Dear Editor: Editor Paul Fanlund's thoughts on Meacham's book and America's “greatness” parallel mine about climate and the environment. A publisher once asked me to write a textbook on environmental issues, with the proviso that it be “up beat” so as not to scare anyone. I couldn't do it. I couldn't tell students: “Caulk windows, pick up trash, plant a tree, and everything will be all right.” The problems were far too serious and too pervasive.

I still feel that way. I'm scared. Everyone should be scared — not into paralysis, but into bold, united action.

We are fast degrading the environment and disrupting the climate. Much of what we have caused is irreversible. But we can stop worsening the damage and we can repair some of it. This will require unprecedented social and political action and all our technological skill. Nevertheless, I'm not afraid that we can't do it, but that we won't.

We can no longer afford complacency and denial. We must acknowledge the limits that nature and finite Earth place on us. This means rapidly abandoning fossil fuels by pricing them to represent their true social, environmental, and economic cost and consequences. It means protecting water and other natural resources and using them sustainably. It means transforming logging, fishing, and agricultural practices. It means passing strict environmental laws and enforcing them rigorously. It means prioritizing climate and the environment when we vote and letting candidates know we expect the same priorities from them. Although the future won't be anything like the present, if we accept the challenge, taking these actions also means having a planet that can sustain civilization.

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Carol Steinhart


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