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‘Fierce urgency’ needed to protect climate

“Demeter and Persephone,” a book by an author at Jonesborough’s Storytelling Festival, relates an ancient Greek version of the creation story.
It pictures the all-powerful god Zeus, enthroned on Mount Olympus, watching over our world below. From his throne in a dark and cold underworld, Hades watches the world above. The world in-between is ruled over by Demeter, the goddess of the harvest. Burgeoning growth, this world’s air is heavy with the scent of flowers and the songs of birds. Our green Earth is “bursting with life.”
When Hades abducts Demeter’s daughter, Persephone, in an earthquake, Zeus sends his messenger Hermes to him. A compromise is negotiated. Without fail for half the yearly cycle, fall and winter, Persephone will go to the underworld as Hades’ wife. The earth must share the mother’s grief during that time; it turns silent, dark, and cold. But promptly and dependably at the beginning of spring, Persephone returns to her mother and the world buds with new life, light, warmth and birdsong. Demeter teaches people the rituals of welcoming, rejoicing and caring for the Earth that will “ensure that their harvests will always be plentiful.”
For more than 10,000 years, this natural order of seasonal weather transitions held firm. It let nature delight and nourish its many children, let humans develop agriculture and their civilizations thrive.
The Christian biblical story, too, acknowledges and celebrates the goodness of the divine force which thus privileges the tiny orb, in a vast universe, on which we live.
About 200 years ago, through burning coal in railroad engines, factories and power plants following the industrial revolution, we began disgorging smoke heavenward in massive amounts.
God soon sent messengers to warn of unhappy consequences. In Europe in the 19th century, scientists studying the properties of gases realized that some of them, produced in fossil fuel burning, tend to trap solar-radiation heat. If they accumulate in the sky, Swedish chemical-physicist Arrhenius, a Nobel prize winner, said, they would warm the planet to the point of affecting “our fields and gardens.” He even calculated, laboriously with pen and paper in 1894, the likely global-warming temperature rise which modern, sophisticated computer models have corroborated. It would reach between 9 and 11 degrees (Fahrenheit), he concluded, if carbon dioxide levels were to double in the atmosphere.
They have risen ominously, from 280 (parts per million) at his time to 360 a century later and 400 now. Without swift and decisive action, the doubling point could be reached within our lifetime, dooming the prospects for a livable and healthy world for future children.
The messengers, from the authentic climate-science community, have kept coming. Heard but largely ignored in action, they now are frequently attacked by industrial-interest boosters. A modern-day prophet whose legacy the nation celebrates in January, Martin Luther King, used to speak of “the fierce urgency of [acting] now.” We should heed him, through swift energy transitioning, in the matter of restoring a natural and climate-benign — not man-altered and destructive — atmosphere around Mother Earth.