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Letter to the Editor: How Do You Value Your Family?

On the eve of Pope Francis' appearance before the Congress of the United States, and as the United Nations Climate Change Conference approaches its November 30 opening in Paris, there is considerable uncertainty as to whether the world's nations can effectively agree as to whether, and how, the planet can be prevented from heating to a degree - and with a speed - that can be stopped, or at least significantly reduced.

Massive scientific evidence has been put forward that accumulation in our atmosphere of carbon dioxide and methane, the result of burning of fossil fuels as well as of other processes, is heating the planet's earth, air and water with a force that, if continued, will jeopardize most plant and animal species, including our own. Many animal and plant species - including of course our food sources - cannot adapt quickly enough to current changing climate conditions: escalating heat; multi-year drought; ocean water acidification; destruction of forest habitat, massive flooding, increasing frequency and intensity of storms and wildfires; etc. etc.

A group of 413 scientists from 58 countries has recently told us that even now the warming of the oceans is unstoppable: sea rise and its other consequences will be felt "for centuries to come."

Other scientific evidence is accumulating that we on Earth are already part of a "Sixth Extinction," that the disappearance, or dying out, of animal and plant species that has occurred five times previously in the planet's history, each taking millions of years, is now occurring in a matter of decades: species are going extinct at a rate hundreds of times faster than has ever been recorded. 

In other words, this is a moment in Earth's history that we humans have never before encountered.

So the question is: How will each of us respond? What will each of us do, or say, knowing that the health, the safety, the lives of those who come after us may well depend on us now? 

Does the scientific evidence frighten us to a degree that we refuse to look at it? Do we wish to deny it because we or some of our friends may profit from the denial? Even if genuinely skeptical of the great weight of scientific evidence pointing to what the future holds, are we willing to gamble, to take the risk of sacrificing our children, grandchildren and their offspring?

The answer, it seems, "is blowing in the wind."

I find it difficult to believe any decent person - even in the privacy of his/her mind - would say, "To hell with the world's climate scientists; my kids and their kids are on their own as far as I'm concerned. If they suffer, so be it. The most important thing to me is to show everyone my denial is right!"

If your frame of mind is other than this, if the health, safety and survival of those close to you plays an important role in your life, the first step is to take a public stance. Tell everyone within the sound of your voice or within reach of your email or public posting that you know climate change is a threat we must deal with; that you support those who want to deal with it and oppose those who don't.

Next, let any government representative you can reach know that you want your community, your government, your nation to take immediate and effective action to minimize or eliminate the threat of climate change and to do this without waiting for any other government or entity to go first.

Make known where you stand! Martin Luther King, Jr., in another context, said ,"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." In this case, his warning may be taken more literally than he intended.

We may, or may not, be able to influence the outcome. But the outcome, my friends, is the most deadly serious matter we and our families will ever face.

William Smithers
Santa Barbara

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