Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day

Preface: This ended up being even more depressing than I expected. You might want to read some of my other "Climate Change" posts instead.

I have been uninspired by this for the last few days; I think it's because it's just so depressing to me right now. There has been a fair amount of science journalism by press release the last two days about some study saying the Arctic may be ice-free in the next ten years. Yeah, we've heard it before. I'm pretty sure I've seen similar articles saying it could be by the middle of the coming decade, and others saying it might not be until the 2040's or 2050's. I'm not seeing any broad effort by either legislators or large numbers of individuals to make a serious dent in CO2 emissions. Nor am I seeing any serious research recently claiming that the Arctic won't melt off this century.

At the beginning of the decade, the most pessimistic forecasts weren't calling for an Arctic meltdown in the next hundred years.

Now, the most optimistic are saying 30 to 50.

Copenhagen is coming up in December, and the US will be coming to the table with good intentions, and an agenda bought and paid for by the energy and automotive industries.

So forgive me if this is a downer of a post. The energy crises of the 1970's really did get my attention; my energy consumption amounts to an average of less than $20 per month in electricity. A third of that is miscellaneous surcharges, fees and taxes. And that's it. Of course, there's consumption directly and indirectly elsewhere- for example, my computer has been plugged in here at the coffee shop since before ten this morning. And I know perfectly well that particular aspects of my life and physiology lend themselves to a low-consumption lifestyle. I tolerate chilly living quarters very well; as long as my apartment is mid-50's or warmer, I'm not even thinking about heat. I have no family, so I don't really need a car (I don't even have a driver's license any more). And on and on.

But here's the thing: I'm one person. I just turned fifty, and I have a slew of health problems. I will not see the worst of the situation we have created for ourselves. Yet I grieve that we as a race, as a culture, and especially as a nation are so greedy and so set in our ways that we willfully ignore a very real threat to our very existence as a species.

Do I believe that continuing our present course with respect to material and energy consumption will lead to the extinction of the human race? I don't know, but I'm pretty well convinced that our present course will lead to a die-back in the range of billions. Do I believe the Arctic will be essentially ice-free in some summer in the next ten years? I don't know, and despite what you may read in news articles written by science journalists who are for the most part science illiterate, neither does anyone else. The point is, we know the risk, but we don't, and never can, have certainty until whatever happens, happens.

We have just spent a day following the metaphorical ups and downs (and happily, in the end, "up") of Balloon Boy. I'm sure I'm not the only one who was mentally castigating the family for what seems like gross irresponsibility in creating such a hazard. I'm happy for everyone involved that it ended well. But it might not have. How often do we take a position of moral outrage against the family or parent who left a loaded gun out, or left the medicine cabinet open, or the parent who ignored signs of mental illness- and who has to live not only with the memory of a dead child, but with the onus bestowed by a number of dead classmates?

Why is it the death of one child grabs us and our emotions, raises our protective instincts to a level of fierce anger, yet a mortal risk to all of them triggers yawns, or even better, enraged cries of "Socialism! Facism! How dare you expect that I should keep my children out of the shadow of foreseeable, obvious and avoidable risk?"

And don't even get me started on the rest of the biota on this poor blighted rock, who did nothing to encourage or deserve our clownish shenanigans.

1 comment:

Bob said...

Downer? Well... only if telling the truth is a "downer". Which, come to think of it, for a huge percentage of the population admitting the truth is a downer.

Well said, anyway.