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Tackling Global Warming

Right Here, Right Now

Posted: February 26, 2008 4:15 p.m.
Updated: April 27, 2008 5:03 a.m.
Global warming.

Mention those two words to a group of people and you're likely to stir up a high degree of controversy. The science of global warming has become a partisan political issue, so reaction is usually heavily steeped in opinionated leanings.

Well-intentioned protectors of the environment will cite Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" as an example of proof that we are destroying our own planet with our consumption. "Voodoo science," will cry the opponents. "Global warming is largely a natural phenomenon that can't be fixed."

I have to admit falling prey myself to this dogmatic trap, until I realized the futility of it. Now I take a more pragmatic approach. Why argue about the causes of global warming, given that most agree it exists? Would it not be better to concentrate our resources on doing what we can to mitigate the consequences, whether natural or manmade?

For those skeptics who question whether global warning is occurring, I suggest you consider the logic of Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician and philosopher, who held that when one is confronted with a seeming imponderable (such as the existence of God), the optimal strategy is to avoid the most harmful scenario.

Relating this to the global warming issue, if it exists and we do something to mitigate the causes, our lives will be improved. If it exists and we do nothing, we face a string of potentially terrible catastrophes. If global warming does not exist and we do nothing, nothing is lost. If it does not exist, and we take steps to mitigate what we perceive are potential causes, we stand to gain residual benefits, such as more healthy air.

Such logic commands us to believe in the notion of global warming and to take whatever actions we can to mitigate the perceived causes.

It was this conviction that drew me recently to the Focus the Nation seminar conducted by College of the Canyons. I am glad I went.

The stated intent of the College of the Canyons conference was "to focus discussion on the growing concern in the nation about global warming and to generate national discussion on issues and solutions related to global climate change." The local efforts were part of a more ambitious national movement in which symposia were held simultaneously at more than a thousand colleges, universities, high schools and other institutions nationwide.

The broader group's goal was to "strengthen the growing momentum worldwide for a clean energy revolution that can avert future potential catastrophic effects of climate change, as well as address declining oil reserves, air pollution and political instability brought about by reliance on carbon fuels."

At College of the Canyons, Focus the Nation featured more than 40 speakers providing the opportunity for participants to attend three environmentally themed breakout sessions. The wide-ranging agenda included such topics as the history of environmental problems, ethics, recycling, public policies, green designs, health and nutrition, and urban planning, to name a few. Workshops allowed participants to brainstorm ideas and present possible solutions with the ultimate aim of creating an ongoing dialogue within the community about the subject. All the presentations I attended were first-rate.

Attendees included educators, public officials, environmental experts, students, business leaders and concerned citizens, among others. The diversity of the participants ensured a full review of the issues, and it was very heartwarming to see so many elements of the community coming together in a nonpartisan way to work on solutions for the common good.

All in all, Focus the Nation was a real gem of a symposium, and our community can be proud to be the home of an institution like College of the Canyons that can put on such a premier event. Kudos, too, are due the Southern California Gas Company for serving as title sponsor, and to the many other local companies who supported this event so the public could attend free of charge.

Without doubt, global warming poses a serious threat to people and natural systems across the planet. Whether or not we can all agree on the causes, it is in our best interests to work together to reduce the impact. Our watchword must be the mantra used by Santa Clarita City Council member Marsha McLean to stir the crowd during her keynote address at Focus the Nation: "Not on my watch ... not in my time ... not while I'm here!"

Once we accept global warming as a threat, we can tackle it together. Events like Focus the Nation will help show us how. We have the power. We can do it. Right here, right now!

Bill Kennedy lives in Valencia and is a principal in Wingspan Business Consulting. He is a member of the Santa Clarita Planning Commission and serves on several local boards. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of the organizations her serves or of The Signal.


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