The Sustain Mid Maine Coalition held its fifth annual meeting on Jan. 25, celebrating five years of work by volunteers trying to reduce consumption of fossil fuels and prevent the worst effects of global climate change because too much carbon dioxide is being put into the air.
We already have exceeded 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the air, which was the target that many scientists told us to try to avoid.
Many have been aware of global climate change for many years. In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol, sponsored by the United Nations, recommended that all nations greatly reduce generation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. In 2005, many of us viewed or read “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore’s movie and book.
The ice caps and glaciers are melting, which will increase the level of the ocean several feet, flood the world’s coastlines and make many structures unusable.
The ocean is also turning more acidic. As this continues, many kinds of fish, shellfish and underwater vegetation will no longer be able to survive.
Weather is changing, as evidenced by such vicious storms as Hurricane Katrina and superstorm Sandy that hit New York City and New Jersey last year. Rainstorms put more stormwater into our road drainage systems, causing severe damage to our public road systems, as happened recently in Vermont.
Much less rain is falling in the southwestern United States, where limits are set about how much water can be used in urban areas and to irrigate agricultural fields.
These changes are being observed in many parts of the world, although parts of the world farther from the equator should continue to have enough rain.
To open the Sustain Mid Maine annual meeting, I recited the following invocation.
“Let us pray for fairness.
“Let us remember that the most basic human instinct is for survival, as it is for other forms of life. For survival, we need to be able to breathe clean air, drink clean water, eat healthy food and live in a climate that is not too cold or too hot. All creatures need this. We need this not only for today, next week, next month and next year, but for ever and a day. Our children and our grandchildren need this.
“The world will be more fair if all people everywhere and forever are able to have this. Help us contribute to making the world a fair and healthy place for all people.
“Help us plan ahead for a strong economy in which all people have an opportunity to have clean air, drink clean water, eat healthy food and live in a climate that is not too cold or too hot.
“Help us plan together, and implement plans together, to avert the most terrible effects of global climate change before it is too late. It is already too late to prevent some of the effects of climate change from happening. Help us plan and adjust to the changes in our way of life that will be needed to survive.
“Help us find ways to obtain the energy we need without consumption of the fossil fuels that are causing global climate change. Help us to understand that the true cost of fossil fuel, when including the cost of the damage that fossil fuel does to our actual economy, including the environment, is really more expensive than alternative sources of energy.
“Please, help us to define and implement the best, most fair, ways to achieve a sustainable future for all people around the world.”
We all need to work together, aggressively, in order to survive.
On April 22, we will observe Earth Day 2014, a day when we all should take time to consider and celebrate the good things about the environment in which we live.
We do have cleaner water and air than we had at the time of the first Earth Day in 1970. At that time, most people supported the need for laws to provide us with a more healthy environment. This year, let us all think about the things that still are needed to ensure that we and our children will have a healthy place to live here on Earth.
Elery Keene spent 31 years as executive director of the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments. He is a member of the board of directors of the Sustain Mid Maine Coalition, a grassroots organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the people of central Maine. For more information, visit www.sustainmidmaine.org