The Daily Press' recent poll of Moffat County residents' acceptance of the science of global warming produced these numbers:
• 40 percent accepted the science
• 34 percent thought it was propaganda
• 26 percent were uncertain
How subtle can the effects of global warming be on us here in Northwest Colorado? How do the current benefits of extracting our region's fossil fuels - irreplaceable for nearly one million more years - measure against the costs of that extraction?
As our public and private lands are mined for oil and gas, we are asked to endanger a sustainable economy and environmentally healthy future. We also are distracted from discussing and building a sustainable economic base.
After mining and resource extraction, reclamation of the land may not replace enough of the same topsoil to provide nutrients supportive of anything deeper-rooted than grasses. Reclamation may be underfunded or not priority funded.
What happens to Northwest Colorado after we allow the liquidation and marketing, as soon as possible, of our natural resources, giving profits to corporations that far exceed our royalties or tax intake, while also giving us additional present and future service, health and infrastructure costs? What happens when other natural resources, used to sustain us with hunting, tourism, agriculture, fishing, recreation, historical sites and research, are less healthy, less productive?
Do we need to learn how Northwest Colorado must be alert to protect our own carbon dioxide-reducing sagebrush steppe ecosystems, after hurricanes such as Katrina and Rita? Those hurricanes killed or damaged about 320 million trees - all now decaying or burnable in forest fires - that will be releasing as much CO2 into the air currents over the United States as the rest of the nation's forests take out of the air in a year of photosynthesis. The role of the West's sagebrush acreage to remove and hold CO2 thus becomes more important.
Do we need to learn that to make ethanol from corn requires lye, methane, likely pesticide use, and electricity, while to use renewable switchgrass to make ethanol will produce 4 to 6 times as much for the same energy input?
Does the reality of an event occurring in the oceans from global warming instruct our understanding of our ecosystems? The Earth's oceans, having absorbed about 50 percent of human-caused CO2 overproduction, have thus now a decrease in the amount of carbonate ions available for shell-building organisms (such as krill) that are at the base of all fish and sea mammal food chains.
Finally, do we need to find and study the climate change data produced in 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change composed of 2,000 scientists from 100 countries, or will we instead give our allegiance to the reports of Exxon/Mobil, the largest private company in human history, holder of $300 billion in profits from our natural resources since the 1989 Exxon/Valdez oil spill (for which they have yet to pay any damages), and a founder of its own climate study group - Global Climate Coalitions? Exxon/Mobil's former CEO, Lee Raymond, liked to say often, "Science as a certainty is an oxymoron."
And do we need to take note, in our search for the ties between sustainable ecosystems and economy, of science reports that animal and plant species are disappearing globally 100 times faster than they were 150 years ago, or that in America only about 10 percent of endangered species ever recover?
(Part III of III: Written by Rick Hammel, David Morris, Monty Robertson, Jane Yazzie, Ann Wagner and Pastor Bob Woods.)