In June I started a new job, as a librarian for the Environmental Protection Agency. I work for the Ecosystems Research Division lab in Athens, supporting scientific research that rivals Icarus’ flight to the sun – nanomaterials, metagenomics, carbon sequestration. Newly appointed EPA director Gina McCarthy has made clear that, moving forward, the primary focus of research in the organization will be to address climate change – prevention, mitigation, and adaptation.
Bill McKibben, in his seminal book Eaarth, writes, “Global warming is no longer a philosophical threat, no longer a future threat, no longer a threat at all. It’s our reality. We’ve changed the planet, changed it in large and fundamental ways.”
A 2009 OXFAM report, “Suffering the Science,” illustrates that climate change is already and most profoundly affecting those who did the least to contribute to the problem. Think lost family crops in sub-Saharan Africa, flooding in Bangladesh.
The causes are far-reaching and systemic. Even if all of America was to stop emitting carbon into the atmosphere tomorrow, what control do we have over China? I am reminded of a scene in the movie “Sex, Lies and Videotape” in which Andie MacDowell’s character melts into a panic attack: “What are we going to do with all the garbage?!”
But faith begins small, like a mustard seed, to quote the Bible (Matthew 17:20). What can we do? The first step is to educate ourselves and to be willing to correct the ill-informed opinions we encounter with scientific fact. Here are some good places to start:
Eaarth (2010) by Bill McKibben; The End of Nature (1989) by Bill McKibben, both available from Gwinnett County Public Library.