At Our Peril by
(354 Stories)

Prompted By Earth Day

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Coral Reef, photo by Bob Rosenbaum

Climate change is real, pervasive, and all but overwhelms me when I think about it. Every day there is some new, shocking story about devastating storms in the south, floods in the midwest, tornadoes, hurricanes, melting of the polar ice cap, warming of the ocean, bleaching of the coral reefs. The list of  disasters caused by climate change goes on and on, costing incredible human suffering, loss of life, property, livelihood, food supply. The list is long and fearsome.

My Featured photo was taken by a college friend who does deep sea photography. This photo, of a coral reef, caught my eye as I thought about this prompt. I don’t dive, so have only seen images of these beauties captured on film and movies. But I have also seen images of them dying, the bleached bones of the Great Barrier Reef looking eerie compared to the vivid coral color for which they were once known. This is caused by the warming of the oceans.

Last week, the president of the Seychelles gave an impassioned plea for the health of the ocean from a submersible. The oceans are warming, causing more violent weather and changing weather patterns. This is settled science. Those who deny it (like our uneducated president) are endangering our future, causing us to not take corrective action now that might at least delay some of the corrosive effects of climate change. Seeing that buffoon senator bring a snowball into the Senate chamber and make a ludicrous remark about how could the world be growing warmer when it is snowing in Washington made me cringe. But then, the buffoon in the White House made a similar remark on a cold day last winter; something to the effect of- “wish we had some of that global warming today, huh?”

At least some communities (and states, like California) are, on their own, complying with the Paris Climate Accords. Individuals do we what we can, but we need to act globally to save our planet so it is inhabitable for our children and grandchildren. We cannot continue to see our citizens and communities destroyed by fire, mudslides, “once a century” storms that are now regular events, destroying life and property that will take years, or decades to rebuild, if they can ever be replaced.

We are also finding that communities have over-built on weak infrastructure. That is a discussion for a different essay, but it does mean that not all communities can be replaced when devastation hits and property loss is astronomical. Insurance companies no longer cover property that is likely to flood. We have owned on Martha’s Vineyard long enough to be grandfathered and are covered by a top-notch insurance company (we are three blocks from the ocean, but are not really at risk of flooding. We have flooded many times in Newton and finally put in all sorts of flood prevention measures including a generator. We also water-proofed the Vineyard basement). But that same company will no longer write new policies on the Vineyard. They won’t take on that sort of risk. We have been lucky and have dodged many hurricanes lately. But who can say when our little island will run out luck.

5 inches of water in Newton basement

This is a plea and a call to arms to take action now to forestall the effects of global warming on our planet, so we continue to have a planet to live on.



Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: climate change, dying coral reefs, severe storms
Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Thank you, Betsy, for the very eloquent story on the perils of global warming. We are probably preaching to the converted on this site, but you do an excellent job of reminding us of all that is at stake here — as in everything. And you cite Inhofe’s and Trump’s beyond inane denial statements, reminding us of exactly what we are up against politically despite the clear and present dangers.

    I wish I could be more optimistic in light of this willful ignorance, but, again, thank you for your “plea and call to arms.”

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thank you, John. It is difficult to be optimistic when we are led by climate deniers of the first order, despite obvious and increasing evidence right in front of them all the time. All we can do is what we can, and what the foreward-thinking states (and other countries) do, in spite of our leaders who cater to the Koch brothers, and others of their ilk.

  2. Suzy says:

    When I saw the featured image, I was hoping for a story about your visit to a coral reef before climate change imperiled or destroyed it. But alas, it is only the imperiling and destroying that you write about. As John says, on this site you are preaching to the converted (or is it preaching to the choir? and do those expressions mean the same thing?). Still, it’s important to express your – and all of our – fears about the future of the planet.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Betsy, this is a powerful essay. Like you, I find myself overwhelmed by climate change, so overwhelmed that I asked my son to write a guest essay for me on this prompt. Yes, I do my small part but also worry about the kind of world I am leaving to my grandkids.

  4. Marian says:

    Ditto, thank you Betsy. Your photo of the basement was very sobering. I’ve noticed that in northern California I don’t need as many warm sweaters, and the morning fog that used to be so pleasant and would lift at about 10 AM is almost no more. Let’s hope that sane heads prevail.

  5. I found the personal approach you took in this essay very effective, Betsy. It’s been years now since ‘it can’t happen here’ was obliterated by the reality of the world we live on. I’m hopeful that after we’ve obliterated the toxic regression of the Trumpian age, we will move forward in the United States to raise climate change to the highest level of social and political concern. Thanks for your time and your thoughtful essay.

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