Monday, May 29, 2017

Scrapping Our Role as Climate Saboteurs

There was a time, during WWII, when patriotism meant contributing scrap metal to the war effort. Movie stars like Rita Hayworth lent their glamour to the cause. Soldiers were fighting on the front lines, and citizens were backing them up by contributing what they could and making do with less.

Memorial Day still honors those who have died while serving in the armed forces, but we seem to have lost an awareness of the continuum of service and sacrifice, of how our own civilian lives connect to keeping the country secure.

We know now that our biggest enemy cannot be beaten by an army. Bullets cannot hold back a rising sea, stop a deluge or end a drought. American soil is most vulnerable not to foreign invasion but to the catastrophic melting of ice caps. Despite all the positive ways we spend our days, each one of us has been recruited as an unwitting soldier in a war upon our shared estate. As civilians, our struggle every day is to limit our roles as unintentional climate saboteurs.

There are political elements that strive to slow progress, and keep us armed with tailpipes and chimneys gushing global warming gases for as long as possible. The tide is turning, though. Renewable energy and the batteries to store it are dropping rapidly in cost. One of our neighbors recently bought an electric car that runs 230 miles on a charge. In time, and let's hope it's soon enough, scrap will be doubly patriotic because it will include the star-crossed machines of combustion. Gas stations will be obsolete. We'll scrap the war on our land, our climate and our future, in a global disarmament as our machines are silenced of their engine groans and fossil carbon sighs. Our cars and homes will run on the sun and the wind. At last, our civilian lifestyles will be supporting our troops' mission to protect American terra firma, rather than working against it.

This year's Memorial Day parade was brought to us by gasoline. There's no question about the grip it holds on our lives, our hearts, our memories. I made models of souped up cars like this one when I was a kid. Can still smell the plastic and the paint. But gasoline's grip will loosen. Maybe Memorial Day will still be a day to smell the bite of exhaust in the flag-filled air. But the other 364 days of the year, we'll have moved on, despite ourselves. May the future be welcoming despite our long delay.

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