Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

April 19, 2012

Another View

Tulip Time in February?

Charlotte Shivvers
Journal-Express

Knoxville —  

No, the tulips didn’t bloom in February, but according to local radio the tulips came out three weeks ahead of the scheduled Tulip Time.  And didn’t Pella already set its annual festival a week early?

I feel for Pella’s leaders, trying to calendar their wonderful festival while the blooming time keeps getting earlier.  I feel for all of us attempting to live in a world where human-caused climate change brings not just early tulips, but record-breaking rain, flood, and fire.  Glaciers melt in the arctic while here we’re facing drought.  USA Today noted “The USA hasn’t been this dry in five years.”    

The worst part is that our government has done so little to help.  Here’s where we really need government.  We share one planet; none of us alone can cleanse our air of the heat-trapping gases that create climate change.  At the end of summer 2010 after the hottest six months, the hottest year, and the hottest decade on record (all records broken since), Bill McKibben, of Middlebury College, wrote “… the summer when it became crystal clear exactly what global warming looks like in its early stages is also the summer when it became crystal clear our political system wasn’t going to do anything about it – the power of the big fossil fuel companies is plenty strong enough to delay real action.”

Earlier, parts of government had tried; there was a Senate bill that would tax carbon dioxide emissions produced by large polluters like coal-fired power plants.  Des Moines Register proclaimed “Climate proposal aims to cut global warming, create millions of jobs” and cut the deficit by $19 billion.  But, it did not pass.  Then the Tea Party happened and we’ve heard little about work on climate change since.  

Democrats seem to have retreated in wimp mode and Republicans act as if they agree with Rick Santorum who calls the evidence of climate change “junk science” and “just an excuse for more government control of your life.” 

It is profoundly discouraging.  Our reluctance to wake up to the danger of our fossil fuel addiction is mystifying and terrifying.  Are we collectively that stupid?  Or just tired, confused, and afraid?   There’s testimony to the reality of the threat in the little steps we have taken:  stopping the coal-fueled plant in Marshalltown, driving cars that get better mileage, making strides with wind and solar power.  Military leaders have ordered less dependence on fossil fuels. 

In her book Raising Elijah Sandra Steingraber makes a powerful case for protecting our planet from greenhouse gases.  Scholar and biologist, she reminds us that the same gases which pollute our planet are causing climate change.   They cause many early deaths – especially for people like her son, Elijah, who has asthma.   It happens even here in Iowa where skies look clear but carry gases from farm machinery, traffic, lawn mowers, industry, and more.

Iowa state senator Robert Hogg from Cedar Rapids notes that tens of thousands have died in the climate-related chaos of recent years and calls it “climate disaster.”   Hogg urges us to follow Presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush who banned chlorofluorocarbons to reverse stratospheric ozone depletion.  Thank you, Senator.

“But what if it’s all a mistake?  A big hoax?” you ask.  No problem.  We have nothing to lose and much to gain by leaving fossil fuels behind.  We could save lives, clean the air, stop ocean rising, and create jobs!  It’s a win-win.

It might even allow Pella to set a trust-worthy schedule for the Tulip Festival!