Lettuce in November

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(HOST) Commentator Ruth Page says science shows immense danger from earth-warming, and she sees far too little effort from our government to help alleviate it.

(PAGE) On November 17th I climbed Wake Robin hill to my little garden. There was half-a-row of mesclun and red-leaf lettuce, perky and fresh as the green grass beyond it. I was briefly delighted until I realized that lovely fresh lettuce that had no protection from the weather shouldn’t be in such great shape this late in the fall.

The earth is certainly warming around here. Spring starts ten days earlier than we’ve always considered normal. Summers have more prolonged heat waves. We’ve had some cold winters, but nothing like those of the 60’s and 70’s. The World Health Organization has data from scientists proving that earth-warming has contributed to more than 150,000 deaths and five million illnesses every year. They say those numbers could double by 2030.

Three serious causes of death, especially but not entirely in southern climates, are worsened by earth’s rising fever: malaria, diarrhea and malnutrition. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes can now survive further north, putting folks in our own southern states at risk. The worst outbreak of dengue fever, also mosquito-borne, occurred in South Asia recently, infecting 120,000 and killing over a thousand.

Our own U.S. Center for Disease Control says the warming climate is “a significant global health challenge.” Smog-related deaths in New York City alone are expected to rise by 4.5 percent by 2050; other smoggy cities on both coasts are at high risk.

Our government could take some positive steps: sign on to the international treaty designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; remove our 2 billion dollar annual subsidy to oil companies that already amass billions in profits every year; limit harvesting trees for lumber, thus preserving the greenery that absorbs carbon dioxide; require auto-makers to build lighter cars with modern materials strong enough to protect us in accidents; and use tax incentives to encourage all of us to practice conservation. That would be LEADERSHIP.

Meanwhile, an enormous glacier in Greenland is melting so fast (three to nine miles a year) that scientists fear it can help raise the sea level, especially as most other glaciers are also disappearing. Arctic ice everywhere is melting. Many animals and plants can’t adapt hastily to changing temperatures – evolution doesn’t work that fast. Unusually warm ocean waters worsen storms, as we saw not only in hurricane Katrina, but in others around the world. Local governments are creating agreements to control greenhouse gas emissions, but federal requirements could be more effective.

This is Ruth Page. I’d be a lot happier paying my federal taxes if more of my dollars were used to fight earth-warming.

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