Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Now who can swim any day in November . . ?

Every other month I get an invitation to join a Facebook group to stop global warming. I never join. The prospect that a Facebook group is a sufficient means to achieve any social goal seems a bit comical to me.

The polar ice caps are melting. The paper had an article a few days ago that cargo ships were now considering routes through the arctic circle, since ice was no longer blocking their path. That seems a bit definitive to me. One of my fellow pre-med students is a staunch Republican or Libertarian (those categories grow more interchangeable by the day), and informed me that it was all natural. The world is constantly going through warming and cooling cycles, and this is just a warming cycle. He may be right, or the environmentalists may be right. Either way I find the whole discussion to be quite asinine.

The more informed biologists I talk to the more I realize that if we humans are contributing to global warming that there is essentially nothing we can do about it. We are dependent on energy . . . enormous quantities of energy. And lest we forget, the world population is still increasing at a staggering rate. Were every human to significantly decrease their own carbon footprint, the increase in numbers of humans would mean that basically nothing would change. To actually reverse global warming would mean first and foremost reversing the population growth trend, and that doesn't seem very likely at all. Whether the problem is man-made or not seems irrelevant because there is essentially nothing that we can do to change it. Our temperatures will continue to rise along with our ocean levels, and our climate patterns are going to alter.

And there is the real problem. The thing that gets ignored in the debate over whether or not Mother Nature is hitting menopause, is that real people are suffering from the consequences that are happening. Whether what we are experiencing is natural or inflicted doesn't change the fact that for every foot the oceans rise, hundreds of millions of people are displaced, and left with no place to go. The countries that suffer the worst are some of the poorest countries: Bangledesh, Indonesia, Polynesia, Haiti and the Caribbean countries. The second major problem is that as climate patterns change, so do rain patterns.

The simple fact is that when water becomes scarce people die, and nations go to war.

The real challenge to our time is not to halt global warming or slow climate change. Rather we are faced with the brutal situation in which our world's growing population will be increasingly homeless, increasingly cut off from food and water resources, and increasingly hostile to the ridiculous disparity of wealth they witness. This is not a looming evil, it is a present one. It is a process already set in motion, whether by ourselves or nature. The question is not of causes, or solutions, but of action amidst the growing calamity.


At 3:57 PM , Blogger Nicolas Acosta said...

I also think the discussion about global warming is a moot point, to a degree. Even if there's nothing we can do about it, aren't there enough reasons to become environmentally conscious already? Who out there really thinks clean air, clean water, less deforestation and fewer endangered species are a bad thing? Global warming just happens to be the biggest doomsday tale out there to kick everybody in the pants and get them thinking about it--it's really just the beginning of the story, as far as I can tell. We don't really know how to cultivate sensitivity to the fragile voices out there who are truly in danger here and now--the spotted owl, the people of Haiti--so we have to latch on to melodramatic narratives like global warming as the only way to get serious about the environment. And when it doesn't deliver the goods in the form of absolute certitude of reason to change, we throw our arms up in resignation. We need to own up to the issue and explore the multifaceted ways it affects us and our neighbors, and be a little bit more genuine and dispassionate about making the needed, difficult changes in our lifestyles. Thanks for the post.


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