Ours is a privileged, protected perch here in Rappahannock County, as the jarring contrast of national and international news all too frequently reminds us.
Just this Monday, scientists on a United Nations (UN) intergovernmental panel reported that climate change is already having a significant, and largely negative, effect on many places all around the world. While we here in Rappahannock have had a “bad” winter, elsewhere on the planet water supplies are drying up, coastal communities are being flooded, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying and fish are going extinct.
Moreover, global warming will only be accelerated by the ironic fact that organic matter frozen in Arctic soils for thousands of years is now suddenly melting — with the resulting decay meaning even more greenhouse gases, according to the scientists.
Quite separate from global warming, polluted air contributed to more than 7 million deaths worldwide in 2012, according to another recent UN report. On the subject of pollution, just a few months ago closer to home — in West Virginia — a coal-related chemical spill meant contaminated drinking water for thousands of innocent American citizens who had no decision-making responsibility in the mining industry.
Likewise, the inhabitants of the very poorest nations, who have contributed virtually none of the carbon emissions that cause global warming, are the ones suffering the most from climate change — whether through drought and flooding or crop and fisheries damage.
Life is unfair, to state the obvious. And we here in Rappahannock should count our blessings.
But isn’t there anything more meaningful that can be said — or better yet, that can be done? Don’t we have some kind of obligation to do more than simply observing, witnessing and, as I am now, occasionally commenting? The question is both practical and deeply moral. I wish I knew the answer.