R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Me and her sitting in a tree, K_I-S-S-I-N-G.Andrew Wheeler, the new head of EPA, recently said he doesn’t think we earthlings will have a problem with our home for another 50-75 years.

His statement offers a great illustration to the notion that the limit of human history is, for most of us, 50 years or 50 miles. Anything outside those boundaries either always has been or never was.

The good news, from Wheeler’s point of view, would be that he will be long gone, having safely left his wealth and worries in the capable hands of his progeny. It seems a crime that he would pretend there is no problem, yet, when evidence surrounds us.

I read recently that all societies are opposed to crime. I submit crime is a constantly moving target. It would be more accurate to say all societies are opposed to violations of their current cultural standards. The #MeToo movement and several of its parallels provide illustration.

We once laughed when Bill Cosby riffed on teenage boys going to a dance and contemplating giving girls Spanish Fly. Forty years later, we have convicted him of a crime for the same activity. 

Kate Smith was a highly regarded singer during the era surrounding World War II. She sold lots of records and gathered thousands to concerts, plays and television shows. Her rendition of “God Bless America,” until a few weeks ago, introduced games for the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Yankees.

But someone discovered a couple of her songs were racist – songs she performed back when it was considered OK for certain states’ governors to send their state police to beat up passing African-American men, women and children. Last week, the Flyers took down a statue of Smith that had welcomed visitors to their stadium more than 30 years, and she will no longer call God’s blessing on the teams’ games.

When I was a kid, one of the criticisms of Soviet leaders was that when they had a change of regime, they erased the old one from memory. They took down statues and burned books that reminded the citizenry of the ousted heads of government.

That’s the thing about time, of course. History is constantly flowing; it is much easier to look back and see that change should have occurred than to look forward and make it happen. In 50 years, Andrew Wheeler will be long buried beneath the waves that will have risen to chase his progeny to higher ground.

Like a local municipal budget that every year begins with threatened bankruptcy and ends with a surplus, some threats seem to never come true. We feel safe gambling that if the threat ever becomes real, it’ll be someone else’s problem.

It’s been working for us so far, but science is more reliable then economy. Our kitchen stove, when we turn off the oven, takes awhile to cool down. Mountain glaciers are, indeed, melting at increasingly rapid rates, like ice cubes on a kitchen table melting onto the floor.

We find comfort knowing it is someone else’s kitchen that is flooding. Mopping up will be someone else’s task.

On first glance, folks who live where I live would seem immune to the sea level issue. After all, the county is at least 500 feet above current sea level. The ocean won’t be here any time soon, we are sure.

People already are running from it, and will be showing up here. A few inches sea level rise can be catastrophic during a coastal hurricane. Meanwhile, in Antarctica, a river of ice about the size of Florida, the Thwaites Glacier, has scientists worrying about the futures of towns like Boston and Miami.

I am glad we are making progress on the way we treat each other. It’s long overdue. I hope we do not need another three or four decades to decide to treat our only home with the same respect.

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Readers may contact John Messeder at john@JohnMesseder.com.

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