Once more we find ourselves in what has increasingly become a kind of double-whammy weather season: hurricanes and tropical storms slamming our southern coastal states while out-of-control wildfires ravage the West.

We feel blessedly safe from these extreme weather and climate events here in the Midwest, but how long can that last? As I write, a pink-eyed sun burns through smoke-plumes spreading from those western fires across the entire continental US. Degradation of air quality is one price all of us pay for our failure to effectively meet the climate challenge.

Think of the heartbreak and anguish of having to leave your home, carrying only as many of your belongings as you can pack into your car, and not knowing whether anything will be left standing when you’re able to safely return. This is to say nothing of the human, animal and plant life lost to these catastrophes.

One thing we can be sure of: contrary to the president’s unfounded pronouncements (“It will start getting cooler”), as the oceans and atmosphere continue to heat up, every region will become more dangerous and harder to live in if we don’t act on the evidence at hand.

A convincing argument can be made that anxiety over unaddressed changes in climate and the environment lies at the root of some of the social turmoil that is driving America’s current toxic internal divisions. In the face of growing fear and damage to food sources, the grip is loosening on the glue that has held our society together. “E pluribus unum” too easily becomes “Every man for himself.”

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If we care about the future, we must carry our concern for what is happening to our country and to the earth to the polls, whichever way we choose to vote, this November.

Thomas R. Smith

River Falls