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The Berkshire Eagle (Massachusetts)

Bush of the Yellow Stockings

Lauren R. Stevens

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em," Malvolio reads in a letter in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night." Alas, like Malvolio, George W. Bush has eluded all three methods.

You would have thought he had his chances.

You might think first of his being the son of a president, or you might have thought he had some potential from his years as governor of Texas. Or you might have thought of the opportunities for leadership presented by the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001. Yet now he is finishing a miserable two terms, leaving to his successor to deal with the last, sorry vestige of his response to terrorism, the war in Iraq.

But perhaps his excessively tardy and woefully insufficient response to global climate change, which he announced in the Rose Garden recently, is even more damning. He called for the U.S. growth of greenhouse gas emissions to halt by 2025, in effect putting that burden on several successors down the line. He seemed brutally unaware that the problem is now, not 20 years from now. He seemed more interested that other countries do their share than that the U.S. do anything. He seemed unaware that most countries in the world are far ahead of us.

NASA's James Hansen now calls for limiting carbon concentration in the atmosphere to below 350 parts per million. "If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 p.p m. to at most 350 p.p m.," writes Hansen. A strong statement; surely hard to ignore.

That's right, Mr. President, the world's atmosphere is already significantly over the limit that's safe. It's not a matter of halting emissions growth at some future date. "To reach our 2025 goal, we will need to more rapidly slow (sic.) the growth of power sector greenhouse gas emissions so that they peak in 10 to 15 years," the president said "and decline thereafter." Ish.

Bill McKibben's Step it Up, which engineered the April 14 events a year ago, after moving under the umbrella of 1Sky, has decided to create a new organization, 350.0rg, to spread that number around the world. "We want to use protest and music and art and video and the net to make that number inescapable, ubiquitous," he writes.

350.Org is the home of a yet incomplete Web site, dedicated to: "Global Warming. Global Action. Global Future." McKibben is right. The world must know and act now upon a limit. I would far prefer that my country were in the lead.

Malvolio in "Twelfth Night" was tricked by his fellow court attendants, via the letter, into making a fool of himself by wearing yellow stockings, the garters holding them up crossed in an eccentric fashion -- and smiling incessantly. Whether or not Bush was put upon by neo-conservative attendants or if he was carrying out his own intentions remains for biographers to decide. Regardless, I'm going to keep an eye open for those yellow stockings.

Jim Hansen, Bill McKibben, Al Gore, the other scientists who received the Nobel Peace Prize, these are the heroes of efforts against climate change; regrettably the U.S. president has been an impediment.

At least, that's how it looks from Stamford, Vermont.

A writer and environmentalist, Lauren R. Stevens is a regular Eagle contributor.

© 2008 The Berkshire Eagle

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