Here in Walla Walla, sometimes it's difficult to comprehend the idea that climate change is already irreversibly altering our planet at an ever-increasing rate.
But at this point climate change is no longer a problem that can be ignored. As environmental author Bill McKibben describes it in his book on the effects of climate change, "Eaarth," "We have travelled to a new planet, propelled on a burst of carbon dioxide. That new planet, as is often the case in science fiction, looks more or less like our own but clearly isn't."
Even from Walla Walla, it is impractical to continue living as before. It's time to pay attention to our individual choices, and try to influence the political choices of those who represent us.
Unfortunately, researching the Democratic and Republican environmental platforms does not yield many practical promises.
In 2008, Barack Obama outlined a cap-and-trade system aimed at reducing carbon emissions from large industries. The new Democratic platform seems weaker on domestic climate change legislation. It claims the national threat from climate change is "real, urgent, and severe," but there are few specific points outlining solutions.
The Republican 2012 platform mentions climate change once in its entire 62 pages. It acknowledges the importance of natural resources and recreational opportunities provided by the environment, and emphasizes how science "allows us to weigh the costs and benefits of a policy so that we can prudently deal with our resources."
When it comes to conservation, the main driving force behind the Republican's platform is economics. History has shown that once economics became involved with the science of climate change, however, public doubt and uncertainty arose and prevented solutions.
There has been a consensus among scientists about global warming and its human causes for decades, but scientists with more political agendas were responsible for making the issue seem more like a debate than a certainty.
As McKibben puts it in "Eaarth," climate change was "a huge experiment. We've never watched it happen before, so we didn't know how to proceed."
To prevent excessive spending, politicians and the media often downplayed global warming's severity.
But now, the facts are indisputable. On a national scale, it has been extremely difficult to make progress in protecting our planet because of politics and media. It's time to focus on what we can do as individuals, and elect officials who can create a change from the local level.