Democrats cry foul. Which made lobbyists cry foul. Which made businesses cry foul. Which made foreign governments cry foul.
Pretty soon everyone was crying foul.
Studies were published. And more studies were published to contradict the first studies. Thanksgiving dinners got really tense. People on every side were knee deep in suspicion about everyone else’s real agenda.
And nothing was getting down. Wait, something got done. They changed the name. It is now called climate change.
The waters kept rising.
Here we are today.
Some people believe climate change isn’t happening. Some people believe it is happening but we are not the cause. Some people believe we are absolutely the cause. Some people believe it can be reversed. Some people believe we are already doomed. Some people don’t care. Some people don’t care we are already doomed. Some people don’t know how to spell climate change. I will not tell you where I personally fall on this spectrum. Instead, I want to ask this question.
Does it matter who is right?
A few hypotheticals:
What if we re-framed the issues?
What if we stopped pointing fingers?
What if we sped up progress by practicing collaboration and humility instead of slowing progress and blaming the other side?
What if explored better ways to grow food and clean our water because it is moving us forward into a better future?
What if we went on a mission to find alternative energy sources because we can?
What if we treated our planet as our home and not a hotel room?
What if we strived to be the best caretakers of this world that we can possibly be regardless of whether climate change is upon us or made up?
And what if we did all of these things simply because it is the right thing to do?
I know it is hard. I know for some of you, if you hear one more hippie get mad about some salmon colony, or go on about their hybrid or give you a critical look for not going organic, you will scream.
And I know for some of you if you hear one more person say drill baby drill, or go on about their F150 or give you a critical look when you mention you listen to NPR you will scream.
I would imagine both of you want the other to choke on their carbon credits.
But the problem with walking in two different directions when you live on a sphere is that eventually you will end up where you started.
I say, if the climate is changing let’s change with it.
And if it’s not changing, let’s change anyway.
Respect not ravage. Honor not exploit. Protect not destroy. Entrusted not entitled.
You know what is cool to have? Smart friends. I have a number of them but the one that comes to mind right now is Carrie, she is a scientist. (It is an actual friend, I am not referring to myself in the third person.)
She said something really cool. I don’t remember all the technical terms but it goes something like this. We need a lot of energy to make this world work. The sun produces a gazillion times more energy than we need.
All we need to do is harness the sun.
Impossible you say?
I don’t know. We've already been to the moon.
You want to know something else? That Ozone layer that I was worried about when I was little? The hole stopped getting bigger. It may even be showing beginnings signs of repair. Why? We banned together and then banned CFCs.
We came up with different ways to do things.
We were the cause. We were the solution.