Deus ex Machina

I’ve been quiet for a while.  Sometimes it just gets too much and I have to step away.

The big environmental news story on MSN today is that beer drinkers might have to pay more for their brew.

I wonder how many people know that scientists were shocked to see how fast Antarctica’s Wilkens Ice sheet is breaking up.

It takes an awful lot to shock a scientist.

I wonder how many people know that “If global emissions of CO2 from human activities continue to rise on current trends then the average pH of the oceans could fall by 0.5 units (equivalent to a three fold increase in the concentration of hydrogen ions) by the year 2100. This pH is probably lower (more acidic) than has been experienced for hundreds of millennia and, critically, this rate of change is probably one hundred times greater than at any time over this period. The scale of the changes may vary regionally, which will affect the magnitude of the biological effects.” The Royal Society, Ocean Acidification Due To Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, 2005 (my ephasis)

I wonder if people know that scientists who thought that the arctic ice cap would be ice-free by 2070 are now predicting that it’ll be ice-free by 2015?

I know that there is a growing sense of unease. But I don’t think that decreasing our use of shopping bags is going to make much of a difference. It might make people feel better, but it will not deflect the load of buckshot that has already fired and is speeding toward our collective faces.

“Deus ex Machina” is a latin phrase — “God from the machine.” In Greek theater, when all was lost, God would jump out of a box and save the day.

I’m going to school, to University, and I’m surrounded by young people every day. Eating, laughing, studying, typing away on their laptops, chatting on their cell phones, they are seemingly unconcerned by their future. They talk about their future as if the world will always be as it is right now.

And it’s certainly not just the 20-somethings. I hear 40-somethings talking about their retirement funds and whether they are saving enough to support themselves when they are in their eighties.

I look around at all of this and I wonder if any of the current world governments will survive through the end of this century. I wonder if the ocean die-off will be gradual or quick. I wonder what will happen when their is no more money left for public schools, public housing and public medical care. I wonder what will happen when we face starvation in the cities.

We aren’t saving ourselves, and the hand of God or science will not sweep away the self-inflicted death-shot flying toward us that is our future.

Sometimes I have to set it aside and think about the day — getting kids to school, making dinner, walking the dog, listening to the first birds of spring, lifting my face to the late day sun. Sometimes I have to just take a deep breath and think about my own personal plan.

I wonder how many other people, these people who are seemingly unconcerned, are like me.


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7 Responses to “Deus ex Machina”

  1. Fran Manns Says:

    The report on my imminent death is premature. I have been sloshing around in the basins on the crust for more than four billion years. I now cover 80 per cent of the planet. Your CO2 output is infinitesimally small. Since the last ice age I have lifted myself out of the basin by 120 metres and scared the tribes of Noah to the higher ground. During deep time I became the universal solvent for the volcanoes and the clouds. I have taken up as much salt as required by local circumstances and sometimes give it back in hot shallows and desert areas of my world. I have given man the salt in his blood. I have absorbed as much gas as I need to maintain balance with the organic world within me and on land. The exchange is so peaceful that science calls it equilibrium. I can absorb more CO2, if the plants do not need it, and it does not give me acid imbalance. My pH will remain basic no matter what you say. These variations you measure have come and gone many uncountable times on the planet and your baseline is too small to know the truth. What you do not get is that warming of the oceans releases CO2 and other gasses from my water, while cooling my water s allows me to take up CO2 in vast amounts to nestle with the other molecules in my coldest most remote realms. I can absorb all that man can produce because your impact is feeble compared to my capacity.
    Please watch me with humility for you cannot change me. I am the ongoing sink for the planet, and I am huge. Measure me here and there with your microscopes but know that I will never be that way in that place again. Open your mind to the infinite cycles of chemistry and physics and kneel on my beach. You can only hurt me by not respecting my infinite ability to change chemistry and temperature in all the corners of the seas. My CO2 feeds your plants and your plants provide all the oxygen you breathe. Your base line is infinitesimally small yet your mouth is wide open.

  2. gaiawatch Says:

    You write beautifully.

    The oceans of this planet are awesome and magnificent. They are also finite. I do not believe that our oceans can accept an infinite amount of human waste to no effect. I wish it were so.

    I am not an oceanographer, so I must base my conclusions on the work of the men and women who study the seas.

    The question is not whether we will kill our seas. Our seas have survived much more than humans could ever throw at them. I believe that the seas will eventually recover. The question is how many species will die off. The question is whether humans can survive a massive ocean die-off.

    The Royal Society study that I quoted states: “Organisms will continue to live in the oceans wherever nutrients and light are available, even with ocean acidification. However, from the data available, it is not known if organisms at the various levels in the food web will be able to adapt or if one species will replace another. It is also not possible to predict what impacts this will have on the community structure and ultimately if it will affect the services that the ecosystems provide. Without significant action to reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, this may mean that there will be no place in the future oceans for many of the species and ecosystems that we know today.”

  3. Angela Alston Says:

    Not the most cheery post to encounter on a Monday morning.
    It’s sunny up here in Maine, cold and bright, crocuses
    in my friend’s backyard. Hard to believe cataclysmic
    change is taking place. But definitely a helpful kick in the pants.
    Thanks for these musings–I’ve linked freely.

  4. gaiawatch Says:

    Niijii Films. Lovely name.

    No, not the cheeriest. I would like to see the film; I have you bookmarked.

    I am constantly amazed by those who think that it’s all just a load of hype. We are frogs in a warming pot, eh? Tragic that it is coming both too fast and too slow.

  5. colonel Says:

    Colonel says : I absolutely agree with this !

  6. Mary Says:

    For me it comes in flashes. I remember, all of a sudden as I’m driving home from work, that this is all kind of a virtual reality, that my work and my way of life, all the people I know, the school I work for, we’re all skating along on a thin sheet of ice. There are other realities. There are people being bombed. There are children dying of hunger. There are homeless people who sleep near building vents on newspaper in the winter. And, under all of us, the ice is melting.

    A friend commented yesterday that all this sunshine was driving away their winter depression. I wanted to feel happy for her. I remember growing up in the midwest and what the end of February felt like. I think about winter depression, full spectrum light bulbs… and that we’re sliding, sliding down. I think about the maple trees. Or, closer to home, the Redwoods my son and I planted at the school. I live in northern California now, and I watch when things bloom. I keep track of it for my ring-times with the children. I think of the children, of my most fiery boy and how difficult he is. I bring what I can to the children, through story, through gardening, through the circles. I work at a Waldorf school. When I was doing my teacher training and instructor once said, “This is the education environmentalists should be demanding for their children.” It’s not environmental news for 6-year-olds. It isn’t knowing who is on the endangered species list, or what is happening to our world at 6. It is gnomes and fairies. Magic and fairy tales. It is guarding, protecting, revering. Gardening. Celebrating. Walking. Playing with wool and wood and silk. We need these difficult strong outrageous children. Who knows what they will be up against. They need to remember a time when the earth was beautiful and that they celebrated the first leaves on the mulberry trees and the day that the daffodil first bloomed after watching for it for days. My difficult boy is a handful at six. But we worked all last spring on how to handle the snails he found in the garden. He has quite the attitude lately and it is driving us a bit crazy. But I figure he’ll need it.

    Often I know who I can talk to. I say, “Jeff, are we going to get any rain Is winter going to come back?” He volunteers at Stebbins and gives tours at Cold Canyon. Both of his daughters have been in my kindergarten. We’ve taken field trips to their house, seen their parents’ wind turbin from a hill covered with vetch (and came down wearing green and purple wreaths), we’ve run through a field of fava beans and discovered snakes sleeping under planks of wood. One year we took the class on a field trip to Cold Canyon and learned about birds from “the Birdman”, courtesy of Nature’s Theater. Jeff says, “Yes. Winter is coming back.” I look at him and wonder – did he see the weather reports? Is it going to rain? He continues, “It has to rain.” Oh. Yea. It does.

    • gaiawatch Says:

      I find posts like yours comforting, because it means that there are a lot of people thinking about this.

      It has been very cold this week. I live on the southern shore of Lake Superior, and it’s been below zero Fahrenheit most of this week. The cold feels like a gasp of breath — like when someone is struggling to breathe, and they get in a gasp of breath that revives them for a bit. And there’s that little bit of hope; maybe it won’t be so bad, maybe we have time, maybe we can save some of it all.

      I love your descriptions of your fierce little people. Yes, I think that they will need their fierceness and their ingenuity and their memories of the daffodils.

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