100 Year Old Pacifist Fought Hitler, Marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Now Advocates Full Mobilization Against Climate Change
On Sunday, January 28 there was a small birthday celebration for Bernard Englander. A century ago, when Bernard was born, climate change was not an issue, and sea level was essentially stable.
Read the entire article at John Englander.
Bernard Englander was a pacifist and had been given “conscientious objector” status before World War II began – meaning he did not have to serve in the military. Yet as Hitler proceeded, even before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bernard realized there was a time for pacifism and a time “ to stand up to madness.” He volunteered, flying as a navigator on a B-17 bomber in the British Air Force and then with the US when they entered the war, flying 34 combat missions. It was incredibly dangerous, and traumatizing, with ninety percent casualties on some missions. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Bernard went from a deeply held belief, to changing his position, realizing that the real world required decisive action which he then did boldly, even putting his life on the line. It was a moral question. (With similar purpose and commitment later in life, he would do that for the civil rights movement, literally working alongside Dr. Martin Luther King and others, to organize the famous 1963 March on Washington.)
In this last decade, he realized that climate change would be a “game changer”, requiring the same type of World War II level mobilization to confront this global issue facing humanity.
As we look over the horizon, a full century in the future to 2118, it is hard to see clearly, but several characteristics are reasonable to predict:
- World population will likely be around ten billion, about 30% more than present, stressing our natural resources even further than now.
- Fossil fuel use will be negligible, having been replaced by renewable energy sources.
- Hopefully we will have gone through peak greenhouse gas levels, perhaps even with some ‘geo-engineering’ efforts to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- If CO2 levels were not contained to under 500 ppm or so, there could be massive species extinction, perhaps reaching the threshold of a “mass extinction” which would be the 6th.
- Sea level will likely be at least five feet higher and possibly as much as ten or twenty feet, depending on how much of the Antarctic ice sheet has melted and collapsed.
- Adaptation to higher sea level will likely have been one of the transformative events of the last century.
- Trillions of dollars of coastal real estate and infrastructure would have been destroyed globally. Thousands of communities would be inundated.
- Hundreds of millions of people will have been displaced causing unprecedented national security and humanitarian challenges.
Looking for a positive side:
- There would almost certainly have been tremendous economic growth from adaptation to rising sea level and the rebuilding of new communities, higher and inland.
- Hopefully humanity would have learned how to live within the limits of this “Spaceship Earth” and our relationship to the natural world.
- Maybe the reality of being challenged by the inexorable rise of the ocean, will have taught us some things about how to govern ourselves.