The Groundhog Verdict

I think it’s safe to say, this day after Groundhog Day, that summer will be coming soon. In my part of the world, it was cloudy all day yesterday. No groundhog would see its shadow; winter will soon end.

More confirmation, this morning’s New York Times screams out, “Science Panel Says Global Warming is ‘Unequivocal’ — Cites Human Role — 3-year study foresees centuries of rising temperatures.” Above the fold on its first page, the Washington Post headline reads, “Humans Faulted for Global Warming.” The words and graphs are ominous. The Post’s Juliet Eilperin writes:

Declaring that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” the authors said in their “Summary for Policymakers” that even in the best-case scenario, temperatures are on track to cross a threshold to an unsustainable level. A rise of more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels would cause global effects — such as massive species extinctions and melting of ice sheets — that could be irreversible within a human lifetime. Under the most conservative IPCC scenario, the increase will be 4.5 degrees by 2100.

Much damage has already been done and the amount of greenhouse gases already in the environment will continue to wreak further havoc even if industrial countries stopped emitting gases tomorrow. Bush and company can’t deny the facts any more, but they are still dissembling and stalling, pretending that new technologies can fix the problem rather than taking responsibility and capping emissions now.

It’s easy to feel like the problem is too big to handle. But this isn’t daunting Howard Ruby, the chief executive of Oakwood Worldwide, who, according to another Washington Post article today, is encouraging conservation measures in all 40 of the rental complexes he owns in the U.S. and Canada. The Post’s Mike Salmon writes,

Oakwood’s chief executive, Howard Ruby, became an environmental evangelist after a cruise last year off the Norwegian coast where he saw the effects of warming temperatures on polar bears. His ship should have been dodging ice floes, but he saw open water everywhere. Just 500 miles from the North Pole, “there were no ice floes,” he said. With no ice, the polar bears have nothing to support their offshore fishing expeditions and are now in danger. “They’re dying fast,” he said.

Moved by the plight of the polar bears, Ruby started putting money into environmentally friendly plumbing and building materials and encouraging renters to do common-sense things to cut down on emissions. According to the Post, Ruby gives out a calendar that suggests things like limiting showers to five minutes, unplugging items when not being used, and other simple things, that if even 10 percent of his renters carry out, will reduce greenhouse gases by 1 million pounds.

Reportedly, many of his tenants are happy to cooperate. But some don’t see the point, including one woman that the Post says “didn’t buy the global warming concept,” and another at Oakwood Rosslyn who “said she thought the planet was destined to incinerate for religious reasons.”

So, dear readers, think on this. Reply with your thoughts: What’s the connection between the United States’ unwillingness to cap emissions and its frighteningly large percentage of religious fundamentalists who think we are all going to incinerate anyway?

God, if there be a god, save us from ourselves.

By Noelle McAfee

I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.

1 comment

  1. A recent poll (reported in the Christian Post)showed that 1 in 4 Americans believe that the rapture will come in 2007! No wonder these folks are refusing to learn the science behind global warming! (and evolution?)

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