By Cabell Brand Cabell Brand, founder of Total Action Against Poverty and the Cabell Brand Center, is a retired businessman from Salem. | Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2014 2:00 am
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Risk is like fire: If controlled, it will help you; if uncontrolled, it will rise up and destroy you.”
Scientists across the globe have been trying for decades to warn the peoples of the world to recognize the growing risks to the health of a planet under threat from escalating climate change.
Ignoring or refusing to act on those warnings threatens the uncontrolled risks of destruction referred to by Roosevelt.
Almost no credible scientists deny the relationship between the warming of the planet and human activities responsible for that warming. Intensified emissions of carbon-dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning coal, petroleum and natural gas for transportation, energy generation and industrial use threaten life as we know it.
According to the Earth Policy Institute, 2013 marked the 37th consecutive year of above-average temperatures. In the last decade, daily high temperatures outnumbered record lows in the United States by two to one, and the ratio is increasing.
Polar ice caps are melting.
Sea levels are rising, threatening to submerge major ports and coastal areas around the world, perhaps by the end of this century for particularly low-lying, fragile zones.
Entire land and marine species are becoming extinct at a rate not evident since the eradication of the dinosaurs.
Yes, this poses a global challenge. But we each live where we live, and one of my favorite sayings has been, “Think globally, act locally.”
We start to take on climate change when we understand the problem and then assume responsibility for our part of the world. Global action only becomes a reality once everyone realizes we are all in this together.
When I sold my international business in 1986, I had become familiar with the idea and reality of assuming and managing risk for my company. I also had experienced the good fortune of working with leaders across the world in addressing a host of pressing humanitarian issues, from international finance to certain environmental effects on poverty.
By 1987, I established the Cabell Brand Center at Roanoke College, offering students opportunities to research the crucial issues of peace, poverty and the environment — a mission that continues through the center. You can follow and participate online in local activities at the Cabell Brand Center, www.cabellbrandcenter.org.
Among the most gratifying of many initiatives sponsored by the center over the years has been the continuing challenge of maintaining sufficient, sustainable sources of clean water in this region. The effects of climate change have brought to my attention all the more clearly the complex dynamics that influence the quality and predictability of the environment on our lives, yes, but also on the lives of those who will come after us.
Scientific documentation of these trends is voluminous and growing from continuing research. There is nothing new in the reports, other than the updated findings that confirm the very real and growing risks to the environment if the human family fails to restrain the damage being caused to our common home.
Among some important initiatives addressing climate change have been the cooperative research efforts of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and The Royal Society of Great Britain. The joint report “Climate Change; Evidence and Causes” is a most useful summary.
A compelling recent report from a panel of noted U.S. business and political leaders — “Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States” — takes a hard-nosed, meticulously researched look at the issue. To view the online report, go to http://riskybusiness.org.
In my 2010 book, “If Not Me, Then Who?,” I referred to a lecture at the 2008 Environmental Conference at Virginia Military Institute. The words of John Ikerd, emeritus professor of agricultural and applied economics at the University of Missouri, reflect how knowledge of the risks of climate change has far outpaced public will to act accordingly to reverse the threat.
“The ecological, social and economic risks confronting our nation and society today are unprecedented,” Ikerd said six years ago in Lexington. “Never have the decisions of so few threatened the survival of humanity, and never has the responsibility of humanity rested on the shoulders of so many…. Fortunately, we have everything we need to create a sustainable economy and a sustainable society. We know how to do what needs to be done. We simply need to find the courage to do it.”
Image: Cartoon climate change bill day; Bill Day, Cagle Cartoons