Archive for July, 2008

Hand Wringing

July 17, 2008

I have a beloved on the West Coast (USA) who says that he has no interest in exploring apocalyptic scenarios.  All that hand wringing is just so much wank; we are too clever, too imaginative, and too driven to allow ourselves to self-destruct.  He believes that there will come a point when concern for our life support system will drive the world to work together to make a change.

When he talks, when he builds visions of global cooperation and responsibility, I believe that we might pull it off.  Maybe those new solar cells will be enough, that and the new batteries, and recycling, we’ll get serious about recycling….

But alone, in the dark of night, or even here, in the morning sun, as cars flash by me on the freeway, I’m very certain that it won’t happen that way. 

“If you’re going to write, then write about solutions,” he says.  I feel guilty because I’m not pouring my heart into making the world change.  I’m only watching: watching as the world spins along, spins away, everyone knowing that this is our place and this is how we are and this is how it will always be.

My beloved who lives in the Midwest says, “You aren’t thinking out of the box.  West Coast is right; if you’re going to complain, you should also offer solutions.  There are solutions, and it won’t get as bad as you think.”

James Lovelock is convinced that the only way the human race will survive is if it fully embraces nuclear power.

Most agrologists think that breadbasket-growing belts won’t disappear, but simply shift.

The Dutch are designing floating homes.

Dr. Dennis M. Bushnell, chief scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center, suggests that “Mega-Engineering” such as sunshades in space, triggering volcanoes, or altering the albedo via nano-particulates will avert severe climate change.

In Collapse, Jarred Diamond suggests that the key is starting early enough and working together. To our advantage, the ideas are out there. Many, many people are working right now on solutions, on adaptations.

These are things that need our attention.


Well, Golly!

July 11, 2008

There was much self-congratulatory back slapping going on at the close of the G-8 summit in Japan.

“Three or four years ago, President Bush was saying global warming didn’t exist. So, in relation to that, we have seen quite a lot of movement. But in relation to what’s needed, it’s way, way, off the mark.”

Max Lawson, Oxfam International

Pretty much what happened was this: The leaders present at the summit agreed that, well, golly, the world does seem to be getting a might warm; we should do something about that.

But world leaders aren’t willing or able to convince their populations that we are living in a time of environmental crisis. The United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain Russia and Japan pledged to “move toward a low-carbon society” by cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050. No guidelines were set, nothing really definite, just an agreement that global warming is really happening and we should really do something about it.

The thing is, we humans have a really rotten track record when it comes to this type of thing. Since the Kyoto Protocol, which had an objective of “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,” was adopted in 1997, Japan’s, as well as the rest of the world’s, carbon emissions have actually increased.

Even if we, and I mean all of us, working together, are able to curb emissions to the level that this summit envisions, such a small reduction so late in the game will have little effect on the coming crisis. Instead of a 50% reduction by 2050, if we want to avert total ecological disaster, we need to reduce emissions 50% by 2020, and 90% by 2050.

I have little hope that this will happen.

Yvo de Boer, who heads the U.N.-led global negotiations to forge a new climate change treaty, said in an Associated Press telephone interview from his home in the Netherlands: “I don’t find the outcome very significant.” He added that the summit’s vague pledge to work toward slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050 mentioned no baseline, did not appear to be legally binding and was open to vastly different interpretations.

We will continue on, as we are, wringing our hands and watching in confoundment as the world changes, as the species die, as the oceans warm and acidify, as human populations starve and civilizations disintegrate. It will happen so fast that it will take our breath away.