Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Post In Which I Get Cranky on Climate Change

When people talk about the effects of climate change, they often worry about water burying some prized beach-front real estate, but an article in Thursday's Guardian, "Seven ways climate change could kill you," reminds us that by about 15 years from now, we'll be losing a quarter of a million people each year just to health implications from rising GHGs (asthma, disease, heat exhaustion...).  And very few groups, the film Interstellar being a rare exception, talk about the changing gases in our atmosphere.  The ocean trumps the rainforest as our real lungs, and as it acidifies, more plant life will die off, and we'll end up with less oxygen and more sulphur in the air we breath.  Kolbert's Sixth Extinction agrees that many will die by suffocation.

More and more we're hearing about the risks we're facing, yet nothing's really being altered - not the way we live nor the types of corporations that are on top of the game.

Some feel strongly that we'll save the world with carbon capture and geo-engineering.  Naomi Klein's book, This Changes Everything, clearly outlines the problems with both, painting a particularly frightening picture of the risks of geo-engineering.

From what I've read from many sources so far, it's very clear that we need to stop fracking completely, and phase out coal and oil immediately, then increase subsidies for solar and wind and other renewable efforts.  But our lives really DO have to change in the process - pretty dramatically, but not unbearably.  We're past the point of asking nicely.  Most people won't do anything they don't absolutely have to do.  We need to force people, ourselves, to stop using fossil fuels.  But many politicians are useless in this arena.  Can we convince shareholders to stop backing certain industries?  Is social pressure enough?  Can we shame one another into better behaviour??  Let's find out!

I tend to tip toe around this stuff to avoid offending people and to avoid being seen as a crazy hippie.  But I suddenly feel like there have been enough books and articles and reports published lately that are so clearly on this side, that maybe I'll no longer look like a radical if I insist, right out loud, that we have to change how we live.  I think it's time people be offended.

Stop flying.  Planes have to be grounded for all but the most clearly necessary flights.  The travel industry as we know it needs to be shut down, today.  Yes, that means you won't get back to that beautiful spot you found years ago, but that's a small price to pay for air we can breathe painlessly.  Flights carrying CEOs and politicians must be grounded and Skype used instead for the vast majority of international meetings.  Learning about other cultures, and helping people around the world, has to be done online from home.  School groups who want to travel to far-off lands to build playgrounds for less fortunate children have to recognize that they're adding to the likelihood of that very area being washed into the ocean.  Enough already.  Seeing the world is a luxury we no longer have. Period.

Our local hydro company has a Peak Saver incentive that automatically saves energy for residential consumers.  I called to find out how to get involved, and they said it only works for people with an air conditioner.  What the gizmo does is turn down the air conditioner at peak times.  So, rather than encourage people to stop installing A/C in the first place, we've found a way to control it as needed to keep the grid intact.  We are being far too kind in our implementation of necessary measures continuing to focus on the immediate issues instead of the very near future.  We need to ban A/C except for people who need it for health reasons.  Passes should be issued the way we do for disabled parking.  Many of my neighbours got A/C when they started a family - they did it for the baby.  But the babies would be better off learning to acclimatize to our climate than having more GHGs added to the atmosphere in their names.  I saw Stephen Lewis speak after he spent five years in Africa, and he chastised the audience for having A/C in Canadian homes.  He's right.  We should be embarrassed.

And then there's the car issue.  We have to live closer to where we work, and/or start taking the bus.  If you think it's yucky on the bus, or it's just too inconvenient, then get over yourself.

Finally, we have to stop eating meat, or at least reduce consumption enough to make it a rare treat - like the orange we used to get in the toe of our Christmas stocking.   Chris Hedges has written a few articles lately on becoming a reluctant vegetarian.  He reports, "Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all worldwide transportation combined—cars, trucks, trains, ships and planes."  And, with respect to what used to be rare Christmas oranges, we have to reduce long-distance food consumption as well.

There are many more things that need to change, but these are just four that impact the world significantly, and that we can change TODAY.  Right. This. Freaking. Minute.

Collectively, we are too stupid to live.  We are childlike in our inability to see the longterm effects of our current actions.  It's time to grow up and accept the sacrifice of not seeing Aunt Bessy ever again, of sipping lemonade in slow motion on the front porch during a few sweltering hot weeks in summer, of walking and biking and bussing everywhere we go, of having a pint without ordering wings.  Stop whining, and make it happen; or recognize that you're contributing to the death of most the mammals on the planet - include us.

Just sayin'.


The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, Marie: I spent the last hour wrestling with the first paragraph of a post I just put up on this same subject. Plenty of re-writes. Changed the title twice. It was miserable.

In my post I reference some of the major research papers that have come in over the past six months and they all lead to the same conclusion. We have become absolutely dependent for our survival on the continuation and growth of consumption patterns that are utterly unsustainable. It's been a giant conjuring act and, in the process, we have triggered deforestation, desertification, contamination and pollution of all forms, the loss of biomass and biodiversity, the exhaustion of renewable resources, the collapse of global fisheries, on and on and on. Yet we continue to grow rapidly to unprecedented numbers even as we increase our per capita consumption and production of waste.

I have looked for signs that some significant element of self-styled progressives would respond to these dangerous trends. There are a few but just a few. Most of us, progressives included, are whistling past the graveyard. I have a couple of friends who are classic climate change deniers. They're well-educated and accomplished. It took a while but I finally came to realize that they're caught in a state of cognitive dissonance. They simply cannot accept the magnitude of the situation and so fall back on the old saws, the denialist mantras about how the climate is always changing, etc.

It's hard not to believe that intelligent life is naturally self-extinguishing.

Marie Snyder said...

Hey Mound, Denial is thick and soupy in my corner of the world as well. People are too frightened to open their eyes wide enough to see how bad it is. But look we must. I'm going to shift from "I've managed this long without a car," to "You really have no excuse for driving a km to work every day. None." We'll see if I have any Friday drinking buddies left in a few weeks!