Most understand the concept of global warming and accept it as a problem. Yet most people also act as if the solution lies in simply identifying the problem. Recognizing that global warming is real is a step in the right direction -- it is not a solution. The real solution to climate change lies in quick, decisive action.
Metaphorically, we are at the doctor's office, looking at the horrible test results of years of bad habits. The doctor is bluntly giving us the bad news -- the Earth is plagued with a very deadly disease. You choose, says the doctor: I can give you a list of things you can do to help the Earth today, next month and 10 years from now. I can give you ways to slow down, stop and even reverse the spreading of the disease. Or, he says, there is the easier option -- continue on with your normal life, do nothing and accept the likely consequences when this disease metastasizes.
Anyone with a brain would say to the doctor, "Are you crazy? Of course I want the first option!" Yet actually making an effort to shake environmentally bad habits that have become so second nature to us is another story altogether. Trade in my car for a bicycle? Sacrifice a vacation or two by plane? No, thank you.
Climate patterns are now so far beyond the historically normal cycle of the Earth, it is no longer a debate as to whether the Earth is afflicted with a global warming disease that will expand and leave disasters in its wake. Global warming is now. It is simultaneously a possibly curable and possibly fatal disease, depending on what we do or don't do right now.
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We cannot afford to tackle this problem at our convenience or leisure. Climate change is happening, we certainly understand this; yet, it is also worsening by the day. And, because of its far-reaching consequences, it is not just an "environmental" issue. The future of the planet is at stake, and, because we are dependent on this planet, our existence as well. This is everyone's disease, and finding a cure should be everyone's concern.
A cure lies in the political realm. Politicians and business leaders are the nurses and surgeons of the world. They have the power to give good or bad medicine -- they make the executive decisions of how we consume and what laws we obey.
We must be at the hospital every day, at the Earth's bedside. We must be an active advocate for the world, making sure it is receiving the best (and quickest) care possible. We are the ones who can ensure global warming becomes the first political priority. Call your representative. Write letters to our governor. Lobby. The only way we will achieve a cure is if we attack this problem from the roots.
Lauren Adler lives in Bellevue.
© 2007 The Seattle Post-Intelligencer