Wake-Up Call

I'm looking out my window here in southeastern Pennsylvania at a wild cherry tree that, on November 28, is still covered in green leaves. A butterfly bush nearer to the house is still blooming. We have yet to have a "killing" frost this year in this part of Pennsylvania, though just five years ago and earlier, such frosts were the rule by mid October, and sometimes even came at the end of September.

Out on the street, two lines of cars and trucks are completely halted in their tracks because of the shutdown of nearly 10 miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike following a fatal accident involving a semi trailer-truck and three cars that has closed all lanes in both directions for the whole morning, throwing the morning commute entirely onto back roads, which themselves are the scene of countless accidents. Standing at the end of the driveway, I find that half the vehicles stranded on the road within my field of vision are gas-guzzling SUVs and vans, every one of them carrying one frustrated commuter--the driver--and spewing out volumes of exhaust for no purpose other than keeping the car and driver warm and the radio running. The autumn air reeks of car exhaust.

Both of these situations are reflections of a major crisis that is confronting all of us. The earth is rapidly getting hotter, in large part because of the unrestrained use of carbon-based fuel by mankind, and especially by us Americans, and it's getting hotter much faster than even the most pessimistic environmental scientists were predicting even as recently as two years ago. We all know this. And yet like the cars stuck on the turnpike and outside my house, we as a polity and a society are seemingly incapable of doing anything about the mess we have made of our lives, our kids' lives, our country and our planet.