To the editor:
I am writing in response to James Avalon's March 2 letter to the editor regarding environmental activist Bill McKibben's appearance at Endicott College.
As one of the Feb. 9 event co-organizers and an environmental science professor at Endicott with a Ph.D. in ecology, I found the letter demonstrated shortcomings that should be addressed and corrected.
Anyone who has read McKibben's books knows that the event at Endicott was not going to be a scientific talk to help "convince" skeptics of climate change. McKibben has been a national voice in support of pro-environmental issues in this country for nearly three decades. It should have come as no surprise to anyone who can conduct a Google search what you were likely to hear that Thursday evening.
On the issue of climate change, the evidence is hard, well-supported, long-term, and not in doubt anywhere except within a small circle of deniers in the United States.
Without a science lecture: Evidence from atmospheric temperature increases, especially in the lower atmosphere only; reduction in yearly Arctic sea ice extent; deep oceanic thermal loadings; and global glacial ice loss all point to some fairly dramatic changes in the world's climate. Organizations such as the U.S. Navy, the insurance industry, and petroleum companies exploring for oil in Alaska know about the impacts of climate change.
In his talk, McKibben used the evidence of climate change to review the previous predictions and compare them with the changing realities on the ground. At no point did Mr. McKibben confuse climate and weather. What he did present were some of the more striking and extreme weather events that have become the new norm of our global climate system.
Several dozen one-in-a-hundred-year weather events occurring around the globe in the span of a couple of years isn't just "weather"; these events are data pointing to a significant alteration of our atmosphere.
How many Katrinas and Joplin, Missouris and record-breaking Australian droughts and Pakistani floods have to occur in our lifetimes before we understand that? That Mr. McKibben showed the amazing power of a few people creating the 350.org movement and rallying people around the world for the integrity of our environment should be celebrated, not denigrated.
Students, whose lives are ahead of them, understand and appreciate these perspectives, as did many members of the North Shore community who came to this free event.
The second major conflation of the letter piece was that the oil reserves of Alberta can be viewed as some sort of panacea for our simultaneous energy, economic and employment crises. They cannot.
The self-serving interest of a single company that wants to build a pipeline from Canada to Texas would put at great risk the health of farmlands and drinking water supplies for a commodity that will be traded on the world market. At an estimated 2-cent decrease in prices at the pump, we have to ask if it is worth the potential loss of another town's water supply, and how long it will be before we will eventually have to accept it in our town?
As for jobs, an independent study from Cornell University has found that jobs numbers touted by TransCanada are inflated by a factor of 10. To suggest North Shore students would reap the benefit of work from the pipeline or a drop in gas prices is a clear ploy to appeal to emotional rather than rational argument.
Lastly, the attacks on the Occupy movement, government and education, especially Endicott, through thinly veiled arguments intended to either intimidate us or confuse serious issues important to society, was perhaps the most disingenuous aspect of the piece. Endicott College, through its students and activities, contributes more than $3 million to the local economy. Endicott's graduates add substantively to our communities and to our country.
Endicott deserves the attention and gratitude of its students and the North Shore community not only because of the great works that the college performs, but also because we are willing to bring to the area speakers who challenge the status quo in order to make us a more engaged and enlightened society.
Chris Tripler, Ph.D.