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We must learn to protect the earth

To the Editor:

In the aftermath of recent events in our nation’s Capitol, we are still reeling in shock, disbelief and consternation at how best to pick up the pieces and move on. We hope that leadership will emerge to restore the ship of state to a democratic, compassionate and confidence-building course. 

At the same time, however, we must not lose sight of an even-greater catastrophe looming on the horizon, bearing down on us with a prospect that could make storming the Capitol look like the proverbial “tempest in a teapot.” The terrorist assault on the Capitol posed a threat to our democracy. Humankind’s assault on the planet poses a threat to our survival. The Jan. 6 attackers have been characterized as a “gang of thugs.” Those who threaten the Earth’s future are “nice people” like you and me who cannot or will not adopt the radical changes in our economic system and comfortable lifestyle essential to turning around our Earthship now headed toward disaster. 

Between 1990 and 2015 the richest 1 percent of humanity accounted for more damage to the environment than the entire bottom 50 percent. This 1 percent includes any with annual incomes over $109,000. The richest 10 percent, those making over $38,000, account for half of total emissions. Those of us with “decent” incomes — likely most readers of this paper — live in places allowing us to downplay or ignore the damaging effects of our fossil fuel dependency, while the lives of folks residing in Bangladesh, Vanuatu, “Cancer Alley” and other minority and poverty enclaves, bear the brunt of it. Our grandchildren are rightly up in arms as the viability of their future is threatened. 

In the midst of the trauma and violence on Capitol Hill — and the underlying dis-ease and alienation that has fomented it — can we re-affirm our commitment to implementing human rights and equality of opportunity for all? As the COVID-19 pandemic causes us to invent new ways of communicating with and caring for one another, can we also find the will to sacrifice some of our comfort and convenience, and to divert resources from feeding our greed to nurturing the common good? Will we draw on our capacity for creativity and invention to replace carbon with alternatives, to put people before profits, to find adventure and fulfillment in a simpler life in place of the exotic and luxurious? Can we adopt a system that guarantees liberty and justice (and healthcare and education and security and a livelihood with living wage and the chance to achieve one’s potential) FOR ALL? 

We went to the moon a half-century ago. We have now set our sights on Mars. Is not climate justice a worthy — yes, essential — goal as well? As Pope Francis put it recently, “The Earth must be taken care of, cultivated, protected; we cannot continue to squeeze it like an orange.” To do so would only extract the juice of life, leaving only the pulp of debris — as did the Trump marauders. 

Doug Wingeier

Asheville

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