Up Front: Global Warming
Global warming. Just the mention of it seems to incite an immediate response from everyone. We can often determine whether one is a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican in a moment just by their reaction to these two words.
Is global warming real? Is man creating it? We read articles from one group of scientists on how the world is heating up at such an alarming rate that people living a few miles inland will soon have beachfront property. Other scientists are convinced there is no global warming and we should all just relax, they believe what we are experiencing is a typical climatic cycle. I am no scientist and tend to be a bit skeptical about political agendas from both sides.
AN ICEMAN UNCOVEREDWhile we do not know who is right–and won’t for at least a few more decades–we should consider the fact that a caveman that had been covered in glacial ice for well over 1,000 years on the Austria-Italy border was uncovered in 2000. The glaciers there have been receding every year. The mummy was found by hikers. We see pictures from space that show that the polar ice caps are shrinking. It seems that global warming is a reality. The real questions are: How fast is it happening? Is it a natural phenomenon, or does mankind cause it? Can we really do anything about it?
From what I have read, most pragmatic scientists seem to believe global warming is part of a natural cycle of the earth, and man is probably urging it along a little faster than nature would on its own. This sounds reasonable, and this is why the debate over global warming should be a moot point.
If man is to blame, man should make every effort to correct this mistake. We can build “green,” lower emissions, recycle and try to right the wrong. We owe this to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. If it is a natural occurrence, we need to minimize it as much as possible and take appropriate actions. Man or nature, we need to take precautions and be good stewards of the earth.
If there is no global warming, what could be wrong about trying to keep the planet clean and recycle? Actions that seem logical are to build smarter, recycle better, minimize gasses in the air and use the earth’s precious resources a little more wisely. This is exactly what the United States Green Building Council is doing with the LEED program.
As humans, we try to control the environment and mold it to our needs. Nature has its own plan, and the old quote from a television commercial for margarine was to the point: “Don’t try to fool Mother Nature.” Americans are not ones to just “take it.” We fight. It’s part of our national genetic code: Our country was founded on a fight and we have been fighting ever since. But maybe we should give in just a bit. If global warming is truly on its way, Hurricane Katrina was only a taste of what’s to come.
THE DUTCH LESSONIn the Netherlands, the country is below sea level and protected by a dike system similar to that in New Orleans. The Dutch have been building dikes for centuries and expanding their land mass. New dikes mean more land. However, the Dutch noticed how Katrina devastated New Orleans and took a look at their own dike system. Western Europe does not experience hurricanes and the Dutch have been confident their dike system can withstand even the worst storms along the North Sea. But, a hurricane like Katrina would most likely result in complete failure of the dike system. Combine that danger with the effects of global warming (a presumed reality), and the Dutch realized they had to make a choice from three options:
1 - Leave everything as is and hope there is no global warming. This option was soundly rejected.
2 - Strengthen the dikes. The problem with this option is that it is an all-or-nothing approach. If the dikes fail, the entire country is gone.
3 - Give back some land to the sea. This option was selected and meant a sacrifice for some people who had to give up homes and move inland. Secondary barriers have been built behind the dikes.
I think the Dutch made the best choice, even though it was also the most difficult one.
Giving in is never an easy option and one that Americans resist. Maybe we should take a lesson from the Dutch and be willing to make some sacrifices. As Americans we tend to believe we can do it all. After all, we have an incredible track record, but Mother Nature on a global scale may be more than even America can take on.