I've been fortunate to call central Idaho my home for almost forty years. It's not easy to convey the beauty of living where humans can coexist peacefully with bears, wolves, deer, elk, salmon, eagles, and other wildlife. But something profound is changing in these central Idaho mountains. Peaceful nature is being altered irreparably by climate change.
Our winters are getting shorter and warmer. And in the longer and drier summers that follow, fierce wildfires are more and more a part of our midsummer ambience. Summer before last (2012), the Halstead Fire came within three miles of my home, and, depending on wind and firefighters -- bless the firefighters! -- was within hours from arriving at my door. This past summer (2013), the Beaver Creek Fire threatened the homes of my neighbors in the next county. And when there isn't a fire right near our homes, smoke even from a distant fire travels up and down the rivers, creeks, and mountains, making the air quality insufferable.
The scientific evidence is irrefutable. As the planet warms, Idaho and much of the West will see more and more fire. But we're also seeing the effects of climate change in other parts of the country. The affected citizens will never forget the physical and economic devastation wreaked by Superstorm Sandy. Residents and business owners in coastal communities such as New York, New Jersey, and New Orleans, and on islands, are losing a little more land every day from rising seas. Those who live in such places are experiencing climate change in a physically dramatic and economically disastrous way, while my beloved Northern Rockies ecosystem is increasingly under threat from industrialization. Overharvesting of trees (logging companies call trees "timber") on public land at taxpayer expense has long been a destructive policy that chips away at pristine wilderness and wildlife habitat. But as Big Oil expands its operations into ever more remote areas to satisfy its insatiable appetite for crude, tar sands producers are trying to transform an isolated mountain pass between Idaho and Montana into a shipping corridor in order to move thousands of "megaload" shipments filled with mining equipment to the Canadian tar sands fields up north. This destructive course of action would pave over one of the last unspoiled stretches of the Lewis and Clark trail and contribute to climate chaos by fueling the expansion of dirty tar sands development.
Thankfully, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Nez Perce Indians, concerned citizens across party lines in Idaho and Montana have mounted a formidable defense against these megaload shipments. Similar fights against the fossil fuel industry are unfolding all around our nation as oil and gas companies set their sights on once untouchable areas. A few years ago I spoke with a couple of representatives of the oil industry. They were respectful, but ultimately they refused to change their policy of drilling wherever they saw fit, even holding on to the possibility of doing so in case they might see fit to drill in the future.
I don't understand how men and women who want the best for their children and grandchildren can be so blind to the consequences of their actions. There is nowhere to hide from global warming. Expanding fossil fuel development into our last remaining wild ecosystems will destroy the remnants of our natural heritage and trigger even more climate disruption. Why would people do this when there are energy solutions right in front of them: clean energy from wind, solar, and high-tech energy efficiency. Some individuals who have done well in the oil industry have been smart enough to invest in clean power. They know that clean power will revitalize rural economies while addressing climate change. If the oil industry won't come along, we need to put pressure on them through the courts, in the media, and in peaceful demonstrations in numbers too great to ignore. And we need to vote for legislators who understand that the future health of our planet, our economy, and our families lies in Clean Power.
There is no better time to Demand Clean Power than right now. Please add your voice to mine at www.DemandCleanPower.org.