The Common Good

The Leadership Gap on Global Warming

Here's the word from the physical world: On Sept. 10, scientists studying satellite images of the Arctic reported that sea ice covered 4.32 million square kilometers of the north. The old record, set two years before: 5.34 million square kilometers. Mark Serreze, an Arctic specialist at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University in Denver, said, "It's amazing. It's simply fallen off a cliff and we're still losing ice." The Arctic has now lost about a third of its ice since satellite measurements began 30 years ago. At the moment, an area of ice the size of the United Kingdom melts each week.


And here's the word from the political world, as it appeared in The New York Times last Thursday: "The prospect of a comprehensive energy package's emerging from Congress this fall is rapidly receding, held up by technical hurdles and policy disputes between the House and the Senate and within the parties."

The technical word for this situation is "gap." As in, there's a slight gap between how much we need to do and how much we are doing. A gap at least as wide as the Northwest Passage, which as of early September was fully navigable.

There's one thing that can close that gap, and it's called leadership.


Which is why, on Nov. 3, Americans will gather at hundreds of sites around the country, places named for great leaders of the past: the top of Mt. Washington, the place where Teddy Roosevelt was inaugurated, the birthplace of Rachel Carson, the site of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and many, many more. They'll ask that their political representatives join them (well, maybe not on top of Mt. Washington) and tell them exactly how they're planning to lead this fight -- how they're planning to cut carbon emissions, how they're planning to build a new energy economy, and how they're planning to put poor Americans to work in this economic transition.


We need you to help. We need you to organize one of these demonstrations in your community. It's easy to do -- last April we helped 1,400 American cities and towns organize rallies, large and small. If you come to stepitup07.org, we'll walk you through it and make you an organizer, even if you've never done anything like it.


In other words, we need our politicians to lead. But first we need you to lead them. If global warming has haunted you -- if you understand that we face trouble like we've never faced before -- then please join in.


Bill McKibben wrote the first book for a general audience about global warming, The End of Nature, way back in 1989. His new book is Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future .

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