It’s November. Halloween is over. Americans spent eighty billion dollars on candy and costumes this Halloween. When it comes to money, what we have spent on the current election is unspeakable. Christmas carols will soon be echoing throughout every mall in every state of the union. The big push will be on to get the biggest and bestest gifts to put under the tree, so that we all can have more things that we want but don’t really need.
There are millions of our fellow citizens still without power, water and food after the visitation of Hurricane/Super Storm Sandy. Many of them have lost everything and are homeless. On Tuesday, we will all trek to the polls to vote (I sure hope YOU do), making decisions that will affect how life will unfold during the next four years and beyond. The big decision we make together as a nation will have consequences one way or another for all of us. We all need to rethink what we value most.
I will be seventy years old this month. I am not as concerned about my own welfare as I am for the children of this world and this beautiful blue orb we call home. I have grandchildren ages nine and twelve, as well as a step-granddaughter who is twenty-four. I think about how they will fare in the upside-down, topsy-turvy world they will be inheriting from US. Yes, from you and me.
What will it take for them to reach their seventies as easily as I have? Will our nation be continuously at war, trying to keep peace around the world, while we ignore our own citizens? Today we argue about the issues we have with the economy, unemployment and health care. What about our infrastructure? There is much of New York City that will need to be rebuilt in order for it to survive the New Normal that Mother Nature has in store. There are bridges all over our nation that need rebuilding. Our ancient power-grid will not last forever. Almost every aspect of life will need to change if we are to continue living here on this planet without destroying it and ourselves.
I could write pages filled with the things we need to do in order to keep us all safe and comfortable as we move into an uncertain future. I could climb on a wooden crate on a street corner and yell and scream about the alarming rate at which glaciers in the far north are melting and that water levels around the world are already rising. Would you listen if I told you we are running out of fresh water? That the air we breathe is full of toxins that will eventually bring death and suffering to all of us?
Most of us don’t like to think about those questions. Who wants to consider painful scenarios in which there seems to be little hope. Some say we have no problems. They believe that we can live just as we are. If certain plants or animals become extinct, they won’t notice or care. But fifty-eight percent of us agree that we do have some major problems. The rest deny that anything is changing and if it is, it certainly isn’t being caused by human activity.
Every November, Charlottesville hosts the Virginia Film Festival. This is it’s 25th season. Yesterday, I had the privilege of seeing, Chasing Ice, a film that will be released to the general public in the near future. I urge all of you to see it, the creation of world-renowned photographer, James Balog. In 2007, he founded the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), a photographic project in which the rate of ice melt is being visually recorded in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska and Montana. Using the art of photography and the known science around global warming, he presents moving, visual proof that the glaciers are melting at a rate so fast, that it is almost unimaginable.
The stunning beauty of this film will take your breath away, as well as raise questions that all of us must consider. Through recognizing the tragedy that we are all participating in, and speaking about it openly, I believe we will find ways to adapt our behaviors in a changing world.