The News Tribune’s June 8 editorial, “Pray for peace, even if that's not agitators' aim,” suggested that the newspaper and its editors haven’t read the 2021 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community — especially the part that reads, “Environmental degradation from pollution and poor land management practices will continue to threaten human health and risk social unrest.”
During World War II, in the face of military aggression, our nation took actions including redirecting critical resources for the war effort away from less critical civilian allocations, according to the National Park Service. It was considered patriotic for civilians to sacrifice in that way.
During the 1970s, science related to climate change began to receive significant study and, after a while, our government began including it in its annual reports. From the 2021 Threat Assessment: “The effects of a changing climate and environmental degradation will create a mix of direct and indirect threats, including risks to the economy, heightened political volatility, human displacement, and new venues for geopolitical competition that will play out during the next decade and beyond.”
Life in the Midwest is generally peaceful. The implications of climate change are not obvious to everyone. World War II was blatant military aggression. With climate change, there is no gun to look down the barrel of. Intensifying social unrest should be expected when climate-related water and land-use conflicts increase along with extreme weather events. It would be a mistake to think those problems won’t intensify in the Midwest.
The need for some fossil resources will be critical long into the future. Since fossil resources are a major contributor to climate change, the government must identify critical needs. Presently, it is common to hear people speak of market “demand” and the “need” for oil (fossil resources). It is time to find honest terms to talk about fossil resources rather than capitulate to corporations controlling resources using marketing jargon in dishonest and deceptive ways. The general public is confusing “needs” with “wants.”
Some people dare politicians to say that we may need to sacrifice to deal with climate change. Responding in the affirmative would likely destroy political careers. The honest answer is that climate action may require sacrifice for some of us although clean technologies have come a long way and keep surprising us in good ways.
Historically, sacrifice has been considered patriotic. People who are willing to sacrifice, if needed, for the good of the nation, the world, and countless species that are threatened by climate change should be recognized as patriotic.
Which of our “needs” are critical and what, if any, new infrastructure is needed to meet them? Without leadership on this, the fossil resource companies will keep talking about inevitable “demands” and “needs” and push for more fossil fuel resource exploitation and infrastructure, as if “demand” is our master and we “need” whatever we “want.”
If one simply considers that the science says that in the Midwest we should expect higher nighttime temperatures during winter months, higher precipitation, and more extreme weather events, according to the National Climate Assessment, the Midwest might handle that for a while. But we are inextricably connected socially and economically to the rest of the world. Water issues in the Southwest, for example, will be exacerbated by enabling new pipelines, impacting food production and causing migration to areas such as ours that will also see reduced food production. It is entirely fair to see links between new pipelines, climate change, and intensifying threats to the peace and good health that we take for granted.
Resource extraction always poses risks to water quality, critical to our ecosystem, affording us our most basic needs. When we knowingly risk the water, shouldn’t it be limited to only the most critical needs of society?
Many of the outside agitators against the Line 3 Replacement Project in northern Minnesota see new pipelines as a threat to peace and health due to water issues where they live. The agitators are patriots defending our mutual existence and have not come here to party. The weather has been hot and the living conditions primitive.
The need for clean water is far more critical than much of the oil that we consume. Sorry, News Tribune, but we must agitate until leadership sees us and hears what we are saying.
Peter Truitt of Danbury, Wisconsin, is retired after a career involving product design, project management, and quality assurance. He wrote this for the News Tribune.