It is spring, and Pacing the Planet is picking up the standard again, setting out to raise the alarm about impending and utter climate transformation. We have at last decided on a route for our long journey. We will be headed north from the Pacing the Planet headquarters; our family intends, if possible, to walk 1,000 miles north to the tiny town of Pickle Lake, Ontario (population 425). Pickle Lake is the most northerly community in Ontario that is accessible year-round by paved road, tucked in the midst of the boreal forest.
Why are we headed there? To represent human migration. In a world where the average sea-surface temperature is 4 degrees C hotter, the whole planet is going to shift 1,000 miles toward the poles. That is, climate zones are going to move northward and southward by at least 1,000 miles. In our hemisphere, the tropics will spread. The mid-latitudes will creep northward. The arctic tundra will disappear.
Throughout natural history, plants and animals had free range over connected habitats. Even before humankind broke up these natural corridors, 10 miles is the very farthest that most non-migratory species could relocate in a given year. Trees can only spread their seeds so far; birds and mammals can only move when the plants and animals that they feed upon move with them. We expect to travel an average of 10 miles a day.
It will take us four months, minimum, to cover 1,000 miles, and it would take plants and animals 100 years. But, we don't have 100 years before the average temperature reaches 4 degrees C. We have only 30 years. Unfortunately, with today's decimated environment and broken habitats, with roads and agricultural fields and fences and towns in the way, many species will not be able to keep up with the rapidly shifting planet. Whole ecosystems hang in the balance.
This past fall and winter has shifted the national debate on what to do about global warming. Following the disastrous growing season of 2012, New York City experienced firsthand the destruction of a major storm system enhanced by global warming. Suddenly, a small, but growing, number of courageous politicians are ready to speak out in favor of decisive action. The federal government has put in place the most stringent requirements ever for fuel-efficiency in automobiles. And for the first time, the EPA will have the power to regulate carbon-dioxide as an “atmospheric pollutant”, starting in 2015. In addition, every federal agency has been directed to calculate for climate change when assessing the environmental impact of the projects they review.
At the same time, our civilization's emissions of carbon-dioxide and methane continue to increase exponentially. The battle lines have been set, as the fossil fuel industries press their political agenda, and their opponents challenge them in Congress, in court, and on the street. ExxonMobil, TransCanada, and Peabody Energy (based in St. Louis), in particular, are in the crosshairs as they attempt to hold on to government subsidies of their industries while doing what they can to tighten their grip on the energy market in this country and abroad.
A decision to approve or reject the Keystone XL Pipeline is expected from the Obama administration in the next couple of months, but oil-pushers in Congress are attempting to claim authority to approve the construction project before the administration has a chance to weigh in on it. The pipeline is the subject of much propaganda currently, including the suggestion that it will improve our domestic energy independence, even though the Tar Sands oil will actually be shipped overseas for use, and profits will go to energy giant TransCanada. If the pipeline is approved by either Congress or the president, it will mark the beginning of an all-out struggle for the future of our planet. Those who understand that we are losing the climate we have depended on for the last 10,000 years will know then that they cannot count on politicians to implement even the most basic sensible policies to save us. We shall be keeping track of the situation as we walk north.
We are currently making preparations for our adventure. We are opening the invitation to people who would like to walk with us part way (or all of the way). We also could use a passionate volunteer to drive our vegetable-oil powered supply truck to each day's camp site, and help set up camp there. If you might be interested in participating, let us know. Or, if you want to cat-sit, house-sit, or make a bid on the project of mowing our grass as we pace, now's the time.
Before we begin our journey, Pacing the Planet is offering some exciting events this April. First, on the 19, we will be giving a presentation at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. Then, on April 22, Earth Day, we will be presenting at Quincy University. We are currently arranging our second presentation at Truman State University in Kirkville, also during Earth week.
Finally, we are organizing a special event on Saturday, May 4, in Kirksville: the only NEMO big-screen showing of the amazing documentary "Chasing Ice," which is currently in limited release. "Chasing Ice" tells the story of one team's effort to document the dramatically changing landscape in the Arctic, due to global warming. We, who are alive today, are the last living people who will ever see that landscape the way it has been since the last ice age, and you do not want to miss this film. Many people who were climate change skeptics have left the theater after seeing this film with their beliefs radically transformed, now understanding that climate change is the most critical emergency humanity has ever faced. You can reserve tickets to the film by clicking on the appropriate tab at the top of this page. We would love to share this one-time showing with you: our last event before we set out on our walk.