We are living in scary times and we are living in challenging times. It’s scary because we’re not sure what to expect and it is challenging, because there are a bouquet of options. I’m talking about climate change. We’re coming out of an unusual winter. Rain has overwhelmed us. A weather event that is usually so comforting became two months of threatening weather events. The rain pounded down on our roofs, lasting days. Flood plains filled bridges, driveways washed out, schools closed and landslides closed roads.

The challenge is also in choosing a plan. Do we try to correct this? Or do we hope the earth will heal itself? Yes, there have been ice ages and eras of changing climate in the past. But, nothing in the history of Earth points to such an accelerated change as what we are experiencing right now. We are filling the atmosphere with carbon emissions, from our cars, from our factories, and from our lives. Those emissions are trapping heat, warming oceans, and melting glaciers. By acknowledging our responsibility in this we can begin the process of altering it.

Do you remember the old joke about the guy who was trapped on his roof during a flood? A neighbor offered to help him, but he declined “God will save me”. A boat arrived and the crew offered to save him and finally a helicopter. But, each time the man rejected help because of his belief in God’s salvation. The man drowned, and on encountering God asked why he had not come to the man’s rescue. God shrugged, “I sent a neighbor, a boat, and a helicopter”. It’s a bit of a silly joke but there is a message here. We have been sent help in the form of warnings by 97% of scientists who study climate and are alarmed at the rising carbon particles in the atmosphere. They are telling us to take remedial steps immediately or expect a very different, hostile planet within the next three decades. They have been telling us this for years. It’s time for us to listen to them a work toward a solution.

Now that’s a lot to comprehend. In fact, it’s so difficult; it’s easier to just deny the findings of so many learned men and women. And that’s part of the challenge too, to accept their findings. To open up and say, “What can I do? Members of Congress have proposed a resolution called the Green New Deal. It’s received a lot of hype and a lot of criticism. It offers suggestions to make us carbon neutral in a decade. The technologies are there. We can convert to alternative energies in 10 years time. Mechanisms are already being put in place to address these changes. We have electric cars that have varied ranges from 120 to 350 miles in range. We have charging stations in Kingsport, Greeneville, Bristol, Morristown, and Knoxville. Rogersville will be getting two charging stations soon. We have hydropower. Our schools already run on solar power. Methane gas is captured in our landfill and sold to technologies in Kingsport. The change is occurring.

There is also H.R. 763 a bill that has been bipartisan support from over 20 members of Congress. This bill is called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. It was introduced into both the House and the Senate last year and has already been re-introduced into the House this session. This bill will place a fee on fossil fuels like coal, gas, and oil causing industry to move toward cleaner, alternative fuels. This fee will increase yearly to encourage industry to curb their carbon emissions. And the money collected from the carbon fee is allocated in equal shares every month to the American people to use as they see fit. The cities of Chicago, IL, S. Miami, FL., Ithaca, NY, have also voted to support it.

The message I want to convey is that change begins on the periphery. It’s a grass roots movement. It’s people wanting change, demanding change that makes things happen. Three hundred years ago, Democracy was a wild and crazy idea. But, we wanted it, we demanded it, and now we live it. Last week children from all over the world left school and demonstrated for government to address climate change. We can demand it also. We have the intellect to find the necessary solutions; we have the voices to make ourselves heard. And we should start now to correct a problem that is clearly human made.

Joanne D. Irvin

Certified Nurse Housewife

Family Nurse Practitioner, retired