Honor The Past, Focus On The Future: 9/11 And Climate Change

Sept. 11, 2001 will always stand out as a tremendously somber day to those who lived through it. I was in New York City that morning, and the sense of loss, abandonment, and numbness will forever be etched upon my memory. Indeed, it is a day that none of us will ever forget, and as we continue to move forward, I would like to offer two paths. First, Rick Siegel and I offered five years ago the idea that we should designate Sept. 12 as a National Day of Unity here, arguing that on the day after our country was united in a way in which we rarely experience except in times of disaster. I want to offer that once again.

Second, we have wasted far too much time neglecting the most serious and potentially devastating crisis facing the nation and the world: namely, the accumulating impacts of climate change. Sixteen years to the day we are waking up to the destruction wrought by powerful storms fueled by the byproducts of climate change, namely warming and rising seas.

We have just witnessed in excruciating and intoxicating detail the destructive power of nature. The magnitude of Hurricane Irma has imprinted upon our minds and hopefully our thinking how important it is to train our sights on what we can do to mitigate the deadly adverse consequences of climate change. Coming on the heels of Harvey and in advance of Jose it must serve as a wake-up call for us to take seriously our callous indifference to rising sea levels, ocean temperature spikes, and raging wildfires in the western United States. The anthropogenic effects upon climate change are undeniable and for all intents and purposes virtually unanimous amongst the scientific community.

We ignore the voluminous evidence and data detailing a direct relationship between careless fossil fuel use and inexcusably lax regulatory oversight with a planet that is overheating at the expense of future generations. It is criminal and collectively our refusal to hold our leaders accountable for this intergenerational genocide is a testament to the futility of human indifference to the plight of others. One cannot possibly profess faith in God or any other higher power and turn a blind eye to what is happening right in front of our faces. To do so is the height of hypocrisy and makes a mockery of religious belief. It is simply heretical and the hell you are sentencing your children to may very well be right here on Earth.

To our so-called leaders who refuse to accept the uncomfortable and, yes, inconvenient truth that is begging to be acted upon as a matter of conscience, caring, love and decency you deserve the most severe and grievous punishment. Failure to protect the health, safety and welfare of your citizens violates the most basic tenets of your oath to serve the public. Sure we can continue to stave off these increasing disasters, at an enormous expense of course, but we simply cannot and will not be successful at adapting to the changes we are on a course to experience indefinitely.

This is the seminal issue of our time. It will kill us as surely as a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile, only excruciatingly slower. This is a life and death issue and what makes it so interminably frustrating is that we are passing it off to our kids. They know it and will curse the day we brought them into this world while we shunned our parental responsibilities to protect them.

This is the existential threat that is upon us on this 16th anniversary of the horrendous attacks upon the World Trade Center. It is far more dangerous and costly in terms of treasure and blood. So while we patriotically mourn the loss of life on that beautiful autumn day in New York City we must treat the current threats to mankind in as equally patriotic terms. Failure to do so reveals the capriciousness nature of our hypocrisy.

If for no other reason than protection of their own legacy we must demand that our elected leaders exercise a degree of statesmanship heretofore lacking in their treatment of the environment. Courage not cowardice is the order of the day and if you are not willing to carry that mantle step aside and make room for those who are willing to promote stewardship of the only planet we humans call home. There is no Planet B.

Mr. President, get hold of yourself and act like a responsible parent, not for your kids but for all the kids. If we want to honor the nation, the flag, and those who gave their lives that day 16 years ago there is nothing that would be more appropriate and appreciated. That is how we ought to commemorate Sept. 11, 2001.