Is It Too Late?

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Editor’s note: With the background of the COP26 climate summit going on in Glasgow, Scotland now, I thought I should republish this article written several years ago about an issue all of us should care about and about which bluegrass musicians have sounded a warning bell. Maybe we need some more warning bells. Country groups like Alabama gave us songs like Pass It Down but nothing out there tops our own Vern and Ray.

The Daily Grist: “We are upsetting the atmosphere upon which all life depends. In the late 80s when I began to take climate change seriously, we referred to global warming as a ‘slow motion catastrophe, one we expected to kick in perhaps generations later. Instead, the signs of change have accelerated alarmingly.” (David Suzuki)
Every morning I walk down our driveway to pick up the morning newspaper. I’ve enjoyed reading it for many years. That’s mostly how I stay informed about what’s happening around me, especially on a local scale. But recently I have come to a point where I am almost afraid to open up the generous pages of the local paper to discover what a mess our planet has gotten itself into.

I don’t know if we humans are responsible for this mess, but I think we probably are. The planet is warming to an alarming degree. The west Antarctic glaciers are on a course to melt irreversibly over the next couple of centuries and raise the global sea level by more than four feet.

These unprecedented changes in the climate of our planet cause me deep concern. And as David Suzuki said in the quote, it’s not like we haven’t been warned. Our own Ray Parks tried to warn us too:

Listen my brother. This world’s gonna fall.
It’s hard to believe no one cares at all.
They just made the dollar any way that they can.
To hell with the people. To hell with the land
Can this whole world be saved?
Have we gone too far? Is it too late?
Have we reached the point of no return?
Lord what will it take? Will we ever learn?

It scares me to think about what we might be up against here. Climatologists warn about instability in the climate caused by extreme perturbations like we’re having now with the recent warming of the planet. Over time the changes in ocean currents and weather patterns could precipitate another ice age. No one knows what will happen but we could be in for some devastating consequences. Our planet has experienced several mass extinctions of species during its four billion year history. The one everybody knows about is the demise of the dinosaurs but there was another mass extinction earlier which was even more devastating. Might we humans someday join all those extinct species?

Our cities are bigger than ever before.
And there’s not enough air to go around anymore.
And what are we doing to help ease the pain?
We’re building more cars and bigger airplanes.

Whether or not we humans are the cause of climate change, there is no doubt that we contribute to it in a big way. We generate tons and tons of carbon emissions every day. Greenhouse gasses warm the planet and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen along with the temperature of that atmosphere.

A sawmill stops burning and the smoke clears away.
But the big trees keep falling day after day.
Oh tell me my brother, why can’t they see?
They’re destroying the source of the air that we breathe.

What can we do to stem the tide of this terrible warming of our beautiful planet? That might depend on where you live. I live in the country and my internet is not very good, but maybe I can cancel my newspaper home delivery which I have enjoyed for many years. That saves some energy to print the paper and gasoline to drive it all the way out to my mailbox. My long time favorite newspaper of all, the Bluegrass Breakdown is pretty much all digital now. Maybe I can eat less beef or pour less concrete. There are many things individuals can do to help the planet but they are mostly symbolic unless we can convince our policy makers to make the sweeping changes necessary.

Have we gone too far? Is it too late?

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