Read it and weep

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

Al Gore’s new book, An Inconvenient Sequel, Truth to Power, is a convenient handbook on how to save the earth, and in the process, ourselves. If we don’t save it, we will be wandering in the wilderness that is encroaching and soon after that we will be gone.
The book offers solid information and ways to help, making it truly worth your while and well worth the price. According to Gore, we might just make it on this planet if we take to heart the clear and present danger and understand that we must be sincere – we must be eager – about stopping it. He even tells us how to answer the ones who dispute that it’s happening.

The charts are clear and sensible. The essays on ways to save ourselves by people both famous and not, from across the globe, are relief reading from the terrors spelled out. From these folks we get glimmers of hope. Gore himself is optimistic because of the groundswell of people and industry turning to help the planet.

Gore himself pulls no punches about the danger and who has caused it: “The fossil fuel industry is engaged in a losing battle to confuse people into thinking that the climate crisis isn’t real, and that the renewable energy revolution is trivial and meaningless.”
That the oil and coal people know it, and continue on their path, lying all the way, is incomprehensible. Although if we follow their path, it is sure death of the planet, you would think this fact alone would impress them to suppress their greed.

Gore goes into what he calls the heart of the problem: “. . . the principal source is the burning of carbon-based fuels. After World War II, the use of fossil fuels began to increase dramatically. In recent years, it has accelerated even more. . . .”
So, in 50- or 60-some years, we’ve pretty much ruined our nest that is about 4 or 5 billion years old.

Early in the book, a simple, naïve piece of art shows the worst of the carbon-burning culprits among us: coal mining, coal burning, fracking, crop burning, forest burning, oil production, air transportation, nitrogen fertilizer, industrial processes, land transportation, landfills and industrial agriculture.

Gore explains clearly how the information is gathered that tells us the climate is changing. An essay titled “Why Do the Scientists Feel So Strongly?” explains why scientists gather core samples of ice from Greenland and Antarctica – to see the level of gases and carbon trapped from 800,000 years ago to the present. It tells of weather balloons, satellites and aerial missions tracking sea level rise, retreat of ice sheets, ozone levels, dust, cloud cover, vegetation loss and volcanic ash – all invaluable information not only for figuring how to stop climate change but for early warning of storms arising and sun activity that can interfere with GPS, power grids and telecommunications.

The photos are unusual and well chosen, for they are telling: scene after scene of drought, flood, fire, fleeing refugees, devastated terrain. The statistics on increasingly wild storms are sobering. “Rain bombs,” water vapor funneled from oceans and dropped in intensive, hard-drenching deluges far inland; forest fires of such magnitude and intensity some people have no time to flee the inferno; drought so severe herds of domesticated animals drop dead, and crops fail or yields are far below what’s necessary to survive; extreme weather in the form of hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, typhoons are more and more common. The cities at the top of the list for sea level rise in this country are Miami and New York City, where it’s already happening.

The picture of our future is not just bleak, it is horrifying. In many parts of the world, that future is already here.

“Our global civilization is now at a point of decision,” Gore writes. “But there is good news. We have all the solutions that we need right before us.”

This statement was such a relief to me that I read the rest of the book like the thriller it is. After Gore spells out the disasters happening currently and those in the wings, he grabs us off the cliff and offers the answers to our perils. We are living this thriller, and to learn that solar, wind and photo voltaic cells can – and are – able to stop the madness is like spying Wonder Woman and Superman ready to swoop in and help.

But alas, it is we who must do it. We all must encourage the employment of sustainable energy and the ceasing of fossil fuel use. If we can employ these sane inventions in our own lives, our homes and workplaces, we will make a difference. But we need the big picture too – we need to work on our governments, our elected leaders and our corporations. In this era, getting help from them is a bit of a trick, but if enough of us bombard them with facts and pleas? Some of them have come aboard, so we know that they’re not all ignoring real science.

Read it. Then do something. Perhaps we won’t leave our grandchildren weeping.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, by Al Gore.

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