April 10, 2013

Letters to the editor: Paper right to raise alarm on warming

I have been impressed, since moving to Maine in January, by the coverage in both the Maine Sunday Telegram and the Portland Press Herald of the effects of global warming -- a topic major papers and commercial networks seem reluctant to take on.

I'm thinking especially of two recent Page One articles in the Portland press: "Changing ecosystem concerns fishermen" (March 10) and "Is Maine ready for climate changes?" (March 17).

By reporting on the toll that warming is taking on major sources of the state's income, the Portland press is playing a role that larger papers have all but relinquished.

Recently, for example, The New York Times folded its "Green" blog. Veteran Times reporter Andrew C. Revkin, who retired from the paper in 2009, noted in his blog that the Times' "Green" blog "had been an excellent aggregator of environmental news and analysis that didn't fit in the flow of conventional articles."

He went on to point out that the paper has "nine sports blogs, nine spanning fashion, lifestyles, health, dining and the like," as well as four business blogs and four technology blogs, among others.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the commander of U.S. Pacific Forces, described rising sea levels as the top threat in the Pacific region, saying that they would "cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about."

The Boston Globe was the source of the story; environmental blogs picked it up, as did the National Review. The New York Times, "the newspaper of record," was out to lunch.

Jon Swan

The March 10 Maine Sunday Telegram featured concerns about warming Gulf of Maine waters affecting our fisheries ("Changing ecosystem concerns fishermen") and the possibility of another subpar maple syrup season because of early spring warmth ("What makes syrup producers shudder? Warmth").

Meanwhile, the drought continues in the Midwest threatening our food supply, and storms made more dangerous by rising sea levels pound our coastal communities. How can we be so numb to our own future as it develops before our very eyes?

We seem programmed to recognize danger only when some sudden change assaults our sense of safety. The slower-evolving threat of climate change fails to motivate urgently needed political action to aggressively develop renewable energy sources, or make lifestyle changes that could help to ensure a stable future.

Too easily we resign ourselves to hopelessness, blaming China and India for their emissions, failing to see how our own materialism poses a major stumbling block to international progress on climate.

It is not radical, but rather conservative to work for the preservation of a world that supports life in all its diversity. But unfortunately, tokenism is not going to get us out of the climate mess we've unintentionally created for ourselves. Much of the rest of the world is way ahead of us on this.

Read the science. Turn off the TV. Find your political voice. Support the Environmental Protection Agency's upcoming plan to close aging coal-fired power plants if they don't reduce their emissions.

Stop the Keystone XL pipeline. Support Efficiency Maine in the face of a hostile administration.

Get out of vehicles and bike or walk when possible. Fly less. Downsize if you can -- happiness is not increased by excessive material wealth.

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