Letter to the editor: Take action against climate change now
Katya Gordon, Knife River
After reading Jim Hofsommer’s global warming opinion in last week’s paper I couldn’t help but feel relieved that we don’t need to wait until people like the author are convinced of the reality of climate change before we respond to it. It is not hard to read a thermometer and record one’s findings over time. Nor is it hard to find the graphs of hundreds of these recordings online, or to notice the common thread running through so many of them. It has been given a name—the “hockey stick”—a slow and steady rise or fall that suddenly shoots sky high. Exactly how high these hockey sticks will shoot remains unknown.
Where to begin an appropriate response to climate change can be so overwhelming as to stop many of us in our tracks. But many—most of us, I dare hope—after a pause, have stepped forward to take action in hundreds of ways. We have even developed an entirely new principle on which to judge the value of a new technology, chemical, idea, industry, or process. Originating from cancer survivors who have risen in chorus after learning that they had been ingesting, breathing, and osmosing hundreds if not thousands of potential carcinogens that go unregulated and untested, the precautionary principle is worth reflecting on:
“When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the precautionary principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.”
This principle, encapsulated by the Science and Environmental Health Network in 1998, has been finding its way into the missions of organizations and governments ever since. It is easy to understand: “better safe than sorry.” What parent has not said: “Look both ways before crossing?” The industrial machines that drive our economy have narrowed our peripheral vision for a long time; we are now in the middle of a busy street and we are hearing squealing sounds that 99,995 watchful bystanders tell us is the sound of braking tires. One bystander tells us this might just be the regular sounds that the car makes, or the car itself might be an illusion. I think it’s time to scurry back to the sidewalk and take a better look.