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ISSUE 120 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/27/2006

Inconvenience tells tough truth

By Katie Godfrey
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 27, 2006

Recently many St. Olaf students attended a showing of “An Inconvenient Truth,” former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary about global warming and its horrific consequences. The film, which features a PowerPoint presentation that Gore has given worldwide, uses credible scientific data, powerful charts and shocking statistics to explain how humans have changed the Earth’s temperature and what will happen if we continue down the same path. As I left the movie I heard some people say, “Wow, I didn’t realize how serious global warming is!” and watched those same people proceeded to get into an SUV and drive down the Hill to their honor house on St. Olaf Avenue. Apparently the movie’s message didn’t get through.

This movie is not entertainment. It is called “An Inconvenient Truth” for a reason. No one wants to change their comfortable way of life, but they will to have to if we are going to prevent the Earth’s temperature from rising even more.

Gore touched on some crucial scientific information in the film. Normal levels of greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide) keep the earth at a livable temperature. However, recent human activities, including burning fossil fuels and conventional agricultural practices, have resulted in a sharp increase in greenhouse gas emissions, trapping more heat than is natural in our 10. Gore noted that the ten hottest years ever measured have all occurred within the last 14 years. An increase in the Earth’s average temperature causes stronger and more frequent storms, which we have most likely already witnessed with Hurricane Katrina. Gore explained how glaciers and ice shelves have already started melting and that the polar ice caps could melt at an extremely rapid rate if we do not change our actions now. If the ice caps melt, the average sea level would rise up to 20 feet worldwide, putting all of the Earth’s coastal regions under water. More than 60 percent of the world’s population lives in coastal areas.

Contrary to what much of the public believes, Gore showed the scientific consensus that human beings are causing global warming. The United States is by far the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. We love our comfortable lives, but the reality is that activities like driving and using computers are convenient for us at the cost of the entire Earth.

Upton Sinclair wrote that “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it”. Yes, our politicians should be doing something about global warming, but the most they have done is distort the facts. They are afraid the economy will fail if they acknowledge global warming, yet it is possible both to be responsible and to have a healthy economy. Even without help from politicians, we cannot forget that at an individual level we are all contributing to the problem, too.

So what can we as individuals do? St. Olaf is a compact college campus, which means that we can walk virtually everywhere. It takes 10 minutes to walk to campus from the honor houses, and about two minutes by bicycle. It takes five minutes to ride into Northfield by bike. If it is necessary to drive, try to set up a carpool. We can make a difference by turning off computers and surge protectors whenever they are not in use. Turn off the lights whenever you’re not in the room and don’t blast the heat. These simple actions are important first steps in putting an end to global warming.

In the film, Gore uses the helpful analogy of a frog put into water on a stove. If it is boiling, the frog will immediately jump out, but a frog in lukewarm water that is slowly reaching boiling point will stay until it is too late. We are in that lukewarm water now.

Global warming is not just something for environmentalists and scientists to solve. It is a moral issue and everyone needs to take responsibility to prevent it from getting worse. As Gore said, “our ability to live is what is at stake” and if we don’t start changing the way we live in comfortable America, we will be contributing to the deaths of people worldwide, including in our own country, and for generations to come.

Contributing Writer Katie Godfrey is a junior from Madison, Wis. She majors in American studies with an environmental studies concentration.

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