2.17.2014

Does climate change need a Michael Sam moment?

I'm not gonna lie. I adore Porter Fox and aspire to be more like him every single day, but I don't want to read "Deep" -- the story of how climate change is killing snow and ending winter.

I'm old enough to have seen the writing on the wall for the last four decades: the shrinking snowpacks, the 33 degree thundersnowstorms, the emotional roller coaster of climate whiplash, and the blissful ignorance of everybody standing around watching things melt. So I sort of feel like I should get a pass on this one.

I don't want to read Elizabeth Kolbert's "Sixth Extinction" either (though I did read Al Gore's review of it, NYT LINK).  It's a book about how carbon emissions are fueling (word choice intended) mass extinctions, with up to 50% of thew world's species doomed for the history books in the coming century.

Out my backdoor in Vermont, bats have gone from a regular sight in summer (my first year here in 2004 I caught one on a fly rod back cast) to practically invisible.  Bees are storied to be next up on the hit list.  So once again, I feel like reading about something that I"m already seeing is just gonna send me into a gin-spin.

But I didn't get a pass on proofreading my daughter's climate change paper the other night.  

She's in eighth grade, smart as a whip, and a strong writer.  I was supposedly just reading the paper for grammar and punctuation, but the content kicked me right in the gut.  

Our children, with their bright eyes and their undying trust in the world of adults, already know what's coming.  It's not hypothetical to them.  Nor is it political.  It's their future.

It struck me that my daughter's paper followed the same general format as Mr. Fox,  Ms. Kolbert, and Mr. Gore. They all lay out the case, prove it with a litany of beautifully written examples, and then wrap it up with a Lorax-ian call to get our shit together, or else.

Michael Sam, on the other hand, is a top-rated NFL draft pick from the University of Missouri. Last week, he made massive headlines by announcing that he is openly gay.  He'd had enough of hiding, enough of worrying about what might happen, and instead decided to take control of his future ... all of it.  Mr. Sam was rewarded by massive media coverage as well as incredible support from his alma mater and their fan base. I bet it feels good.  

To a certain extent, Mr. Sam's announcement didn't come out of the blue ... it's been in the works for decades (or longer), as activists and individuals have taken their own stands, at their own times, saying simply that enough is enough.  

On the other hand, it's hard to think of an announcement that made bigger headlines for something that the vast majority of people already knew and accepted (i.e., that being gay has zero to do with the ability to play football).

At this point, climate change is known and accepted as well.  It's here and it's queer.  Get used to it.  

But as the torch of proof moves from the best scientists of our age to the best writers of our generation, you've gotta wonder when the greens will get their Michael Sam?  The one that stands up and says "enough is enough" in a way that can get the attention and the support of a majority of Main Street America?

I certainly have enjoyed watching Mr. Fox's book get swept up in the draft of Winter Olympic media coverage, get a slot on the editorial page of the NY Times, make it on with Diane Rehm, and even get used as a prop on the floor of the House of Representatives.   And I'll be rooting for Ms. Kolbert's book to make a similar -- if not greater -- impact.  

The one I'll cheer the most, however, is the one that puts all the dots together.  The one that gets a Michael Sam moment.

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