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Out of sight, out of mind

It’s easy for a lot of people to pretend that global climate change is not occurring. The hot summers we’ve been having in recent years can be explained away as flukes, or dismissed because “it’s been hotter”. Other possible effects–mild winters, an increase in tropical storms–can also be ignored, because they don’t have a significant effect on people’s lives, or they don’t affect a significant amount of people. Shortsightedness is rampant and even understandable; when all’s said and done, global climate change isn’t all that apparent in the 48 contiguous states.

This is not the case in Alaska.

In many ways, this separated US state is the frontline in the global warming debate. Environmentalists say the signs of climate change are more obvious there than perhaps anywhere else in the US.

Dan Lashof, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defence Council, a respected Washington-based group, told The Independent: “People in Alaska are starting to freak out. The retreat of the sea ice allows the oceans to pound the coast more, and villages there are suffering from the effects of that erosion. There is permafrost melting, roads are buckling, there are forests that have been infested with beetles because of a rise in temperatures. I think residents there feel it’s visible more and more, more than any other place in the country.”

[…]

Mr [Lindsey] Graham, a [South Carolina] Republican, said he had been moved by what he had seen. “Climate change is different when you come here, because you see the faces of people experiencing it. If you go to the people and listen to their stories and walk away with any doubt that something’s going on, you’re not listening.”

I don’t think it’s arrogant to believe that what we do has an effect on our environment. We have profoundly changed the face of our planet in the thousands of years we’ve been here. While we might not be in a position to fully understand the effects of our actions, we must be diligent in evaluating them.

By now, clinging to the idea that we’re not causing any harm is the same as clinging to fossil fuels. Neither of these notions will serve us in the long run. It’s well past time for us to grit our teeth and take some hits in the name of preserving our children’s future.