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History Is Not Destiny

“So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains/ And we never even know we have the key.” ̶ The Eagles. We of the United States have been seen by historians as unique because of our “can-do spirit,” our optimism, our imagination. Those traits manifest themselves in our cures and treatments for diseases, our plentiful food, our arts, our architecture. Our institutions of learning still turn out scientists, business innovators, educators, artists, doctors and nurses.

Yet we also have not one, but two Achilles heels. First, some of us are as fatalistic and hide-bound as the most cynical people of the most under-developed societies. We think that “whatever happens, happens” and we are individually powerless to stop it. Second, because our ancestors fled countries ruled by elites, Americans tend to be anti-intellectual: many distrust authorities, especially when their research gives us inconvenient truths.

Both of these flaws, if not conquered by our positive traits, will be our undoing, individually and nationally.

Now we face two catastrophes that threaten not only the U.S., but all life. First, climate scientists are screaming this truth. “Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future,” warned the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last month.

Second, Russia’s attempted destruction of Ukraine is accelerating climate warming as well as murdering thousands of innocent babies and adults. Wars do that.

Why should all this matter to us in WNC? Remember those August 2021 flash floods that washed away hundreds of homes and other structures, killing several people? Those formerly “hundred-year floods” are now every seventeen years; soon they will drown us in misery and debt every few. The 2016 wildfires we saw burning people to death around Gatlinburg will come for us again.

Win-win-win: Ourselves, our children, our country

“So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains/ And we never even know we have the key.” The Eagles’ songwriter gives us a universal truth. We do hold the key to our destiny.

Today’s descent into catastrophe doesn’t have to happen. Our blood-drenched history of raping and maiming Mother Nature, of wars and genocide do not have to keep happening.

The young adults giving their lives to keep Ukraine free remind us that war is passé, a relic of greed, lust for power, and arrogance. Ukrainians had a life of prosperity thanks to the freedom to get along with one another and with their peers in other free nations.

The young people leading climate mitigation movements are giving their best years to demanding that hide-bound, fossil fuel-funded “leaders” accelerate the transition to sustainable energy. They want leaders to lead, not cave in to cynicism.

What you can do nowChoose your better angels. Choose optimism and determination to save the future. Call your Senators to insist on a strong Build Back Better Act that adheres to scientists' recommendations for mitigating the climate crisis. Next week is too late. Find them at

What you need to know

IPCC issues ‘bleakest warning yet’ on impacts of climate breakdown,”

The WNC Climate Action Coalition is an all-volunteer group working to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis in our region. By WNC CAC volunteer, co-founder and Triple-win Editor Mary Jane Curry Twitter: @WncAction

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