Time to stand up for action on fossil fuels, climate change


It’s hard to believe, but today marks the 4th anniversary of the day that BP and the federal government announced that the massive leak from the Deepwater Horizon rig catastrophe had finally been capped. There was relief at the end of the Gulf’s most hellish summer, and optimism that a corner had finally been turned. But if it’s an anniversary that gets little recognition, there’s a good reason for that. It turned out that (not very effectively) capping the leak didn’t end our environmental nightmare.

Here’s a good little summary that I read this week:

Four years ago today workers were able to cap the BP well that created the largest environmental disaster in the history of North America. 

Executive Director for The Coastal Protection Restoration Authority, Kyle Graham, says, four years later, most of the oil has been removed from the coastal beaches and marshes in Louisiana.

“But, yet, there is still oil out there.  And given the depth and the distance and the amount of oil, we anticipate that we’ll be seeing oil on Louisiana’s coast for decades.”

For decades….let that sink in. The scariest part is that America risks another Deepwater Horizon-type catastrophe every day — in the scores of new drilling sites that have been leased and are under exploration in the Gulf, in the risky oil trains in outdated tanker cars that cross-cross the nation every day, in the rapid expansion of fracking that steals water from our drought-stricken regions and dumps it back into the ground laced with toxins and with radioactivity, amid growing proof that the practice is even causing earthquakes.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s happening from an environmental standpoint, as the nation sees its biggest surge in oil and natural gas production in four decades. Ironically, prices at the gas pump don’t seem to be much lower, do they? Yet Americans are living in a time of great risk, and it all traces back to one thing: Our deep, hard-to-break dependence on fossil fuels to heat our homes and power our cars.

The worst part is that anyone who picks up a paper or turns on the cable news knows that the long-term consequences of our addiction to oil could be much more devastating for the human race. Greenhouse gases, or carbon pollution — caused primarily by burning fossil fuels — are heating the planet at an alarming rate, according to most climate experts. Last month, August 2014, was the hottest August across the planet since humans began tracking temperatures. And that was the second time that a monthly record was set this year. Simply put, the earth is on fire, and yet humans have the ability to start putting it out.

But so far, we simply haven’t had the will.

Hopefully, this weekend will mark the moment that things began to change. In New York City on Sunday, a huge throng of folks — at least 100,000, the organizers say, and probably many more than that — are going to march through the streets of Manhattan, whooping and hollering loud enough so that hopefully some of the world’s leaders will hear. Their message is simple: The time for talk is over, and the time is action is now. It’s time for the world’s government to develop the incentives and the penalties needed to wean us off fossil fuels, and to accelerate the inevitable movement toward renewable sources of energy that don’t pollute.

Here’s a preview:

The march will begin at Central Park West and make its way down to 11th Avenue and West 34th Street. Along the way, organizers have planned a moment of silence at 1 p.m. to honor those affected by climate change. After the moment of silence, they’ll kick off a noise bonanza, with more than 20 marching bands and people carrying instruments to make noise.

The event also has counterparts across the world, in such countries as India, Nigeria and London, where separate marches will also be taking place Saturday and Monday.

“The goal is not just to be the largest climate march in history but also to be the most diverse,” said Caroline Murray, the field director for the event. “Traditionally, you think of climate change as the cause of more traditional environmental groups, but this is a much broader array of activists.”

Not all of us can be there. But check around: Smaller rallies will be held in cities across the United States and across the globe. Think about ways you can ask your leaders — your member of Congress, or your state lawmakers — about what they are doing to mandate reductions in greenhouse gases, and then think of ways to reduce the influence of fossil fuels in your own community, and in your own life. And hopefully Sept. 21 will be remembered as a date when Planet Earth started spinning in the right direction.

Read more from WWL on the ongoing crisis in the Gulf: http://www.wwl.com/Fourth-anniversary-of-capping-the-BP-well/19940100

Check out more information on the People’s Climate March from the Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-peoples-climate-march-20140918-story.html

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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