Saturday, January 12, 2013

Climate Change as an Asteroid

Over the break, I got a Kindle app for my Macbook (free!) when I realized I could wait for morning to go to Wordsworth to get one of Paul Krugman's books, or get it right that second and start reading.  Immediate rewards are very motivating.

The book outlines the diminishing overlap between Democrats and Republicans and the increasing rich/poor gap, and explains how the government could actively change this current scenario.  It's not impossible at all to manipulate things to stop the debt crisis and eradicate the kind of poverty the states is seeing in its "1st world" citizens.  The problem as I see it is that the people in power are in the 1%, and they'd have to actively destroy their own means to wealth in the process.  What could possibly make them want to do that to themselves?  What could make people work collectively at the expense of the gains they've made individually?  A common enemy.  Kennedy said that long ago, and now we've got a few.


A new TedTalk has a similar message  (It's 20 min. - I summarize it below):



Haidt says that people have to come together across party lines and recognize that there are problems bigger than ourselves (he calls them asteroids) that we have to fight collectively.  The guys on top will be willing to give a little when they realize the catastrophic place we're in right now.

Even Woody Harrelson says something similar (h/t Christine):



Haidt gets more specific.  He sees four "asteroids" coming straight at us that have to be collectively destroyed:  climate change, debt, poverty, and single-parenting.  He thinks we need to all break free from partisan mentalities and agree that all four must be tackled for the benefit of each of us.

Um...  I have some issues with that last one.  Single-parent homes tend to be less financially secure, but is that a problem with the marriage-arrangement, or with deadbeat dads, employment inequity for women, and non-subsidized daycare?  The increase in divorce is partly due to a cultural shift in which marriage is no longer viewed as a lifelong contract, but it's also partly because many women can live without that second salary.  And if they can support themselves, then they no longer have to tolerate less than ideal living arrangements with a cheat, drug user, jerk, or slob.  Or worse.  Instead of working towards convincing people to stay married, we need to work towards teaching people how to live together respectfully.  Anyway, I'd like to see some of those stats dismantled before  I can get fully on board.


Of the other three, climate change is most devastating.  It's hanging right over our heads - yet it's far enough away from most people that it seems a minor problem.  On the other side of the world, a continent is up in flames.  Australia has temperature as high as 54 degrees Celsius.  We could lose Vancouver and much of the Maritimes to rising sea levels. This is real, and it's happening in our lifetime.  There are still so many politicians who want to be absolutely sure before they act.  But this one is too imperative to wait for further research.

There will be no immediate rewards for their efforts, though.  If they keep on the same path, we'll be battling fires worldwide in the next century.  If they make efforts towards change by dramatically decreasing any burning of fossil fuels, then the economy will suffer temporarily as it adjusts to the change.  But that immediate suffering keeps us on a deadly path.

Wind outproduced coal-fired power plants in Ontario last year.  If we can find the will to subsidize wind and solar energy, then perhaps we can make a difference like with the micro-FIT program that could put solar panels on every residence and business.  But either way, we have to wean ourselves off so much gas, oil, and coal.  Now.

We can no longer sit in denial on this.  But, as Freud says, in order to cope, we have to distract ourselves from it all from time to time.  It's just too horrific to dwell on perpetually.  Good thing I've got Netflix, YouTube, beer, and music....

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