Consider the lessons of history

Michael Ivey’s Nov. 14 letter, “Global Warming is a False Belief,” certainly wins the prize for the most “creative” climate-change denial in a long time. In fact, his blaming the entire concept on a conspiracy by an “elitist think-tank” reads like a veritable LSD-induced revelation.

As someone who also has been alive since “global warming believers were in diapers,” I’m more concerned with true history and reality. If Mr. Ivey was really around in the 1960s, as I was, then he must have somehow missed what was going on around him.

In pre-'60s America, the prevailing attitude was that we could dump unlimited amounts of toxic wastes into our public water resources without negative consequence. The rationale was an old one, based on equal-parts ignorance and convenience, which said that Earth’s supply of fresh water was boundless and infinite, and that pollutants flushed into our streams and rivers went “away,” somewhere downstream, never to return.

Then the evidence that this view was false started to pile up. It became more and more obvious that America’s streams, rivers, lakes and ocean beaches were becoming filthy, dangerous, stinking sewers. In the late ‘60s this experiment in denial reached critical mass. All over the country, wildlife that depended on clean wild water for survival began to die off in alarming numbers. The French Broad River was described by locals as “too thin to plow, too thick to drink.” Throughout this long history, a chorus of deniers assured us that we needn’t change our ways, that there was no problem, that critics of this behavior were nuts who should be ignored.

The public finally saw through this Big Lie, and the truth was clear: When it comes to the fresh water that circulates around our planet, there is no such place as “away.” Pollutants dumped into the water here reappear in the water there, and our rivers, aquifers and lakes end up as their storage tanks. The legacy of this error in judgment still haunts us today.

Consider the lessons of history. What will be the cost to society of an atmosphere that has to be filtered before it can be breathed? How will such an atmosphere respond to the heat generated by the sun?

Ask a “global warming denier,” maybe he can give you a comforting answer. History says he can’t.

— Jon Dana


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