Averting disaster

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”  Antoine de Saint -Exupery, The Little Prince

BY ROGER R. PATOCKA

Children (and the young of other species) would likely be non-existent if parents focused primarily upon the acquisition of personal wealth and power.

Too many global citizens have been seduced into complacency by the allure of short-term economic gratification as a measure of success.

What is essential is that we must do more to promote improved decision-making, to cherish good health, and to help create a broader educational perspective on the diversity and vigor of our life support systems that have graced life over the eons.

Mr. Cullen’s recent articles have spotlighted the vulnerability of our food supply as triggered by climate crises. He tactfully analyzes the problem as a combination of ignorance, and/or the conscious decision to risk the integrity of our life support systems.

Unfortunately, too many politicians view governance as a gateway to “rig the system” to exploit outcomes for personal gain at the expense of externalized costs coming out of someone else’s pockets.

Case in point:  prematurely opening states for business during a pandemic that now requires massive subsidies to float the economy, and costs, including life-threatening duties, borne by military and other families to combat emergencies in states slammed by Covid and other crises.

However, to dismiss the lessons of history and natural phenomena — and to discount or deny any responsibility for personal human activity upon our neighbors on this planet — is unwise.

My paternal grandparents emigrated from what is now Czechia and my grandfather was among the first “white settlers” in Box Butte County, Neb., in 1885. To add some perspective of pioneer life of that era on the prairie sandhills southwest of present-day Chadron, Neb., please see “This Day in History, Jan. 9, 1887”, (https://www.history. com/this-day-in-history/ record-cold-and-snow-decimates-cattle-herds), or “The Great Die Up” (https://www. thefencepost.com/news/january-9-1887-the-great-die-up/).

In 1896-1897, also known as “the winter without snow”, my great-grandma died, and my grandparents sold their Nebraska land claim for pennies on the dollar due to a severe drought, loaded up an oxcart with their growing family, and traveled to Minnesota. My Aunt Rose was born enroute just west of Sioux City at Baird Spring, Neb. Two more babies later, and after a stint working in an Omaha, Neb. slaughterhouse, my grandparent’s family eventually moved to South Dakota to start farming again.

They survived the drought and dust storms of the “Dirty Thirties” that destroyed millions of acres of farm and ranch land and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. I'm sure that they had no clue as to why they experienced the dust storms — caused by severe drought coupled with decades of changes in land use wrought by the westward expansion of different cultures — but their lives were profoundly impacted by those events.

One of my most vivid lessons about weather and human impact on the environment occurred when I was about 10-years-old. I was walking with my father in our SD cornfield on hard pan washed clean of topsoil, looking at the complete devastation of a severe hailstorm and six inches of “gully-washer.” We could see our topsoil two miles away in the turbid waters of the Missouri River reservoir behind Ft. Randall Dam. This was one of the few times I remember seeing my father cry. He accepted the fact that his farming activities, in spite of hard work and good intentions, contributed to the erosion. He accepted responsibility. He installed a seeder on our grain drill to plant sweet clover as a green-manure cover crop. I thus began to learn about sustainability and decision-making.

The adversity of weather and climate can present severe, extreme challenges, as well as heartbreak and humility. Unfortunately, in today's culture and economic climate, too many people refuse to accept responsibility for their actions — which can compound adversity.

We can only hope that we have the intelligence to discern the changes occurring around us, be it natural or anthropogenic. If we expect to sustain our life support systems of today, and for the future of all children and grandchildren, it is imperative that we make wise decisions by seeking out and heeding information that is based on scientific method, intelligent peer review, common sense and civil discourse.

We need to be responsible citizens.

Roger R. Patocka is a Citizens Climate Lobby Iowa Great Lakes co-leader from Estherville.

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