THE STORY goes like this: If a frog is dropped into boiling water, it will quickly jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water that is then brought slowly to a boil, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.
A hundred years ago, the Earth, in pseudo-scientific terms, was tepid.
Over the decades since, humans have reacted minimally to the gradual warming of the planet, taking false comfort in the assumption that it was a fleeting change in the weather. But according to experts on our changing climate, future generations are at risk.
Over the billions of years of the Earth’s geologic history, the planet has frozen and thawed many times. But it should be common knowledge by now that never has the cycle been so rapid or definable as the warming trend since the onset what is called the second Industrial Revolution, from the latter part of the 19th century through the 20th century. Much of the damage has been done by the unrestrained use of fossil fuels.
Action must be taken now to at least mitigate the effects of climate change. As it is, we must adapt to the environmental turmoil that has already begun and is destined to worsen.
The Fredericksburg City Council recently approved by unanimous vote a resolution that commits the city to the goal of powering municipal operations with 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. The resolution also establishes the community-wide goal of powering the city with 100 percent renewable energy sources no later than 2050.
These may be ambitious or aspirational goals, as would be any objectives that are 15 or 30 years out. Maybe you hope to retire in 15 years. Certain things need to happen if you are able to accomplish that with the lifestyle you prefer. But it is not a pie-in-the-sky, blow-out-the-candles wish if you take concrete steps toward making it reality.
City officials know that goals are accomplished by setting priorities and working toward interim objectives along the way. We gain useful knowledge and make progress through trial and error; the way you figure out how to bring a Minor League Baseball team to town, for example. The most satisfying results come when we challenge ourselves. Then success begets success.
People often refer to the first part of President John F. Kennedy’s quote: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard ...”, but it is the rest of the quote that reveals the true meaning: “... because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
On Sept. 12, 1962, the day Kennedy said that, you probably wouldn’t have bet the house on a manned moon landing less than seven years later, on July 20, 1969. Along the way, the earliest computers, calculators and software were developed as the space program progressed.
We applaud the city for setting these goals and urge other communities to follow suit. At the same time, we can be confident that scientists around the world are dedicating their careers to climate change mitigation and solutions. Certainly there are approaches and techniques already developed through these efforts that are available to forward-thinking leaders at every level of government.
Yes, the most egregious global environmental offenders must be educated and persuaded to join the fight, and conscientious nations will need to share their knowledge and resources for real progress to be made.
The actual difference Fredericksburg can make by itself is not as important as the wave it can help build, as the movement it can encourage. If we want a world that’s habitable for future generations, the commitment made right here at home—and at your home—is essential.