National Commentary

Fiddling While the Amazon Burns

Take a deep breath. Pretty soon, it may be your last. Not just yours, but all of ours.

Watching aerial video of the Amazon River basin burning up is, for any of us with a scintilla of wider consciousness, downright frightening.

Yes, the area is accurately described as the “lungs of the planet” when it comes to the generation of what almost all animal life here depends upon to exist, namely, oxygen. As Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker put it this week, “the Earth’s lungs are on fire, and the doctors are refusing to treat it.”

Another commentator, Dan Zak, writes in “Words Fail, How Do We Talk About What’s Happening to Our Planet?” that maybe the terms, “climate change” and “global warming,” are too mild and not inspiring adequate calls to action. Maybe words like “catastrophe” or “extinction” are better.

But he fails us when he suggests that “the climate problem is not just scientific. It’s linguistic.”

No, it’s not a matter of wordsmithing, as much as I rely on that for my living. More realistically, it is closer to a case where the proverbial “picture is worth a thousand words.” Words are not the issue. How much oxygen on this planet is required for our human life as we know it to exist…that’s the issue. The public has a right to know. If there is an asteroid headed right to us that scientists know about but are not willing to reveal, then we have a right to know about that, too.

Sadly, the current norm is for social engineers use words to achieve the human behavioral results they deem appropriate. Don’t be too harsh! Above all, don’t tell the whole truth! It goes on almost every day, especially in politics, and it’s a cause of one of our greatest failings as a society. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we can handle the truth. We have to.

So the social engineers did not want to inform us that the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election involved any actual votes being changed, for fear we’d lose faith in the electoral process. Now we know it did, and the fact Virginia went for an emergency move to revert to all paper ballot voting machines prior to its 2017 statewide races was the first big giveaway.

It could be that we are fiddling while the Amazon burns, as in the decline and fall of life on this planet, more concerned about Andrew Luck’s retirement from pro football (I applaud him, and like him, can only hope he got out before the sport’s bruising of his brain advanced too far to afford him anything but a living hell in the coming years of his life).

Will the history books of the future report that we, as a species and a nation, successfully endured this period of an extreme taxing of our capacity for survival and the perpetuation of democratic institutions? Or not?

Is this like being in 1913, when there was plenty of angst and conversation about the gathering storm clouds of war that were gathering? On any given day that year, the future was uncertain. So it was when the Great War commenced the following summer. At what point did it become plain to everyone just how horrid that conflagration would be? How long after that?

That war cost humanity, when all tallied up, over 200 million lives, between the fighting in that first war, the famine and pestilence that followed it, the civilian butchery by totalitarian regimes that then ensued, and the onset of a second even greater war needed to resolve what happened to that point.

How many in 1913 would have believed that 200 million of the world’s most educated and civilized lives would be wiped out as the result of willful human behavior in the subsequent three dozen years?

Do we really think that no such thing could happen now? Am I violating the human spirit by calling attention to such concerns? Will the social engineers chastise me for this? Or are we required, as a species, to know that we face a real crisis, and only scientifically-based, urgent solutions can save us?

Nicholas Benton may be emailed at