On June 17, the Leader-Telegram published an “It Seems to Me” article by William Balgord entitled “Life dependent on carbon dioxide.” For the most practical part, the truth stopped at the title.
In his letter — mass-mailed across the country — the author claims — and allow me to paraphrase broadly here — that “climate change is good because that means plants will prosper.”
Any counter to this myopic claim must begin with the fact that the author is a prominent contributor to a conservative Christian public policy group that promotes a free-market approach to care for the environment that is critical of much of the current environmental movement. Here are a few of the tenants — taken from their printed credo — a treatise entitled “The Biblical Perspective of Environmental Stewardship: Subduing and Ruling the Earth to the Glory of God and the Benefit of Our Neighbors”:
• We affirm that by God’s design Earth and its physical and biological systems are robust, resilient and self-correcting. We deny that they are fragile.
• We deny that an infinitely wise Designer, infinitely powerful Creator, and perfectly faithful Sustainer of the Earth would have made it susceptible to catastrophic degradation from proportionally small causes, and consequently we deny that wise environmental stewardship readily embraces claims of catastrophe stemming from such causes.
• We affirm that environmental policies that address relatively minor risks while harming the poor — such as opposition to the use of abundant, affordable, reliable energy sources like fossil fuels in the name of fighting global warming; the suppression of the use of safe, affordable, and effective insecticides like DDT to reduce malaria in the name of protecting biodiversity; and the conversion of vast amounts of corn and other agricultural products into engine fuel in the name of ecological protection — constitutes oppression of the world’s poor.
The June 17 letter conveniently ignores the preponderance of evidence — well documented by informed scientists like Dr. Craig Allen — the world’s foremost expert on healthy trees — (”On underestimation of global vulnerability to tree mortality and forest die-off from hotter drought in the Anthropocene” by Craig D. Allen, David D. Breshears and Nate G. McDowell — that while trees need CO2, they also suffer under the duress of increased heat.
A quick survey of the “state of the trees” on Earth demonstrates that while pockets of trees continue to thrive, forests across the planet are suffering the dramatic effects of greater droughts, forest fires and pine bark beetles.
The very real threat to the world’s forests should be of great concern to anyone who not only understands the value of trees to planetary health but who also value their aesthetic contributions to quality of life. In other words, when addressing climate change, one must be able to “see the forest for the trees,” not the trees as justification for selfish behavior.
This game of denial is getting old and tiresome. It’s also dangerous. If it were truly a game, we could choose to play it as a gamble. We could pretend that none of the rapidly accumulating science is real and continue as we have, hoping the sea doesn’t rise and the planet is not overwhelmed by dramatic climatic changes that will devastate its resources and the organisms dependent upon them, or… we could take the other stance.
We affirm that it is the act of the responsible citizen to take due action in the face of reasonable proof to protect our descendants from the effects of otherwise reckless and self-centered ethical and moral behavior.
Betchkal is a longtime videographer and photographer in the Eau Claire area.