Exactly 100 years ago this summer commenced the war that was said to end all wars — what we now know as World War One and what is now universally acknowledged as a totally unnecessary catastrophe. It didn’t have to happen — this sleepwalking to self-destruction and the root cause of everything from Hitler and the Holocaust to the Soviet Union and the arbitrarily created countries called Iraq and Syria.
The United States, safely situated on the other side of the Atlantic with “no dog in the fight,” didn’t get drawn into the conflict until three years later. Which seems eerily analogous to the situation Rappahannock County finds itself in now — superficially isolated from the climate catastrophe that may well come to define our times.
While this summer’s weather has been, for the most part, unseasonably pleasant here, much of the rest of the country — and the world — has been experiencing, ever more frequently, violent storms, drought, excessive heat and unprecedented wildfires. This May and June were the hottest ones on record for the planet. And the worst may be yet to come, say scientists.
The miscalculations and careless decision-making that led to the First World War seemed at the time to be rational responses to the events as they unfolded. So, too, today are the economic contentions against controlling greenhouse gas emissions, the cause of the now unfolding climate catastrophe.
EPA regulations on inefficient power plants — so such arguments go — are job killers. Moreover, any government regulation is a freedom killer. And why endure such regulations to mitigate climate risks that can’t be predicted with 100 percent accuracy?
That’s the kind of myopic, lazy thinking that led to World War One.
Sure, some people will lose jobs; but more and better jobs will be created as corporations put their currently idle cash to work developing new energy technologies. Of course, it’s true that any government regulation restricts individual freedom; but restrictions on individual liberty are nothing new in any democratic society when the health and safety of the majority of people are at stake.
Finally, the fact that scientists cannot precisely predict the climate’s future doesn’t counsel inaction. To the contrary, as economist Robert H. Frank points out, prudence in all spheres of human activity demands preparing for worst-case scenarios; otherwise, the United States should disband its military!
One hundred years from now, you have to wonder, will people look back at our own times as we now look at the First World War — as times of folly? In the alternative, you can let your elected representatives know that you support the EPA’s efforts to control carbon emissions.