Letter: End of Our Privileged Isolation

To the Editor:

Here in Vermont, we live in the most beautiful room of a house on fire.

We enjoy the view of mountains covered in green trees, sparkling brooks everywhere and a peaceful river winding along the border. But New Mexico is burning. So is Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado and Oregon. Those states are so far away, though. People should know not to live in the desert. However, there was a time when forested mountains out there were not desertified, and the Colorado River and the Rio Grande were large and had water in them. The Midwest, affected by the worst drought in over 50 years, now has disastrous flooding in some areas. At least Vermont is safe, we think, until we remember Tropical Storm Irene. Those who felt the impersonal destruction of the storm may pause and consider that our complacency about climate change may soon end.

The time of our privileged isolation from the consequences of our collective choices is ending. The suffering of those people, plants and animals far away from us is our responsibility, even if we were not yet born when the pollution started. We must stop driving cars that emit carbon dioxide. We must stop using plastic. We must stop the use of pesticides and herbicides. We must use clean energy sources for power, and to heat and cool our homes. This may sound impossible, but we are literally facing the death of our way of life if we don’t change.

What if acknowledging the reality of our situation made it possible for politicians to speak of shared sacrifice, as if we were all mobilizing to prepare for a war? Mobilization for World War II ended the Great Depression; this type of change can happen. We must demand the kind of structural sustainability that allows us to live without polluting. We must find the will to change our ways for the sake of our children and all the life around us we have been taking for granted. There is no time left to waste — this house is on fire.

Kelly Dane