The O-town Scene

December 6, 2012

The O-town Scene - Oneonta, NY

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the DIVERSITY SCENE Our contributors talk about different aspects of diversity, from LGBTQ issues to questions of ethnicity and more. To submit a column or event, email Some Things Have Got to Change Dec. 22 By Kevin Eggleston The end was near, and now it's here. It should come as no surprise. The Mayan shamans saw it all in their out-of-body trances and calculated for us a countdown, which, if the math is correct, should reach zero at the stroke of midnight Dec. 21, 2012. Kaboom! Of course, every calamity is an opportunity for the creative soul, so plan your parties well, and when the end arrives you should be mid-dance, Britney blasting, bottles of tequila in both hands. Indeed, perhaps we were warned so we could all die a little happy and very drunk. But that would be too easy. If this universe has an order to it, any plan at all, the big party planner in the sky is not going to smack Earth with a runaway hidden planet, or a nuclear apocalypse, or a spontaneous combustion of the molten core, merely because some trippingmeso-American civilization determined time would run out just as things were getting interesting. Most likely, Dec. 22 will arrive, and there will be fiscal cliffs to avoid and gifts to wrap and hangovers to nurse, and we will have to deal with the reality that the apocalypse was all, anti-climatically, a mere metaphor. But what a juicy metaphor it is. Again, barring the (overdue) eruption of the Americaending super volcano under Yellowstone or the escape of the scientifically enhanced strain of avian flu from its Netherlands laboratory, the Mayan end could also be a brand new beginning for humanity worldwide. In fact, living Mayan elders say the end times are not actually about the end of life on earth, but a new rise in human consciousness, which invites us to re-recognize our lost spiritual essence and inherent interconnectivity. Yes, the Mayan calendar catastrophe may not be so bad at all. It could be more about love than lava, more kumbaya and less kaboom. And so, if (as is still always possible) Dec. 21 doesn't arrive with a pole shift that knocks the earth of its axis or a supernova that annihilates the solar system, we may have an eye-opening opportunity in a newly grateful world. This could be a chance to recognize the most likely candidate for earth's eventual ruin — the potentially civilization-ending long-term impacts of humaninduced climate change — and allow us to find a way to work together to prevent the worst from happening (unfortunately, at this point, the pretty darn bad is unstoppable.) Does worldwide trust and cooperation sound a bit too kumbaya? Perhaps. But in this case it will take a little kumbaya to prevent the real catastrophe, the one we now know will confront us whether we face it or not. So, take heart. The world — probably — won't endure an massive extinction level event like the arrival of a longtraveling tired and hungry alien species (it's a cookbook!), or an encounter with a rogue black hole, simply because the planets align just so. There probably won't be an accident at the particle accelerator that produces "stranglets" that eat whatever matter they encounter, like the "langoliers" in that Stephen King story. And there probably won't be a mass-takeover by super-smart machines or an ecosystem wipeout by infinitely self-replicating nanotech robots. Probably. So let us assume that the world will endure, and we will still have to solve our problems. To solve the problem of climate change is not possible, but to lessen its impact is essential. Up until now, monied interests in some of the largest carbon emitting industries have helped frame the debate over whether climate change is happening, rather than what to do about it. This, maybe more than anything, has delayed effective action such as worldwide cap-and-trade measures and carbon taxes to incentivize a move toward a greener, more sustainable world economy. Yet even if all the meatheads in Congress agreed tomorrow that the problem is real, this would not be enough. Industrializing nations such as China and India see their economic rise as only fair, and their carbon output will be difficult to limit. However, it will be impossible to limit if the United States doesn't take the lead on real solutions to the climate problem, and that leadership will have to start at the top. President Obama famously pledged to heal the planet and halt the rise of the oceans, but even he and Chris Christie combined could not prevent the waters of Superstorm Sandy from inundating the Northeast coast. Such water-born disasters, along with droughts, heatwaves, wildfires and tropical disease outbreaks, are only going to get worse as time goes by. Action now will not help us much with this; the delayed nature of atmospheric carbon concentrations ensures a certain amount of change is irreversible, but it will help future generations from experiencing unbelievable suffering. To pacify the churning seas, we need a sea change in the way we think and the way we interact with one another. This may be the hardest thing we ever do, harder than landing on the moon, harder than preventing nuclear war, harder than defeating Hitler. Perhaps a little taste of doom is necessary to gain a collective insight and take corrective action. Perhaps that's what the ancients intended. Now is not the time for cynics, now is the time to listen to the warnings and to heed them. In this case, both Adele and Chicken Little are right: the sky is falling, and we need to band together to hold it up. This requires a total shift in priorities, a tonal shift in our politics, a titantic struggle to make right the only home we all share. No, there probably won't be an unstoppable massive asteroid impact Dec. 21. We have been both blessed and cursed with a problem that we can actually do something about, but will require real sacrifice to do something about it. Because someday, there will be an even worse disaster to face. All those probabilities add up to inevitabilities in the long run. When that happens, we had better have figured out how to solve things as a species, or our species will disappear. It is that simple. So throw that party, you never know, but also know this: something has got to change Dec. 22, because otherwise, someday, the doomsayers will get it right. Kevin Eggleston is a playwright and teacher. Dec. 6, 2012 O-Town Scene 17

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