Editorial: Solutions require decision-making, commitment

Editorial Board

Thankfully, astronomers and scientists have discovered a planet apparently much like our own. It lies within the habitable zone of a star only about 600 light-years from us. And while we do not yet know whether it is solid, liquid or gaseous, we now have an option for when we finally destroy our ecosystem. Should our mass consumerism get the better of us, we now have a place to which we can flee our ignorance and wanton disregard for the world around us.

Maybe the point where we, like the people of earth in the movie “WALL-E,” will have to evacuate our planet in favor of self-sufficient space ships, will come sooner than it could. Failing to extend the Kyoto Protocols may hasten that day. As more people use more fossil fuels and as we make greater use of machines oiled with petroleum products, we expel potentially harmful forms of carbon into our atmosphere.

Carbon may be a naturally existing element. Indeed, it is the element of life. There may be some truth in the fact that both our lives, as organic material, and some of our greatest riches, as diamonds, are made of the same element.

The fact that loads of carbon exists in nature, however, does not mean pollution is unnatural. Some forms hurt Earth’s ecosystems the same way some forms of carbon hurt the human body.

Burning cigarettes and inhaling the smoke — or sleeping through a house fire and inhaling the smoke of the wood burning around you, for that matter — has a far different effect on your body than does eating. Probably the worst part of pollution is that we have no idea what are the extent of its effects. We don’t know all about how badly burned coal and oil affect weather or climate.

That lack of a complete picture is precisely why protections and limits such as the Kyoto Protocols are necessary. Whether all the signatory countries abide by the rules or not, whether developing countries are exempted from certain restrictions, every bit of conservation helps stave off ecological disaster.

This planet is our home. We cannot just pick up and leave. Even if it was possible to travel 600 light-years, relocating wouldn’t take us away from ourselves. It wouldn’t solve any problems. Barring a fundamental reworking of how we approach problems, which would require a positive decision on our part, nothing will change.

Like an alcoholic who refuses to make the decision to stop drinking and get help, we will not stop our prolific waste until we decide to do so and commit to a course of action that takes us away from the road we currently travel.