What future will we choose?

“Total Devastation,” “Apocalyptic,” “It looks like a nuclear bomb went off.” These are descriptions of the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. 77,000 (almost 1/3 of the total population) homeless. Rescue workers are still searching for the missing and dead. Total damages are estimated at $3 billion.

Of course, our hearts, and hopefully our pocketbooks, go out to everyone in the Bahamas.

But as catastrophic as Dorian was, I can’t help thinking what would have happened if the full, brutal, category 5 strength of Dorian had raked up the densely populated coast of eastern Florida: Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville. What would the death toll, homeless count and damages have been?

Unfortunately, we are likely to find out all too soon. Scientists predict that, as climate change intensifies, the strength of hurricanes and other storms will increase, making disasters like Dorian commonplace. Flooding, droughts and heat waves will increase in number, strength and duration.

So why aren’t we taking aggressive action to reduce our greenhouse gasses? One reason is that the fossil fuel industry has spent $2 billion since 2000 lobbying Congress against climate change action and has donated astronomical amounts to congressional and presidential campaigns; $42,373,561 in a single recent congressional election cycle.

But we can’t let ourselves off the hook either — we all consume energy. Each of us needs to take responsibility. Aside from the obvious step of beginning to curtail our own energy consumption, one immediate action we can take is to call our Senators and Representatives, not just once- but repeatedly — to let them know climate action is a top priority for us. We can attend candidate rallies and tell them we want a plan to rapidly transition to renewable energy economy.

We can join with others at rallies and marches to send a message to our elected leaders that the American people want action now. If you think ordinary people can’t make a difference, remember that large scale citizen involvement is what helped end U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and fueled the Civil Rights movement. By everyday citizens standing up and saying “Enough.” Solving this crisis is going to require every one of us stepping up. It’s our choice to act or not.

The Youth of the world are not waiting. Their future is on the line. On Sept. 20, around the globe, they’ve organized strikes and rallies to demand climate action. In support of our youth and their right to a clean, safe future, Climate Action Iowa will hold a Climate Strike Rally in Central Park on the Square in Fairfield at noon on Sept. 20. Whether you are young or old, we urge you to turn out and lend your voice to say, “We want climate action now.”

The climate crisis is the biggest problem we’ve ever faced. We need an action plan to transition rapidly and responsibly to clean, renewable energy and a sustainable economy. And we need it now. Isn’t it the least we can do for the next generations?

Mary Tarnoff

Climate Action Iowa

Retired Science Educator