The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

MLK and CO2

Posted by | January 20, 2014 | Filed under: Opinion

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 1/19/2014. (A slightly different version appeared on this blog last year - yes, we're recycling!)

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

So wrote Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, more than fifty years ago. Happy birthday, sir.

I’m ashamed to admit that as a kid, the January MLK Monday meant only a three-day skiing weekend to me. I know better now. (Also, we don’t get as much snow as we used to.)

It’s January, so like most folks I’ve been thinking about the year to come, and the longer term too. “Future planning” is what we call it here at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, and we’ve been in the plan development process since last June. What will the next five, ten, even the next thirty years look like here at your local national estuarine research reserve?

It’s been a good process; our plan is coming together. But we haven’t yet included a major piece of the puzzle: the Reserve will be here in 30 years, but what will the next 30, or even 50, years look like for the Southern Maine lands around us?

One of our visiting experts, Dr. Cameron Wake from the University of New Hampshire, comes over to the Reserve occasionally to brief our workshop attendees on “climate change impacts for the Northeast Region.” Dr. Wake makes it a point to start off his public lectures with three main points he hopes everyone will remember.

I won’t spoil his entire lecture for you (come hear him), but one of his points is worth repeating this weekend. “Our response to climate change is a moral issue,” says Dr. Wake. He feels, and I agree, that reaping the benefits of fossil fuels today while passing on their negative effects to our children and grandchildren is immoral.

The greenhouse gases we have released will persist for centuries; it is impossible to think ahead without considering a different planet from the one we know.

Which leads us back to King’s letter from the Birmingham jail. CO2’s injustice now threatens justice everywhere, now and in the future.

It might make one feel just a little gloomy, if one didn’t read either King’s entire Letter from Birmingham Jail. But King closed his letter with this:

“Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

King saw a better world. He had hope. The people of the United States have risen to great challenges before. We have righted great wrongs, we have solved seemingly insurmountable problems. We have set foot on the Moon. Surely, we can do something about our climate.

With great leaders, with great effort, and with honesty and hope and compassion, we can — and do many other things as well. Let 2014 be a year marked not by continued division and hot air, but by common ground and cooler heads. In Dr. King’s honor, and for our own.

Nik Charov is president of Laudholm Trust, the nonprofit partner of the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wells, Maine. His Sunday Journal Tribune column "Between Two Worlds" is also available at wellsreserve.org/twoworlds.

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