Letter to the Editor in the East Hampton Star
December 2, 2019
At check-out in Brent’s Store in Amagansett, a wizened fisherman blamed state regulators for the fact that the tags he’s allocated now allow him to catch barely enough fish for his own family table. And as a New York Times headline announced, “The Scallops Are All Dead.”
While we look for local influences, we ignore at our peril the fact that it is a global problem.
This week, to pick one from a thousand stories, The Washington Post profiled Tombwa, Angola, where in the 1990s there were 20 fish factories processing tons of fish coming from the sea. Now there is one factory left. The fish species recently thriving there have collapsed in the overheated water. Trawlers ranging from distant ports are gobbling up what remains.
Ten years ago Bill McKibben wrote, “Climate Change is about whether you eat or don’t eat.” Deniers called it alarmism.
This year, as temperatures in Bordeaux reached 106 degrees, the vineyards were parched and wine production was down 13 percent. Corn production suffered the same fate.
In the American Midwest unprecedented rain bombs flooded the fields and destroyed billions of dollars’ worth of crops. Last year (or was it the year before?) multi-year drought destroyed countless acres of nut orchards that had been prosperous for generations in California. A recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate report predicts a 2 to 6 percent decline in worldwide crop yields per decade going forward, at the same time as population swells.
Sidewalk experts, including the entire Republican Party, still scoff at the science. “These scientists can’t make up their minds. One day it’s drought, the next day it’s flood! Which is it, they don’t know what they’re talking about. They can’t predict the weather next week, and they claim to predict it 20 years from now. Gimme a break!”
More people now understand that we should have listened to James Hansen when he was informing the American Congress 30 years ago about climate disruption. Imagine how far we could have come in 30 years toward slowing the onset. Still we dither instead of taking personal responsibility for the problem.
Drive down any street lined with parked cars and note that most of them are SUVs. Their growth in popularity has canceled out the benefits we might have gained in the incipient move to electric vehicles. We burn as much gas now as we did before electrification because mammoth SUVs use more gas than the smaller cars we used to drive, not to mention the sky parade of private jets roaring in and out of our airport. So much for self-regulation in the face of global catastrophe.
Demagogues and religious zealots around the world can turn men without hope into terrorists. This is just the beginning. The World Bank projects 143 million climate-displaced migrants by 2050, and stresses that this is a lower bound estimate, with the numbers certain to go much higher, perhaps sooner, assuredly later.
As we approach the 2020 elections, no matter how you have voted in the past, if you care about fish, or food in general for the children you love, remember that we have two parties in this country with radically different attitudes about climate change. Forget about the personal foibles of candidates that the media love to dwell on.
Remember that one party makes its living serving the interests of the fossil fuel industry. The other party is finally listening to scientists and young people who will inherit this planet, and committing to meaningful action. Climate change is no longer about 2100, Bangladesh, or polar bears. It has come to this: not just in the long run, but for millions alive today in America, including the fisherman at Brent’s, nothing else matters.