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Total Eclipse of Priorities

Just over a week ago millions in the United States experienced an awe-inspiring total solar eclipse the Moon passed in front of the Sun and its shadow fell upon the Earth for a brief moment. This spectacular phenomenon was awe inspiring and humbling in its reminder of the smallness and the fragileness of our united experience on this small rock spinning and flying through space. Earth is the only planet on which total solar eclipses exist, a fluke of astrophysical distances and ratios that serendipitously gives us this incredible experience.  Such moments also make us think, if we are open to it, about the incredible diversity of life found on this planet, and how this is also the only location we know of which houses the miraculous phenomena of life. That we can predict solar eclipses is a triumph of our scientific understanding of the world, bringing what once seemed inexplicable into the explainable. The same scientific inquiry that has unlocked many of the mysteries of the heavens has also revealed the crisis we face on our planet. As we've talked about many times before at DSOT, the climate crisis, and the interlinked biodiversity and extinction crisis, is not only ongoing it is growing. 

Global temperatures in 2023 were the hottest year on record and 2024 is so far completely shattering those high temperature marks. Many climate scientists are concerned with how rapidly warming seems to be progressing even beyond the predictions of their models. Together with this sobering rise in global temperatures, comes the concurrent mutilation of the Tree of Life due to the overuse and overproduction of our biosphere to sustain current human lifestyles. This 6th mass extinction is underway and accelerating even as the Endangered Species Act just turned 50 and continues to receive often overwhelming support from the American public. In direct contravention of American’s desires, we've recently seen multiple attacks on the ability of government to take action to protect our natural spaces and wildlife. These actions tellingly come from some of the least representative parts of our government, the Supreme Court. SCOTUS has recently changed the definition of protected US waterways, restricting the ability of the EPA to protect waters from toxic pollution. The conservative court is also going after the EPA’s very ability to regulate industry through re-examination of the “Chevron doctrine.” Nonetheless, despite these obstacles, and the increasingly dire timeline under which we have to act, we should not think that all hope is lost.

As we discuss in our conversation with Tierra Curry from the Center for Biological Diversity, the situation is extremely dire but there are actions that individuals can take in their own local communities, as well as working together on the national scale to support legislation aimed at protecting wildlife and spaces. Elections are the time to make sure that protecting biodiversity and climate stability are major priorities for politicians running during this upcoming election. Fundamentally, though, when it comes to the decisions and policies that businesses and governments make this is often a question of economics not ethics. So, it's important to realize that without changing the economic calculus we will not be able to protect this world from a 6th mass extinction.You can see more of our conversation with Tierra at the link below.

Thankfully, we are in fact on the cusp of such revolution, and in fact, if the levers of power can be turned away from propping up the fossil fuel industry with massive subsidies and instead supporting green infrastructure investment that future can arrive sooner than many people think. Case-in-point, California has just gone 25 of the last 32 days and counting with 100% of its energy grid being provided and covered by renewable energy sources. What's stopping this change is no longer technical feasibility, or scientific understanding, or even macroeconomic limitations. It’s that too much money is in too few hands, and it is choking the ability of our system to respond to the wants and needs of the people and the planet.

We need to join together, in growing solidarity, building an economic and political force to make sure that life on this planet continues to flourish and provide the bounty needed for every person to live fulfilling and meaningful lives without material deprivation. That may seem like a Utopia but it is also a necessity to strive for if we want a future worth leaving for our children, grandchildren, and generations yet unborn. So, join us each Tuesday, in growing solidarity, as we work together to keep a livable planet for all life.  

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