July 28, 2006

No Fear

There is a gorilla in the living room and we have been ignoring him long enough. I wish he'd just go away because he looks like he is going to rip the place apart.

I just read a piece by the government's chief climate scientist James Hansen in the New York Review of Books. He was there to review Tim Flannery's Weather Makers, Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert and Al Gore's book and film. The short version is that global warming is causing a mass extinction of geological proportions. And, if we do nothing to limit greenhouse gas emissions the temperature will be 5 F warmer on average at the end of the century. Scientists know that at past times when the planet was that warm sea levels were 80 feet higher than they are today. During the past when sea level was rising quickly in response to climate change, it rose at a rate of about 3 feet every twenty years. That means a lot of New Orleans style disasters in the coming century, especially if sea surface temperatures stay high, spawning hurricanes.

So it would be so damn nice to sit and eat my berries. They do look nice, don't they? After all, what can I do?

One thing I do is get philosophical and I think, I am here today, I have family and friends, a handfull of berries and clothes on my back.

Another thing I do is look for someone to blame. Like those Americans in their SUVs! Americans use twice the energy per capita as Europeans do, but as far as I can tell much of this is wasted: Americans are only about equally content as Europeans, certainly not twice as content. Or I'd like to blame those big businesses!

But nations and corporations are just made up of people like you and me. What I am looking for is a way to take personal responsibility for this. Have I done my part to treat the world responsibly, for my kids and their kids and their friends and even people they don't know, or have I commited a sin of omission, by not acting.

Life involves risk, that's fine, I'm an adult:

From Bob Dylan's Highway 61:
Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.”
Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61.”

From The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult
Seasons don't fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain
We can be like they are

The reason we pretend the gorilla isn't there is that we fear him. But that doesn't get rid of the gorilla now does it? I would like to get beyond the fear/avoidance and instead start to act morally and rationally when it comes to global warming. Sure, the world may go under but I'm not going without a fight. Open the door, let the gorilla out, then we'll have a little peace around here.


At August 16, 2006 4:55 PM , Blogger Tuco said...

Hey Matt, I'm reading the weather makers right now. Hadn't heard of the Elizabeth Kolbert book, but I'll look it up.
In Canada here we're just as bad as Americans (though at least we've signed Kyoto). People are just sooooooooo unwilling to sacrifice anything about their lives for the global good.
I honestly don't know how people like Gore can actually say they're "optimistic" about our chances. I think we're screwed.


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