03 February 2013

New (and Random) Thoughts on the Fate of the World

Ever had this happen to you? You have a chunk of time to do whatever you want with, but you have so many choices that you're immobilized and can't decide what to do? Or you're presented with a blank canvass (or empty page or screen) but the number of things you could paint (or write) about is so overwhelmingly large that you get painter's/writer's block? The same can happen with a simple To Do list if the list is too long.

Sometimes that's what climate change action (and writing about it) feels like. The range of options is too broad — how does one choose?

So today, I'm not choosing. Here's a potpourri of all the ideas that have been running through my head this past week.

1. How might climate change affect seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? I'm desperately seeking relief from our long, wet, dreary winters, but I'm not sure I like the alternative (longer, wetter, drearier winters?). Chugging back the vitamin D (at least 2000 IUs per day) usually does the trick for me (I figure it's not the sun I'm craving so much as the healthfulness of its rays), but heaven forbid I should miss a day or two. Talk about immobilized. (And weeping ... it's embarrassing!)

2. Thich Nhat Hanh once said, "Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future." It's both a reminder to stop and smell the roses (climate change activism needn't be a hair-shirted existence), and a prod to reflection ... Oh my gosh, what will happen to all the Brits (my husband included) if we ever lose our access to tea? They'll all become immobilized (with TAD - tea affective disorder)! 

According to the Ethical Tea Partnership, "climate change as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity is one of the biggest threats to sustainable agriculture. Because tea is primarily a rain-fed crop, tea production will be particularly affected unless early efforts are made to help farmers adapt." They go on to say that a change in climate will lead to the following adverse effects:

  • Unpredictable rainfall patterns
  • Delayed rain and drought
  • Destructive rain including flooding and soil erosion (especially on steep contoured sites)
  • Warmer temperatures and scorching effects on crops
  • Increased instances of pests and disease
  • Strong destructive winds and gales

Is it even possible to adapt to changes like these? Let's not give up on rapid and urgent mitigation, folks. 

3. The Grist's Dave Roberts (drgrist) said this week: "The assumption that humans will be okay — basically get through anything — is extremely deep-rooted, beyond the reach of reason." I've written before that it seems human beings can't picture a world without our species in it, so it's nigh on impossible for us to consider the annihilation we're guaranteeing with the 90 millions tons of greenhouse gas pollution we're pumping out each day. Nor do we take the time to bother with the notion that we're taking down millions of other species with us! 

Aaaargh, sometimes it seems we're just a selfish, self-centred species society. Damn you, Adam Smith and your economic self-interest. Why didn't you get famous for your views on ethics, charity, and The Theory of Moral Sentiments instead? The world would be a different place! Smith wrote:
"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortune of others and render their happiness necessary to him though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it."
Nowadays, we could substitute "survival" for "fortune" ... but it wouldn't ring true. In our EuroAmerican culture, we just don't seem to be able to draw happiness from the survival of others enough to want to ensure their survival — and thereby our own.

4. I was reminded of drgrist when I read a comment from someone on the economic development committee that people are working on in my and neighbouring communities. He said (and it's possible I'm taking this out of context), "Given that this is not an armageddon senario, rather a gradual decline in services and therefore expectations ..." and then he went on to suggest that we examine "just how vulnerable our lifestyles are ... in terms of emergencies, or better still, crises." 

He runs through a whole list of possible emergencies and crises (including "significant weather disruption"), but doesn't mention climate chaos. He acknowledges our food insecurity (although the oft-quoted 3-5 days' worth of food is likely closer to 3-5 hours of food because it flies off the shelves in an emergency, when Adam Smith and hoarding kick in), but doesn't speak to the impacts climate change will have is having on agriculture. 

Is it just me, or does it seem that people are afraid to ring the alarm? This isn't going to come as "gradual decline" — it's going to happen like the pond scum allegory. One year we'll be talking with folks at the grocery store about the rising price of food, and the next year we'll be facing food shortages. 

5. Maybe it's all an issue of time scales.

6. My husband sent me the following trailer. It's the first time I've ever been intrigued by a video game. I wonder if people might be willing and able to ponder the imponderable through gaming. Have a look. What do you think?

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?