North Carolina has long prided herself on the wild horses along our Outer Banks coast. Bankers, as they are known, are descendants of Spanish horses brought to the New World in the 16th century. They are compact animals, resourceful enough to have survived for centuries along the Outer Banks in what can be a harsh and unforgiving environment. The few hundred feral horses remaining in North Carolina are a major tourist attraction, the subjects of countless vacation photographs.
Last month, 28 of the 49 Bankers living on Cedar Island were confirmed dead, swept away in a mini-tsunami caused by Hurricane Dorian, a storm that bypassed most of North Carolina’s long coastline but slammed our eastern-most islands. No human beings were lost, but homes and businesses on Ocracoke and Cedar Islands are badly damaged and await state and federal assistance. The National Park Service and several private organizations keep watch on the remaining bankers, but 28 is a major loss.
Climate scientists say Dorian and its extraordinary flooding results from worldwide climate change — some use the terms “climate crisis” or “climate emergency” — that is causing more extreme weather patterns, including higher temperatures and more violent storms.
Less than a month after Dorian’s landfall on Cape Hatteras, a wave of climate change protests erupted around the world as hundreds of thousands of young people rallied, marched and railed against what is happening to Mother Earth. They gathered in cities in Australia, Africa, Asia, the Middle East — and German police reported a gathering of more than 100,000 in Berlin. The message to their elders was simple and stark. Today’s adults and generations before us have been poor stewards of our environment, and it is they — the young people of our world — who will pay the price, which for many will be suffering and death. “Fix it,” they said forcefully in many languages. Fix it now, not in 10 years, but now. Do not push the ball down the road anymore.
Ground zero for the message was the United Nations Climate Action Summit, attended by leaders from all over the globe. Chief messenger to those world leaders was 16-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden, who sailed to New York for 15 days on an emissions-free yacht, instead of flying for a few hours, to save carbon emissions. Her boat was met by young climate activists chanting, “Sea levels are rising and so are we.”
Appearing at the UN conference clearly emotional and enraged, Thunberg told delegates, “We will be watching you.” As for past promises of action on climate change, Thunberg responded, “You have stolen my childhood with your empty words. ... All you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.” Shaking with outrage, Thunberg thundered, “How dare you?”
From the departments of No Good Deed Goes Unpunished and Kill the Messenger come harsh and personal criticism of both Thunberg and her parents, who have supported her environmental activism. Whatever one’s opinions about young Thunberg, it is clear that her heartfelt and powerful message is resonating with young people around the world because it is true. Today’s young people and future generations are indeed the people who will experience whatever calamities climate change brings — not this writer and not many of the people who read this column.
That climate change is occurring is no longer debated by credible scientists and reasonable observers. The debate now is how quickly to address it and how. Thunberg and millions of young people all over the globe are correct in shouting “Now!” for humanity and all other living things, including North Carolina’s bankers.
Last month, 28 of the 49 Bankers living on Cedar Island were confirmed dead, swept away in a mini-tsunami caused by Hurricane Dorian, a storm that bypassed most of North Carolina’s long coastline but slammed our eastern-most islands.