No one had to convince people at the Sierra Club — Kansas Chapter’s Second Biennial Conference of the urgency of climate change.
What speakers tried to accomplish Saturday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka was how to carry “The Moral Imperative of Climate Crisis” theme beyond the “echo chamber” of about 60 people at the meeting who already get it. “We need to figure out how to leverage ourselves further,” said Bob Sommer, Sierra Club — Kansas director of development.
The environmental club’s members need to ask, “How am I going to be that person who enlarges this message?” Sommer said.
The conference was practice for the Sierra Club choir. Several speakers said climate change needs to be a campaign election issue.
“Climate change isn’t in the far off future,” said Jennifer Robinson, Sierra Club political chair. “It’s here and it’s now.”
The Earth has already hit that 2-degree Celsius threshold above pre-industrial levels. The Paris United Nations climate agreement last fall was an attempt to prevent that and further damage to the planet by reducing fossil fuel use and planet warming greenhouse gas production. “I think this is the crisis of our time,” said Robinson, reminding people of how they didn’t have to shovel snow this winter as in years past.
The Sierra Club urges people to reduce their carbon footprint; leave fossil fuels in the ground; buy less stuff; use mass transit, bicycle and walk; eat less meat, dairy and poultry; conserve energy; and invest in solar, wind and hydro energy. It’s to save the Earth. Right now human consumption of fossil fuels is increasing temperatures, melting polar ice causing sea levels to rise, expanding deserts and generating more severe storms.
In his lecture, “Life on a Pale Blue Dot,” Donald Worster explained why action now is essential. He illustrated his point with 16th century map makers and the U.S. space program.
A PowerPoint of a 1990 photo taken by Voyager I 4 billion miles away showed Earth as “a pale blue dot,” said the honorary director of the Center for Ecological History at the University of Remnin of China and Hall Distinguished Professor of American History Emeritus at the University of Kansas. Worster showed a famous photo that the crew of Apollo 17 shot in 1972 28,000 miles from Earth, which makes the planet look like a “blue marble.”
“It seems so warm and hospitable, so pure and clean and natural with no pollution, no Trump Tower,” Worster said. “The planet looks so unspoiled.”
The “pale blue dot” photo sends a different message. “Four billion miles away the Earth looks like and indisputably is a speck of dust in the universe,” Worster said. Among 100 billion to 200 billion galaxies in the universe, “the Earth is more insignificant than a speck of dust and a grain of sand.”
Worster then went back to the 16th century to explorers Christopher Columbus, and Ferdinand Magellan and cartographers Gerardus Mercator and his son Rumold Mercator. The maps they drew added North America, Central America and South America to the known land of the world, becoming the “second Earth.” It provided the first world of Europe a windfall of resources to be exploited.
It led to revolutions, capitalism and growth, changing the balance of wealth and power. Industrialization and unbridled consumption now threaten the planet. People must see there is no “third Earth” out there to save us from the problems we’re creating. The nearest habitable planet is billions of light years away. Humans must change to survive. “The universe may be infinite or almost infinite, but it’s not infinite for us,” Worster said.
That has to be the mission of the Sierra Club, he said.
Let’s just hope it’s not too late.