It would be a bit grand to declare Mike Tidwell a prophet.
The Georgia native and award-winning writer dropped by the Carter Center last week to read from his new book, The Ravaging Tide. Tidwell underwent a life-changing experience seven years ago while reporting a travel story in Louisiana. Local folks explained that the Gulf of Mexico was rising while Louisiana's lowlands were sinking. He ended up writing an earlier book, Bayou Farewell, that foreshadowed the devastation Hurricane Katrina would bring to the Gulf Coast.
Back in the D.C. area, where he lives, Tidwell founded a nonprofit to think globally and act locally on global warming, which he concludes was the main cause of rising sea levels. Then, a year ago, Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, and Tidwell's "farewell" suddenly seemed prophetic.
The Ravaging Tide places Katrina in the context of global warming, which scientists believe is generating more powerful hurricanes along with sea-level rise. In the book, Tidwell warns of the "death" that will befall our coastal cities unless we reduce our dependence on coal and oil -- now.
Prophets often aren't heard until it's too late. The Bible's Jeremiah once warned that Babylon would invade Judea and carry the Jews off as slaves. He was imprisoned as a traitor before he was proven correct.
It's not too late, however, for us to respond to the warnings on global warming. Climate-change bell-ringers like Tidwell are backed this time by thousands of scientists who are piling up the data to show that the calamity is occurring already. And most of the solutions -- like relying less heavily on cars -- are pretty much what we know we ought to do anyway. (David Goldberg's guest column touches on that subject; for tips on taking direct action on global warming, check out our blog at clpoliticalparty.com.)
I think we are beginning to listen. There is evidence of that in many little places. Frank Reiss, proprietor of Little Five Points' A Cappella Books, happens to be a college buddy of Tidwell's. So he, together with the Carter Center, got Tidwell down here. A small audience -- perhaps 40 folks -- seemed eager to find ways to turn climate change around. And nobody's thrown Tidwell into prison yet.