I started writing posts about climate change back in 2013. I’m sure I would have written about it sooner, but I only started blogging back in December, 2012. All my posts on the subject back then seemed dire and anxious and urgent.
The good news is that I no longer feel like I’m the only one who is concerned. According to this article, the number of Americans who are alarmed about climate change has more than doubled since back then. And this article from Newsweek says that now only 10 percent of us are non-believers. The bad news is that we’re still not doing enough to stop it. In fact, many scientists believe we’re past the point of being able to do so. But we’re not even doing enough to slow it down. Frustration is mounting, yet political inaction still rules the day. There’s just too much profit still to be had from fossil fuels. To hell with the fact that we’re killing our grandchildren.
Today I read an article that broke my heart. Entitled, “The least-visited country in the world may be the first to disappear”, it discusses the tiny country of Tuvalu, nestled halfway between Australia and Hawaii. At this point, it doesn’t really stand a chance. And it’s the fault of humanity. Can you imagine having your country washed away? Can you imagine intentionally making that happen? Well, mission accomplished. We are doing this.
If you really want your heart broken, read this speech that the Prime Minister of Tuvalu gave to the United Nations back in 2007. He is all but begging them to prevent his nation, language, and unique culture from dying. And yet we did nothing. And here we are.
I know that people prefer not to dwell on bad news. I know it is so much easier if this is someone else’s problem to solve. But this is everyone’s problem now. It’s just that some of us will be treading water sooner than others, and the rest of us will be fighting for a foothold on our ever-shrinking, sun-blasted land masses. Shame on us.
For a basic primer on climate change, read my blog post from 2013 entitled Climate Change: Points to Ponder. The most discouraging thing about that post is that every single ponderous point has been proven to be true. Nealy 10 years later, I stand by every word.
Sometimes I have no idea how I get so lucky. Taking a Cruise from Seward, Alaska to Vancouver, British Columbia was one of those times. I had this thought, in particular, while sitting on the balcony of my stateroom on Holland America’s Noordam, while gazing at the many glaciers of Glacier Bay National Park. This is the life.
Glacier Bay can only be reached by plane or boat, so I really appreciated seeing the park rangers come alongside the cruise ship to do what they call a “controlled crash” and climb up the rope ladder with everything they needed to set up their visitor center on the ship.
We saw at least 8 glaciers, the most spectacular of which were Johns Hopkins Glacier and my personal favorite, Margerie Glacier, with its spectacular, vivid blue, craggy face. The pictures below don’t do them justice. The experience will be stamped permanently on my brain. For that, I’m extremely grateful.
Yes, the glaciers have been receding at an unprecedented, extreme rate. They were calving into the water even as we watched. 95 percent of all scientists in the world agree that this is caused by global climate change which has been brought upon the planet by human activity. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not using science-based logic.
As I took in these glaciers, with the seals cavorting at their feet, I tried not to dwell on the sadness I felt that future generations would not have this view. Rather, I vowed to do what I can to reduce my impact, and I tried to focus on the fact that right here, right now, I was lucky enough to have this view myself. What a gift.
I’m looking forward to a rare day of sunshine here in the Pacific Northwest, and the temperature is expected to rise to a delightful 65 degrees. Spring! Happy dance!
Meanwhile, a dear friend in Kansas had to hunker down the other day in anticipation of 2 to 4 inches of snow. In April. This is not normal. The world has gone mad.
It used to be that the weather was considered to be the safest of all possible topics. We are all told to avoid politics and religion over Thanksgiving dinner, but the weather… we could all agree on that, couldn’t we?
Not anymore. The weather has become political. At a time when California is burning to the ground, islands are sinking beneath the ocean waves, there is severe flooding, drought, dust storms engulfing entire cities, super storms of all kinds, and unprecedented ice cap melting, we are expected to avoid the meteorological elephant in the room. Even governmental websites are deleting any references to global climate change.
I never thought I’d see the day when liberals would be considered the most conservative people on earth, but we are the ones that are wanting to take precautions to safeguard the planet. Even if you don’t believe in the overwhelming science of climate change, even if you refuse to look at the evidence before your very eyes, how can you justify not wanting to take steps, just in case? If this really does turn out to be our last chance to save ourselves, don’t you want to be aboard that ark?
What is wrong with reducing our dependence on fossil fuels? Why not recycle? Would it kill you to plant a tree? Is it really so hard to be a little bit smarter about your water usage? Why is expecting our corporations not to pour their toxic waste into our rivers and streams so controversial?
Seriously. Explain it to me. Because I don’t get it.
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Everyone has probably heard a version of this joke:
“Doc, it hurts when I do this.”
“Then don’t do that.”
Simple, yet effective. And it’s also a source of profound frustration for me, because I’d be that doctor if I could. It’s often the most obvious solutions that are never employed. I want to shake people, sometimes.
For example, here in America we export 1.1 million tons of potatoes, while we also import 1.4 million tons of potatoes. When I think of the fuel costs alone, I want to screech. We do so much harm to the planet by not eating locally and in season. And there’s absolutely no reason for it.
And there are so many creative ways one can ruin one’s life. What fascinates me is that turning point moment — The first time someone takes heroin, for example. What could possibly go wrong? Sheesh.
Is it really so hard for all of us to contemplate consequences? Can we possibly be this short-sighted? Are we incapable of thinking in terms of cause and effect?
Apparently so, or there wouldn’t be so much resistance to the mounting evidence of global climate change.
Apparently so, or no one would have voted for Donald Trump.
It’s as if society at large is at the maturity level of a boy who thinks it’s fun to light his farts on fire.
I spent the first hour of my shift today with a battery operated leaf blower, cleaning off the sidewalks and the bike lanes of my bridge. A clean bridge is a happy bridge. At least that’s my motto. I take pride in showing this drawbridge in its very best light, and in my quarterly reviews it’s usually noted that this is the cleanest bridge in the system.
Leaf blowers are fun. They give you this sense of power that is normally beyond your reach. Out, damned spot! Out I say! You just have to be careful not to get so caught up in your own head trip that you get mowed down by a bicycle. Talk about a reality check.
The only down side to blowing leaves is that you’re not really getting rid of your problem, you’re just relocating it. Which is fine, if you follow through and bag them afterward. But I’ve seen many a landscaper just blow them down the street. “Not my problem anymore.”
Yeah it is. Because a certain percentage of them are going to blow back into your yard eventually. Count on it. And if everyone has your attitude, a whole lot more debris is going to be blown into your yard by the equally lazy people up the street.
This is also why most medical funding is not focused on prevention. Even though prevention has proven time and time again to give you a much better return on your investment, society in general is much more willing to deal with the problems that have already occurred, when there is no longer a choice.
It’s the same with the environment. Does it really surprise anyone that so many people are willing to ignore global climate change? We’re doing all right for the time being. We still can fill our bathtubs and eat our avocados out of season. Why make sacrifices? And I’m not just shaming the climate change deniers, here. I live in one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the entire country, and yet even as I write this I’m looking out on a highway that is so choked with vehicles that they can hardly move. And yes, I drove home to write this.
One of the few problems with short terms for politicians is that they, too, can blow their problematical leaves down the street. “Let someone else deal with the tricky stuff a decade from now, once I’ve retired.” We now find ourselves hip deep in a political leaf storm, people. Having fun?
Humanity has a lot of growing up to do. We have to start behaving like adults. We need to take responsibility. We need to act with integrity. We need to take society’s ills seriously even if we aren’t feeling particularly feverish as individuals.
It’s time to start bagging up our leaves.
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It must be awfully stressful to be a climate change denier. If you fall into that category, I have to admire your tenacity, your grit, your firmness of conviction. Especially in light of the fact that fewer and fewer people agree with you.
According to a Gallup Poll in March, 2016, 64 percent of Americans are extremely concerned about it, up from the all-time recorded low of 51 percent back in 2011. And 65 percent of us believe global warming is caused by human activities.
And scientists (the ones who study these things, after all), are even more definitive. According to Wikipedia, “A survey found 97% agreed that global temperatures have increased during the past 100 years; 84% say they personally believe human-induced warming is occurring, and 74% agree that ‘currently available scientific evidence’ substantiates its occurrence.”
No one likes to be a member of an ever-shrinking group, but hey, you are entitled to your opinion. And opinions don’t have to have anything at all to do with facts. For example, I am of the opinion that cranberries are torture devices that get trotted out every Thanksgiving. You don’t have to agree with me.
Even so, I’m sure we can find some common ground. For example, most of us should be able to agree that we need to take care of the planet on which we live, for ourselves and for future generations. It’s the only planet we’ve got, right? We can all agree that our actions have consequences, even if we don’t agree about what those consequences will be.
So it’s official. I will no longer judge you harshly for being of an opinion that flies in the face of science. I will no longer ridicule you for having a belief that is so foreign to my own. Don’t you feel better already? I do. What a load off our minds. Group hug!
But in exchange, I’m going to double down on you if you neglect or abuse the planet. Just as I would be wrong to go out and destroy all the cranberry bogs, so you would be wrong to negatively impact the earth. Fair’s fair.
If you aren’t willing to stand on that common ground, then I can only conclude that your agenda is far more nefarious, and you might want to take a hard look at your level of selfishness, laziness, and greed. In that case, you’d feel a whole lot better if you simply come clean and admit that it isn’t that you don’t believe in global warming. It’s actually that you don’t give a shit.
But I’d like to have more faith in you than that. I think you can believe what you will and still do what you must. Your actions mean much more to me than your thoughts. Especially if you’re choosing to be thoughtless.
Recently I listened to a speech by Noam Chomsky on my local NPR station, and one of the many things he said that struck me was that given the unprecedented rise in temperatures on this planet, it’s as if we all are moving 10 meters south every single day. Okay, that kind of freaked me out.
First of all, I hate moving. The thought of having to do it every day leaves me cold (or in this case, hot, I suppose). Second, it took me 40 years to get out of the South, and now I’m being dragged slowly back to it? No! Not fair!
Just out of curiosity, I decided to do the math. First, I had to find the latitude of Seattle, Washington, which is 47.6097N. Then I had to find the latitude of Jacksonville, Florida, my old stomping grounds. That turns out to be 30.3369 N.
Now, we’re going to pretend that Jacksonville is directly south of Seattle instead of being on the opposite side of the continent or this is going to get waaaaaaay beyond my math skills and patience.
Next, I had to figure out what that converts to in (due south) miles. This gets complicated, because the earth is all curvy and stuff. (And all you flat earth folks, don’t flame me. I’m not interested.) So I went to the NOAA Latitude/Longitude Distance calculator, and pretending that both cities were at a longitude of 122.3331 W, I discovered that that’s a distance of 1,193 miles.
But good old Noam, being the science-oriented guy that he is, gave us our southward drift in meters. So I also had to convert to metric. Sigh. That means it will stop being mentally imaginable to me, but here you go: 1,193 miles is 1,919 kilometers, or 1,919,000 meters.
So, if I’m drifting 10 meters south every day, that means it will take me 191,900 days to get back to Jacksonville’s latitude. That’s more than 525 years. (And if you mention that I forgot to allow for the extra day every leap year, I’ll slap you silly. This is a thought experiment, people!)
Whew! I can actually live with that. Mainly because I won’t be alive. And besides, I’d in fact land in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Baja California. And that may as well be Jacksonville at that point, because Jacksonville will be completely submerged, as will most of the rest of Florida. Lucky for me, the vast majority of Seattle will remain high and dry. That is, if the next major earthquake hasn’t dumped it into the sea.
But even though I wouldn’t be literally drifting southward into the ocean, and supposing Seattle hasn’t been earthquaked into oblivion, it will be hot, and the climate will be so drastically altered that the city will look nothing like its current lush, green, beflowered, beautiful self. But still, my toes won’t be getting all pruny.
Of course, there’d be the refugees from other flooded states and nations desperately trying to find places to live and totally invading my space along with a population that had already exploded beyond comprehension, and they’d be using up all the drinking water and fighting over what few fresh vegetables were left… Shades of Soylent Green or Waterworld.
I don’t know about you, but this thought experiment has stopped being fun. But if you’re a glutton for punishment and really want an eye opening experience, go to the Surging Seas website and type in various coastal cities. It will tell you what’s going to happen if we don’t get our act together and drastically cut carbon emissions.
We need to stop bringing snowballs to Capitol Hill and start taking action. Otherwise future generations will curse our names, and laugh bitterly at our stupidity. All this while figuratively drifting ever southward.
In the past, I’ve written about the plight of the bees and the plight of the bats. Frankly, I haven’t had the heart to write about the fact that our butterflies and frogs and coral reefs are disappearing, too. It’s just too depressing.
And then just the other day a friend told me about Starfish Wasting Disease. I guess I hadn’t heard about it because until recently I lived back east, and we had problems of our own. Apparently this disease was first detected in 2013, and now it’s estimated that 95 percent of the starfish on the west coast of North America, from California to Alaska, are dead. That’s millions of starfish. And this is a ghastly virus, folks. Within days of contracting it, their legs curl up and pull away from their bodies, and then they turn to mush. Horrible. Nightmarish.
There’s not nearly enough funding being allocated to study this tragedy. Probably because we don’t eat starfish, so people are not as concerned as they should be. And they should be, because this virus is in our oceans, and could jump to other species. Species that are a vital link in the food chain that leads back to us.
Scientists suspect that the reason this virus has been able to spread so quickly at this point in time is that the oceans have been unusually warm. And that, of course, is directly related to global climate change. For the love of God, how much more evidence do you need?
I was just watching the movie Pretty Woman, and in it, Richard Gere as Edward Lewis says, “It’s just that, uh, very few people surprise me.” Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward replies, “Yeah, well, you’re lucky. Most of ‘em shock the hell outta me.” I’m with Vivian.
It seems that I walk around in this little bubble of existence in which I’ve created these very simple and straightforward rules that I expect everyone to happily live by. But life is never that neat, clean, and orderly. I’m constantly befuddled, bemused, horrified, delighted, confused, and/or disgusted by people. The things that they say and do seem so random and unexpected that it rattles me.
For example, one of my dearest friends is sweet, kind, generous and supportive, and lovely to be around. But every once in a while, twice a year at most, if you accidentally say something that pushes him out of his comfort zone he goes straight for the jugular. The reaction is so harsh and so extreme it tends to rock me back on my heels. It’s as if suddenly I’m in the presence of someone entirely different, a guy I call “Hostile Man.” Once the initial shock wears off, I think to myself, “Oh, it’s you again. I don’t like you. Go away.” And very soon my friend will be back again.
These brief insights into people that pop my safe little bubble of reality tend to stay with me. Here’s a few that spring to mind:
Upon telling someone recently that the love of my life had died unexpectedly of natural causes, all alone in a parking lot, leaving me devastated, she said, “Try not to let it bother you.” (She meant well. People don’t always know what to say in these circumstances. But still… really?)
I met a 35 year old British woman recently who had never heard of the Beatles. (Talk about living in a bubble.)
Rob Ford, the Mayor of Toronto, after being caught smoking crack on film twice, still refuses to leave office. (Oh, where to begin.)
The people of Toronto, upon hearing that their crack smoking mayor refuses to leave office, have yet to descend on city hall with pitch forks and torches, tar and feathers, and send the loser packing. (Torontonians are known for being extremely polite, but come on.)
When a mother I know was told by her daughter that she was being sexually abused by her stepfather, the mother said, “Oh, you’re making too much of it.” (There are just no words for this.)
When my bridge was being painted with lead paint and our building was enclosed within the massive paint tent and we expressed out concerns, my head supervisor said, “Well, if you get lead poisoning, all you have to do is drink milk.” (That must be an annoying realization to everyone who has suffered through Chelation therapy.)
When I asked a fundamentalist Christian friend of mine, who also happens to be a lesbian, why she would continue to cling to a religion that considers her an evil freak, she tearfully replied, “I’ve just resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to hell.” She told me this while on her way to church. (How profoundly sad this makes me.)
When a friend found me in tears because I’d just dropped my laptop, destroying it, and had no way to replace it, he bought me another one. Just like that. (I will be in awe of this person for the rest of my life.)
A coworker who drives a Mercedes convertible asked me about the old Hyundai hatchback I used to drive. I said, “Why on earth would you want to know?” He said, “Oh, I’ve been thinking of getting a second car, one that I wouldn’t mind getting scratched or stolen, to drive around in the less desirable parts of town.” (Such a tactful and pedestrian worldview.)
Speaking of cars, one of my teachers in high school, widowed, bought her first car at age 50, and kept getting stranded because she would forget to fill it with gas. (Poor thing.)
When my grandmother, a devout Catholic, lost a baby at childbirth, she sought comfort from her parish priest. He told her that her baby was doomed to spend all eternity in limbo. She never set foot inside a church again. (People seem completely unaware of their ability to profoundly impact the lives of others.)
And then there are all the people who, despite the overwhelming evidence of their very own eyes plus the endorsement of 97 percent of all climate experts, refuse to believe that global warming exists. (Speechless.)
You just never know when people are going to blow your mind.
Aw, jeez, I need to stop surfing the internet. I just came across a website called Recent Natural Disasters, and it gives you all the reported disasters all over the world, 24 hours a day. I have a hard enough time avoiding my tendency to anthropomorphize nature, especially when it seems as though the planet is becoming more and more pissed off.
Typhoon Haiyan has certainly displaced thousands of people, but it’s only the latest in what seems to be an increasing number of natural disasters, from the expected to the downright bizarre. I mean, who expects flooding in Saudi Arabia? But that’s been happening, too.
And I’m stunned by how many of these events have escaped my notice up to this point. Here are but a few of the headlines from the past few months:
Whether you believe in Global Climate Change or not, don’t you sometimes get the feeling that we as a species are no longer wanted on this planet? And if so, who could blame Mother Nature? I mean, we take and take and take, and what we give in return is pollution, destruction, and devastation. If a guest in my home were behaving this badly, I’d kick him out, too.