What Does God Think of Climate Change?

Always supposing you believe climate change is real (and I do), I have a thought experiment for you. If you believe in God, then what do you think God thinks about what we are doing to our planet? I mean, we’re taking this amazing gift, and we’re basically pooping all over it. My guess is she or it or he would be mighty disappointed in us. If I were God, I’d be totally rethinking this whole “free will” thing. Because we are definitely screwing things up.

Or maybe the old testament got it right, and what we have is a vengeful, fear-inducing God. If that’s the case, then climate change is some form of punishment, and we better start paying attention. The time for basking in our blissful ignorance is long past.

Here’s an even bigger thought experiment for you: Even if you don’t believe in God and/or climate change, please explain to me why it doesn’t make sense to live a green and clean life? What are the disadvantages?

If our actions just boil down to laziness, selfishness, greed and a basic resistance to change, then God doesn’t even need to be in this equation. We should all be disappointed in ourselves.

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What I Thought America Meant

When I was little, I was taught that I lived in the greatest country in the entire world. I thought we set the best example, and that based on that example, other countries would aspire to be better, and someday the whole world would be just as wonderful as we were.

Everyone would be free. There would be no war. Every individual would have equal opportunities. The world would be one big safe, happy, teddy bear of a place. I was so proud. I felt so lucky to be an American.

To me, America meant generosity, compassion, justice, safety, equality, freedom, dedication, love, and integrity.

If you had told me back then that I’d become increasingly ashamed over time, I’d have been pretty darned disappointed. Disgusted is the word, actually. And even horrified every once in a while. (Simply because I can’t work up the energy to maintain horror for long periods.)

How must the rest of the planet view us when we say things like domestic and gang violence are no longer valid reasons for asylum? What happened to “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free”?

And when did we become okay with children being yanked away from their parents? Do we think those traumatized children will grow up admiring us for that? Do we think those children deserve punishment? Guilt by association?

We were supposed to be the poster child for human rights. Are we? When our president shakes hands with Kim Jong-Un, the worst human rights abuser currently alive, and says he’ll “probably have a very good relationship” with him, it doesn’t do much for that image.

I also thought we’d be the saviors of the world. But we are one of its worst polluters, biggest consumers, and we live in a culture of selfishness and waste. We can’t even hold on to our national parks, which is an embarrassment, because we were the first country to even conceive of them. The planet cries out for us to take climate change seriously, even as some of them are sinking into the sea, and instead of setting an example, we back out of the Paris Accord.

Apparently we value the profits of gun manufacturers more than the lives of our children. We allow the very worst of our law enforcement officers to become murderers without any real consequences. We step over our homeless veterans in the streets. And we don’t seem to think anyone has a right to health care.

We elected a man who brags about grabbing pussies, thinks that white supremacy is acceptable, and uses Twitter to lie without remorse. We take great strides to make it difficult to vote, but that’s probably a waste of energy when no one can seem to be bothered to do so anyway. We spend more time keeping up with the Kardashians than we do with the real current events that actually impact our day to day lives.

We have become fat and bloated by our laziness and greed. We flaunt our hate. We exaggerate our fear. We demonize education and journalism. We are not who we said we would be.

I once told a cousin that America is an experiment. You’d think I had peed in his Post Toasties. How dare I say that?

Well, Cuz, do you still think we are solid as a rock, unchanging, and will last forever? Do you really think that this thing we have become has staying power, above all other regimes that have come and gone throughout history? Are we a shining example of the best of humanity? Have we reached some bright pinnacle? Should everyone want to be just like us?

I wish I could be that little girl again, with the star spangled banner eyes. I wish I was full of optimism and hope for this country’s future. I wish I still thought I was one of the good guys.

But I have to ask: Are we becoming our best selves? Because if we can’t do better than this, if we don’t want to do better than this, then there’s really no hope. And that scares me.

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Frozen Moss and Other New Experiences

I recently spent a silly amount of time walking around on the frozen moss in my front yard. It makes the kind of satisfying crunch sound that you usually only get from really high-end granola. You can feel it radiating up through the soles of your shoes. And the light sparkles off it like diamonds. These are experiences I missed out on in Florida. (Even if we had had moss there, it would rarely have frozen.)

That got me thinking about other experiences I’m having for the first time in my 50’s that most residents of the Pacific Northwest, at least here in Seattle, probably take for granted. For example:

  • It feels funny to go to the beach and walk on rocks instead of sand. It feels even funnier to know that the water will most likely be way too cold to swim in, even in the height of summer.
  • Speaking of rocks, there are large ones. Everywhere.
  • And people protest here. A lot. Most people in Florida can’t be bothered. It’s too freakin’ hot, and they’re too freakin’ old.
  • Now that I’m familiar with the mountain ranges, I can use them to orient myself. I have a constant sense of which direction on the compass I’m facing at any given time, even at high noon.
  • For the first time in my life I can state my liberal views and feel fairly certain I’m in the majority, rather than anticipate being looked upon in horror or disdain. I do not miss being the only liberal turd in a conservative punch bowl.
  • I’ve been here over two years now, and I’ve never seen a single person, not one, doing the car boogie. I do it all the time. Here, I get funny looks. What’s wrong with you people?
  • Here you can approach the edge of a lake without worrying about being attacked by an alligator. What a concept.
  • I had no idea how wonderfully caramel and salt go together until I got here.
  • I had never shopped at a Trader Joe’s until I got here. Now I’m addicted.
  • I had never driven in snow. I didn’t even know that de-icer existed.
  • I thought I knew what cherries were supposed to taste like. What a poor, deprived fool I was!
  • I’m seeing birds I’d never seen before.
  • People not only turn on their car’s lights when they’re in a funeral procession, they also flash their hazard lights. Because EVERYBODY here drives with their car lights on. Always.
  • Here, salmon is relatively affordable. I could count the number of times I’d eaten it on one hand prior to coming to Seattle.
  • There are prejudices against groups I didn’t even know existed. That’s a strange concept. It makes you realize how ridiculous prejudice is.
  • Almost everyone I meet here actually reads books. I thought I was the only one who did that.

You just have no idea how insular your life is until you experience the otherness of someplace else. I sometimes feel like a foreigner in my own country. It’s very exciting. I highly recommend it.

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Vowels, Consonants, Climate

I just love National Public Radio! It constantly causes me to look at the world through a whole new lens. This story, in particular, almost made me late for work because I refused to get out of my car until I’d heard the whole thing. Language lover that I am, now I’m even more focused on the sounds that we humans produce because of what I’ve learned from this report.

It seems that recently many linguists have developed a theory that the languages that have evolved over time are influenced by the climate in which one lives. It seems that the sounds of consonants are much easier to hear in open, arid, and temperate terrain. On the other hand, those consonants become muffled in humid areas with a lot of dense vegetation.

What they seem to be finding is that the more tropical the climate, the more vowel-heavy the language tends to be. Granted, this is a highly simplistic conclusion, and requires much more study. Obviously there are many factors that influence language over the centuries. But it’s still a very fascinating proposition.

They’ve noted that this theory works with birdsong as well. Many tropical birds have more vowel-rich songs, because succeeding generations imitate what they’re able to hear, and if the consonants get muffled, they leave them off.

I look forward to hearing more about this as they study it in more depth. In the meantime, I will just luxuriate in the waters of this brand new perspective. Care to join me?

When it's this freakin' humid, even the consonants can't be bothered to move.
When it’s this freakin’ humid, even the consonants can’t be bothered to move.

The Climate of my Childhood

The first 10 years of my life I lived in Connecticut. After that we moved to Florida, with its foreign, subtropical climate and 3 inch long cockroaches. I always felt as if I were in a third world country. This would never feel like “home” to me.

Now I’m in Seattle, and the climate is very similar to that of Connecticut, although the winters aren’t nearly as harsh. Just like in New England, the leaves change colors in the fall here, and apples grow. You see all sorts of flowers that come from bulbs that did not thrive in Florida. Daffodils. Tulips, Irises, Crocuses. And other plants like Forsythia and Lilac and Pussy Willows.

I can’t tell you how much emotion is evoked in me by seeing these things again. These were the flowers my mother adored. They filled the yards where I used to play. Feeling soft grass and moss beneath my feet again and smelling the loamy earth rather than the lime-laden sand of Florida nearly brings tears to my eyes.

Even though I had never set foot in Washington State until I moved here 6 months ago, everywhere I turn, it feels as if Mother Nature is saying, “Welcome home.” And that means everything to me.

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[Image credit: soltygardencentre.com]

Nature Calls

I love to observe nature as it unfolds around me, and I’ve moved from a subtropical climate to a temperate one, so a lot has changed. I don’t even recognize many of the bird calls here, and I’m sure encountering plant life that I’ve never seen before. It some ways Washington reminds me a lot of the Connecticut of my childhood, but in other ways it’s kind of like being on another planet. How exciting!

One of the first things I did upon moving to Seattle was to log on to Amazon.com and purchase a copy of the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest. If they publish a guide to your region, I highly recommend that you get one. This book is like nature’s bible, and it’s really helping me get used to this area.

Audubon Guides are very comprehensive. They describe the area’s topography and geology, fossils, habitats, weather, and even what you can expect to see in the night sky in any given season. (I was distressed to discover that I’ll only be able to see Orion well in the winter. That was the favorite constellation of my late boyfriend, and it always makes me feel connected to him.)

These guides also give you detailed images and descriptions of the local flora and fauna. They even give you a picture of the various animal tracks. It’s amazing the variety of squirrels, rabbits, birds, and beetles that live here that I didn’t even know existed. (I look forward to meeting a hoary marmot so I can commiserate with him about his name.) There’s also a detailed section about the parks and preserves in the region, and I hope to explore every single one of them.

It’s a bit of a culture shock being a bridgetender in a different part of the country. In Florida I used to sit at work and gaze at alligators, nutria, dolphins, manatee and ospreys. Now I see peregrine falcons, harbor seals, and salmon. It’s a different world. But if it means I never have to see another scorpion, water moccasin or two inch cockroach (they actually have a display of them here at the local zoo! Shudder…) I’ll be happy as a pacific littleneck clam, as described on page 177 of my guidebook.

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[Image credit: wikipedia.org]

Climate Change: Points to Ponder

I think the worst thing that could have happened to those of us who hope to educate others about the dangers of climate change is one word. Warming. If it weren’t for the term “Global Warming”, people would be more able to focus on the facts rather than the terminology. Climate change deniers cling to the word warming as if it were a life ring in storm-tossed seas.

“Look! We had a snow storm in May!!! See? Global WARMING doesn’t exist!”

Poor short-sighted, deluded people. Because of increasing temperatures there is more moisture in the air. Ever notice that it’s more humid in the summer than in the winter? When increased moisture hits a cold front, what happens? Snow. And a crap load of it. Yup, snow is cold. But that doesn’t mean the earth isn’t getting warmer. It’s a complex system, people, and one which we learn more about with each passing year. But before I get into some facts that can’t be ignored, I have two sets of questions for those who so desperately want to cling to the status quo:

1)      What do you think scientists would gain by making all of this up? Do they WANT the end of the world as we know it? Why? Do you really think there aren’t plenty of other areas of scientific pursuit that they could, well, pursue? Do you really think that thousands of scientists, from various countries, races, religions and creeds are in a global conspiracy to terrify the populous so that they can keep their jobs or alter the economy in some diabolical way? You give them a great deal of power.

2)      Even if you are right and global warming doesn’t exist, why would you NOT want to do things in an environmentally friendly way? Are you in love with garbage, pollution, undrinkable water, the death of one species after another, and air that is increasingly dangerous to breathe? Do you want that for your children? Is it just laziness, or do you really prefer that sort of planet?

Okay, here are some points to ponder and some facts to feast upon:

  • I often hear people say that a few degrees temperature difference won’t matter much, surely. But if your baby’s average temperature is a few degrees higher, especially on a regular basis, you’d panic. You’d take that child to the hospital, as you know that such things are fatal. So too with our life on this planet.
  • Hurricanes are decreasing, but becoming stronger, and now they’re coming as much as 100 miles inland.
  • Islands are disappearing. The sea has risen 8 inches since 1870. It is expected to rise anywhere from 16 to 56 inches by 2100. The following island groups are already threatened: Kiribati, Maldives, Seychelles, Torres Strait Islands, Tegua, Solomon Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Carteret Islands, and Tuvalu, as well as the country of Bangladesh, where they’re learning how to grow their crops on floating rafts. They never had to do that in the past. Don’t believe me? Talk to the people who are on the brink of being displaced.
  • Most scientists agree that temperature stability relies on 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere or less. Anything more than that spells disaster. This carbon comes, for the most part, from the burning of fossil fuels. Coal is carbon. Oil is carbon. When we burn it, it doesn’t just disappear. That carbon still exists, and it’s now in our atmosphere. Humans are responsible for this. There’s no getting around that. Sadly, in 2012, we were already at a steady 390 parts per million. On May 9th, for the first time, NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory recorded daily concentrations of 400 parts per million. This doesn’t fluctuate downward. It’s a steady and ever increasing rise.
  • Deserts are burning. Other areas are flooding. You’ve seen it.
  • Arctic summer sea ice has shrunk roughly 34% since 1979. The arctic summer could be ice free by mid-century. In the past 50 years glaciers have lost more than 2,000 cubic miles of water. That can be observed by the human eye, and all that water has to go somewhere.
  • Ice reflects the heat of the sun back into space. When it’s gone, what you have is dark land and water, both of which hold heat. This is a downward spiral that any person with a modicum of logic can follow.
  • For the past 3 decades the oceans’ surface temperatures have been higher than any other time in recorded history.
  • Coral reefs are dying.
  • A lot of Australia is in permanent drought. Farms have been abandoned forever because of firestorms. Just ask the people of Victoria about the walls of fire that killed hundreds. This has never happened before.

I know what you’re thinking. This is just a cycle. The planet has gone through cycles before. That’s true. It can’t be denied. In the Pleistocene we had ice and arctic deserts. At other times the ice caps melted and the planet was mostly ocean. The earth is a subtle system with subtle cycles that are millions of years apart. The creatures living during the Pleistocene wouldn’t have noticed a change, however, because it wasn’t occurring within decades like it is now.  It wasn’t even occurring within centuries. We’re talking millions of years. The change we’re seeing now is not a cyclical planetary change.

And another argument is that scientists make mistakes. True enough. People once believed the earth was flat. They also believed the sun rotated around the earth. Does that mean that all science should be discounted? We learn more and more over time. We stand upon the shoulders of those who came before us, mistakes and all. The more data we accumulate, the more accurate our knowledge becomes.

Argument number three: Al Gore is an idiot who doesn’t practice what he preaches. Okay, let’s stipulate that that’s true if it gives you some sort of perverse comfort. How does that negate the findings of thousands of scientists? I personally think Carrie Nation was an extremist crackpot, but that doesn’t mean I discount the fact that alcohol ruins many people’s lives. Go to any AA meeting throughout the world and you can hear it firsthand.

Stop listening to the lunatic fringe. Stop desperately clinging to beliefs that are not based on evidence simply because you would rather not alter your current lifestyle. Think for yourself. Look around. Apply some common sense before it’s too late for you, because here’s the thing: the earth will survive, even if it’s just a barren, lifeless rock floating through space. It’s humanity that’s in danger. And you can see that with your own eyes, once you let go of the word “warming” and actually pay attention. And yet half the people I know don’t even bother to recycle, which is the world’s simplest of first steps. How hard is it to recycle? Come on.

Here’s another thought: if I’m right about global warming, then we all need to make changes. If we don’t, it will be fatal. On the other hand, if I’m wrong about global warming, then we don’t need to make changes, but if we do make them, how’s it going to hurt? Is there something wrong with the concept of conserving our resources, for example? I say it’s better to err on the side of caution, especially if it’s something that has to do with life on earth. To do otherwise would be the height of stupidity and selfishness.

If you want to get some amazing ideas about things you can do in your community on a grass roots level, things that can only be good for the planet whether you believe scientists or not, then visit the website 350.org.

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(Image credit: debonofoods.com)

Weather, ’tis Nobler

Whenever we are at a loss for something to say or things are on the verge of getting awkward, we talk about the weather. That’s because it’s the one thing that we all have in common. All of us have experienced some form of extreme weather, whether it be storms or extreme heat or extreme cold. We all have our stories.

If you think about it, the weather is the Switzerland of all conversation topics. On this one subject, we can remain neutral. We can discuss it without regard to race, creed, or culture. The weather cares not one whit about our politics, our bank accounts or our sexual orientation. The rain falls on us all.

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The weather is also our constant companion. We can try to avoid it by staying indoors, basking in front of a roaring fire, cooling off in the air conditioning, or vacationing in a nicer climate, but it’s still there, surrounding us, taking us into its sunny or snowy or windy or wet embrace whether we like it or not. And as much effort as we put into trying to predict it, the weather still tends to surprise us on a fairly regular basis.

Many of us change our lives for the weather. People retire to Florida or the mountains for a reason. Death Valley and Antarctica are generally deserted for a reason.

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I guess the whole point of this ramble, other than the fact that I couldn’t think of anything else to write about, is that we manage to live peaceably with the weather, despite the fact that we have a love/hate relationship with it, and it looms larger than anything else in our lives. There may be a lesson in there somewhere.