On Feb.17, 40,000 people descended upon the National Mall in Washington, D.C. – despite frigid weather – to take part in a historic rally aimed at preventing a global climate catastrophe. Over 100 buses from 28 states (including one from Athens) contributed to a turn-out far exceeding the expectations of organizers.
For those who have been working on the climate issue for years, there was a tremendous sense of breakthrough. As the throng marched through the streets and surrounded the White House complex, organizers were thrilled that this movement was finally reaching the "critical mass" necessary to have real impact. Highlights can be found on this four-minute video.
An "Open Letter" to President Obama by this writer encouraging him to seize his "Lincoln moment" to achieve comparable greatness was circulated to contacts with access to presidential staff by the climate group 350.org. While sharing this below with The Athens NEWS readers, it must also be stated unequivocally that the future of the younger generation is literally at stake. Weather disasters and drought are already striking, and will only get much worse. When those of the future look back, may they see an Ohio University that put aside its party school reputation and "rose to the occasion" to take action.
An Open Letter to President Obama:
"Lincoln's writings speak to me... that though we may have our differences, we are one people, and we are one nation, united by a common creed… Lincoln saw beyond the bloodshed and division. He saw us not only as we were, but as we might be." — President Barack Obama
Dear President Obama, your words describe the greatness of Abraham Lincoln. Slavery was the moral crisis of his time, and because he fervently believed "we are one people," he took a stance that initially led to much adversity. But he rose to the challenge and the rest is history.
In a speech to Congress, Lincoln said, "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew." Circumstances have placed you in the presidential office during a moment of unprecedented global significance. Last year, one of the most prominent features of our planet – as seen from space – was altered beyond recognition. A huge portion of the white ice of the Arctic was simply – and stunningly – gone.
President Obama, many were heartened by these words of recognition in your inaugural speech:
"Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms."
But in the name of those future generations you seek to protect, there is a moral responsibility to ask if you are fully aware the vast danger we are facing extends well beyond these current impacts. Unless there is an unprecedented shift from our current direction, there is a point in time when the spiraling consequences will escalate beyond the reach of human control. If what scientists call a "tipping point" is crossed, then it will be of no avail for humanity to right its course. It will be too late.
This is why the scale of the shift away from carbon pollution is so significant. The laws of physics do not respect any political timetable. As the suffering would sweep across all of humanity ignoring national boundaries and political affiliations, it is a time that calls out for a Lincoln-like president who can reach across all that currently divides us.
We implore you to use your office to speak the truth to the American people that this crisis is not just one more "issue," but rather calls into question the very future of life on Earth as we know it. We call upon you to utilize your gift of oratory to break through the partisan polarization and lift us all to a place where we can see our common humanity.
For those moneyed interests that persist in attacking the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community, we call upon you to forcefully expose the vested nature of these actions. It is a time to also invoke the spirit of another American hero whom you honor – Martin Luther King. King personified the necessity to stand up to powerful forces on the wrong side of history.
The American people have responded positively to presidents who courageously chose the moral high ground in response to soul-testing adversity. Though "the occasion is piled high with difficulty," it is a time when, like Lincoln, we must all "rise with the occasion." As you have spoken before, our "time is running out". Averting a climate catastrophe is your opportunity to leave the greatest legacy possible.
Gary "Spruce" Houser is a public interest writer, climate activist and recent co-producer of a documentary (viewable at this link) aimed at drawing public attention to the "tipping point" threat emerging in the Arctic, where super greenhouse gas methane is now thawing and venting into the atmosphere.