116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
We all have 'crisis fatigue” from living through COVID. As normalcy begins to return, it would be wonderful if we could have a break from crises for a while. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen.
We've often been hit with more than one crisis in a row. World War I was followed by the Great Depression and then World War II, all in a span of 30 years. We rose to these serial challenges, no matter how hard they were, and no matter how much we wished we could avoid them. Americans do what we have to do, to protect everything we value, even when sacrifice is required.
COVID burst upon us out of nowhere as a full-blown emergency. Unfolding right before our eyes, killing people in our communities, it required an immediate response. There was no choice but to act boldly, and within a matter of months we did.
The crisis that's waiting for us now is the climate crisis. Or rather, it's not waiting at all. It's growing and strengthening, like a tropical storm engorging itself on its way to becoming a Category 5 hurricane.
Many of us thought we had a choice about whether or not a bold response was required on the climate. 'Maybe things will not be as bad as scientists predict. Maybe we can wait and see.” Well, we have waited and we have seen, and it's clear that what's coming is much bigger and more broadly dangerous than COVID - because the effects, if unchecked, will harm everyone and will last not for a couple of terrible years but for centuries. The scope of the harm is almost unimaginable.
When people are dying from a virus, it's easy to feel the impact - because it's human-sized. When the vast systems that govern the climate get disrupted, it's harder to get our emotional arms around it. But the effects are getting impossible to ignore - floods, droughts, storms, fires, intense heat and freezing cold, deep changes to the chemistry of the air and the oceans, economic losses in the hundreds of billions, a destabilized world.
We will eventually be able to live with COVID. The virus won't go away, but our new immunity will be strong enough, for the most part, to keep it at bay. There is, unfortunately, no way to obtain 'immunity” from climate change, and no way to 'live with it.” If climate change goes far enough, as it is on a deadly track to do, it will hurt us all very badly, and there won't be a vaccine or any other way to make the hurt go away.
Our response to the climate crisis - not later but right now - will define who we are, whether we are up to the greatest challenge of our age. The Federal government is finally kicking in now, taking a leadership role, launching bold programs, respecting the science - and joining with states and cities who acknowledge the emergency we face. It's up to us to support these efforts in every way we can.
Thom Krystofiak is a writer and software engineer living in Fairfield, and a founder of Climate Action Iowa.