Gray Panthers of San Francisco
February 2007 Newsletter

New SF Gray Panther Group:
Committee for Life on the Planet


Committee for Life on the Planet

Almost every day brings more bad new to anyone concerned about the future of the earth and life on it as we know it. The Artic ice is melting, species going extinct, weather patterns changing drastically, pollution even in Antarctica—all this happening faster and with worse consequences than even the most knowledgeable scientists predicted a few years ago. Did everyone see in the Chronicle the ghostly picture of the amazing Yangtse River Dolphin, said to be a “national treasure”? Now indeed the Dolphin is only a ghost.

The question is, what can we as Gray Panthers, and some of us as grandparents, do, individually and collectively, to slow down, mitigate, educate about, or protest the inaction around this most unprecedented looming disaster? Recycling cans won’t be enough at this point. To explore these questions, we hope to form a Committee for Life on the Planet. Maybe we should name it after the Dolphin. The first meeting will be at 11:00 AM on Wednesday, February 14. Please join us and let’s brainstorm.

Act NOW to Stop Global Warming

Daffodils blooming in Vermont in December, New Yorkers outside in their shirtsleeves in January, bears coming out of hibernation before their food supply appears—will every year from now on be “the warmest year on record”?

Any species that is around today, including our own, has already survived catastrophic climate change. The fact that a species has survived such a change, or even many such changes, is no guarantee, however, that it will survive the next one….Over the past two million years, even as the temperature of the earth has swung wildly, it has always remained within certain limits: The planet has often been colder than today, but rarely warmer, and then only slightly. If the earth continues to warm at the current rate, then by the end of this century temperatures will push beyond the “envelope” of natural climate variability.
Meanwhile, thanks to us, the world today is a very different—and in many ways diminished—place. International trade has introduced exotic pests and competitors; ozone depletion has increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation; and many species have already been very nearly wiped out, or wiped out altogether, by overhunting and overharvesting. Perhaps most significantly, human activity, in the form of farms and cities and subdivisions and mines and logging operations and parking lots, has steadily reduced the amount of available habitat.—Elizabeth Kolbert (2006). Field Notes from a Catastrophe, pp. 86-7.

Small changes in average global temperature can cause huge environmental changes. 20,000 years ago, ice covered much of North America and the Alaskan-Siberian land bridge was 1,000 miles wide because of lower sea levels; average global temperature was only 10°F less than it is today. As CO2 levels rise, so does global temperature. When CO2 levels double, as they are expected to by mid-century if their present rate of increase continues, global temperatures are predicted to rise by as much as 8°F, causing massive flooding in low areas, drought, and species loss. We Must Demand Action Now!

The Heat Is On

“The average surface temperature of earth has increased more than 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1900 and the rate of warming has been nearly three times the century-long average since 1970….Drawing on research on past and present climate shifts and computer simulations, many climate experts say that without big curbs in greenhouse gas emissions, the 21st century could see temperatures rise 3 to 8 degrees, weather patterns sharply shift, ice sheets shrink and seas rise several feet.”—The New York Times website, January 16, 2007

NY Times review of Elizabeth Kolbert's Field Notes from a Catastrophe



(back to February 2007 Newsletter front page)