Blogs > Sara Gutterman > September 2013 > Eye of the Storm

Eye of the Storm

The great writer Kahlil Gibran said “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”

Our response to defining moments makes us who we are. Most people can remember where they were and how they were emotionally impacted by major historical events that defined our society, our economy, our political milieu—the crippling stock market crash of 2008, the horrifying terrorist attacks of September 11, the deadly shooting of JFK, the conquest of Niel Armstrong as he delivered the experience of walking on the moon to our living rooms.

More and more today, the defining moments of our lives are framed by natural disasters like super storms, wildfires, floods, and droughts. The angry skies, wild winds, patched earth, blazing conflagrations, and biblical torrents are apposite to a riled Mother Nature.

The moral fiber of our society is being tested by these occurrences, and it will be interesting to see how we respond. Who will we become in the face of these trying times? Will we rise to the challenge of rebuilding our cities and communities responsibly, sustainably, and environmentally appropriately? Will we develop the courage to deploy wisdom and long-term consideration that has been missing from our approach to the built environment for too many decades?

Our world is unequivocally changing, perhaps faster and more irreparably than we even realize. And we’re finding that the planet is more sensitive than we thought. Remote places and creatures that we once thought would be the furthest removed from climate change are instead fighting for their lives on the front lines. From the mighty Polar Bear of the North Pole, to the tiny Bufos Borealis toad in the Rocky Mountain riparian forests, to the majestic Sumatran Tiger in Indonesian jungles, to the wily Brown Spider Monkey in the woodlands of Venezuela, the effect of human activity (including pollution, habitat destruction, and poaching) is leaving a scorched trail of destruction across the globe.

In a recent report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) asserted that we’re on track for a 5-7 degree Celsius temperature increase this century (this supplants a previous forecast of a 2 degree Celsius increase). According to the IEA, if temperatures rise to that level, an irreversible “positive feedback system” will be triggered, where a vicious cycle of increased heat capture and greenhouse gas release will destabilize our atmosphere in a way that is incompatible with our current understanding of an organized global community.

The IEA says that “our present course leads to certain catastrophe”, and, in order to stabilize temperatures, global climate emissions must peak within 5-10 years and decline rapidly every year thereafter.

As Australian environmentalist Paul Gilding says, “Our economy has grown bigger its host—the planet.” We don’t have to be scared, but we do need to be realistic. We have the financial resources and proven technology to reach net-zero emissions in 10 years. What we haven’t yet shown is the desire, determination, and discipline to make the necessary changes.

Our current anemic approach to the changing climate is equivalent to applying a Band-Aid to an aneurism. The decisions we make today will determine the future of the planet. How will we respond in the face of adversity? Will we act like bumbling adolescents, believing that we’re immortal? Or will we take a more mature approach, understanding our limits and making appropriate decisions?

How do you think our society will chose to act in response to our environmental challenges? Write to me at or follow me on Twitter @SaraGBM.

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Posted: 9/26/2013 12:55:42 PM by Mary Kestner | with 2 comments

Mike Collignon

You may get your wish:
10/3/2013 5:26:37 PM

Michael J McGee
One of the biggest polluters are motorized vehicles. Until we develop better batteries to power our vehicles and get rid of our dependence on foreign or domestic oil, we won't be able to solve our warming problem.
9/26/2013 1:59:23 PM

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