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Commentary & Opinion

Stephen Gottlieb: This is an emergency

During the fund drive I heard Joe Donahue and this station working hard to bring Bill McKibben to this audience and lead us away from the catastrophe of global warming. He and the station did a great service and I am proud to be associated with them.

If your house was on fire you wouldn’t stand like a bystander waiting for it to collapse; you’d call the fire department and get anyone you could reach out of there fast.

If you child or your grandchild were about to drown, you would not turn your back moaning that it was too awful to contemplate; you’d raise hell to get your children out.

If your children disappeared on a camping trip, you wouldn’t sit around moaning; you’d search, call the rangers, find those children.

If your baby was dying of thirst, you’d find water. If your child was dying of hunger you’d find food. I met one six year old girl whose mother released her to others who brought her to America after the young girl’s brother had died of starvation in Liberia. It’s awful to contemplate but as parents we do what we have to in order to protect our children.

But global warming is doing all of those things. It is drowning, burning, killing of thirst and starvation and disease. It is destroying the food supply, fouling the water supply and flooding the land. The scientists, thousands of them, all over the globe, have been telling us that global warming is real and that global warming is fast making the planet uninhabitable for living things.

Apparently we listen to the scientists when they tell us how to build bombs but not when they tell us to save ourselves and our children and grandchildren.

I have used this commentary from time to time to explain things we can do. But the problem is that we have to make our politicians act, our “leaders” lead, and everyone with power to make the necessary changes. We have to make it clear to politicians in both political parties that we will not stand for anything less than programs, taxes, government efforts, whatever it takes to deal with this crisis and fast.

If business leaders deserved our trust, they would not have to be forced to shift to solar and wind energy. Friends of ours have built, and are building, solar systems to run schools and embassies in much of the developing world. But our so-called “leaders” have fought all the changes that might give life on this planet a future. They should be leading the change. The oil companies, if they were leaders, if they were problem solvers, would put all their effort into freeing us from burning oil and gas. Heaven knows we need petroleum for medicinal and other non-flammable purposes. But not for energy, not for burning.

But too few of those so-called “leaders” have evidenced any reason why we should trust them or give them any breaks at all from taxes or from regulation. This is an emergency and we have to make clear to everyone in power that there is no substitute for decisive action – immediately.

For our children and our grandchildren and the possibility that they will still be able to have children of their own. So thank you Joe, and Bill McKibben and WAMC. Now it’s our turn. Start at 350.org or climaterealityproject.org/ or find Bill McKibben on Twitter.

Joe gets it. Alan gets it. Romney promised to cut it out of his budget. We have to act.

Steve Gottlieb is Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor of Law at Albany Law School and author of Morality Imposed: The Rehnquist Court and Liberty in America. He has served on the Board of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and in the US Peace Corps in Iran.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.