Nationally recognized environmental author and speaker David Orr challenged Chattanoogans on Tuesday to adapt to climate change because there is no turning it back now.
"We're evicting ourselves from the only paradise we've ever known," Orr told a packed house at Pilgrim Congregational Church. "This is a different era, and every issue you can have is now going to be more complicated because of climate change."
With a talk titled, "Do we have a religious, moral and patriotic responsibility to protect our environment?" Orr noted that the 2 degree centigrade increase in global temperature is the effect of what came from the world's smokestacks and tail pipes 30 years ago.
"But it's not gloom and doom. It's science," he added. "And we will have to think our way through to deal with it."
To cope and make the world better for upcoming generations, he said people must force policy changes for an "ecological design revolution." That change would include climate-proof buildings that power themselves, farming education that produces locally grown food, and education that produces thinkers - not just test-takers.
The technology is available, Orr said, but the public perception of need and the political courage has not been.
"If this isn't a moral issue, there is no moral issue," he told the audience.
Orr, the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College, said the college town of Oberlin, Ohio - population 10,000 - is accepting the challenge.
There the City Council approved a goal to be carbon neutral in three years and obtain an energy efficiency of 75 percent.
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield attended the talk sponsored by the Chattanooga Office of Sustainability.
The mayor praised Orr's message.
"He was challenging and frightening and encouraging, all at the same time," the mayor said. "He's the kind of guy we like to have come to Chattanooga because he helps to refocus our thinking."
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