“Amadillas” in Missouri?! Americans need to cool it

by Jack SawyersPerspectives Editor

On Sept. 26, the Des Moines Register reported just one more bad omen for life as we know it. There, packed between John Carlson and the Iowa Cattlemen, was a short bit about the weather. Well, actually, it was more of a climate article, you could say.

Apparently, the Earth’s average temperature is nearly a degree higher than it was 30 years ago – the highest it’s been in 12,000 years – and while that degree won’t mean you can toss the liner to your North Face, it’s incredibly significant to life on our planet. At the rate we’re going, by the time we’re ready for assisted living, temperatures will be at a million-year high. Forget retiring in Florida.

According to scientist James Hansen, evidence of the shift in global temperature is visible in the

pole-ward movement of several species of plants and animals. A study appearing in the journal “Nature” reported that 1,700 tracked species expanded their habitats, on average, four miles a decade toward the polar ice caps over the last half of the entury. Add to this a recent account by an Arkansas trucker who had noticed “armadillas” in Missouri – something very unusual given their former tendency for remaining south of that border – and the truth becomes evident.

Science be damned, if a short-hauler from Little Rock sees evidence of a climate shift, those Ph.D.’s are only overstating the obvious.

What’s obvious is this – our fundamentally outdated system of industry and transportation has already begun to unbalance what has otherwise been an exceptionally accommodating planet. Greenhouse gasses- something by now we’ve become overdosed and desensitized to – actually do have a serious effect on the weather of our world. Fossil fuels, once the savior of industry and the foundation on which the “modern” world was built, have contributed to enormous amounts of possibly irreversible environmental damage. But none of this is really news, is it?

One only needs to smell the air on a wet day in Knoxville, Tenn., to realize what air pollution can be. Nestled on the edge of the Smoky Mountains, in what is essentially a valley with an open Western face, Knoxville acts as an eddy for continental winds.

Due to its geography, much of the smog produced in the Midwest has at least an opportunity to settle in Knoxville. There, it remains trapped, making the city one of America’s least asthma-friendly locations.

So, what does this have to do with us Iowans, with our clean air and our complete lack of “armadillas?” Well, primarily, it means we need to consider the implications of our own personal air pollution. It also means we have a responsibility to support politicians who are strong and visionary enough to make real progress in environmental causes. It means nodding our heads and passively agreeing is no longer an acceptable solution to pollution control.

Of course, the kind of conscious change in habits is not an easy task in a society full of exceptions-to-the-rule. Most will forget again as soon as they turn the page the truly attention-worthy issue at hand. Most of us will continue to commute alone and drive when we can walk. Most will still leave the lights on when they leave home. Is it really any big deal if our grandkids have to swerve around a few more kinds of road kill on their way to family Christmas in flip-flops? One person really can’t make a difference anyways.

And that’s exactly the sort of responsible, intelligent attitude that got us here in the first place. Think about it.