15 January 2017

Greenhouse Gas Pollution — Our Greatest Enemy

Like many of you, I can still remember where I was on September 11, 2001. I can remember that I was at home, working hard to finish up a writing project before the deadline later that day. I can remember that the weather (in my part of the world) was soft and sunny. (Septembers used to be like that here.)

I can remember the phone call from my stepson, who said, "Do you have the TV on? Put the TV on" and hung up. I remember that I was alone, my husband away at a retreat (from which he came home the very next day after hearing one of the organizers say, "We should nuke 'em" — without even knowing who "'em" was).

I can also remember the growing sense of dismay and then horror as the American dogs of war were riled up against Iraq and its leader, Saddam Hussein. Then Secretary of State, Colin Powell, insisted to the world that Iraq had WMDs: weapons of mass destruction. They didn't. I knew that. Lots of Canadians knew that. The Canadian prime minister knew that. How come Colin Powell didn't know that? (He sure knows it now, saying his speech to the UN about Iraq's supposed WMDs was the low point of his career.)

Anyway, I was reminded today in a TEDx presentation by Dan Miller (A Simple and Smart Way to Fix Climate Change) that one of the reasons we're not responding to the climate change emergency is that it's a threat without an enemy. (Is that why a majority of Americans believed — or more accurately, were led to believe — that it was Saddam who brought down the Twin Towers? Because they needed a face for the anger and the threat they were feeling?) 

The threats that our species responds to immediately, according to Miller, are those that have one or more "threat indicators" (Miller suggests envisioning a lion heading towards you on the savannah):
  • visible (versus global climate change, which is still invisible to many of us, especially on nice days)
  • have historical precedent (versus global climate change, which is unprecedented in human history)
  • immediate (versus global climate change, which is drawn out over months, years, decades and centuries)
  • direct personal impacts (versus global climate change, which has unpredictable and perhaps indirect impacts ... but hold onto your hats, folks)
  • simple causality (versus the complex causes of global climate change)
  • caused by an enemy (versus, gulp, the climate change emergency, which is caused by almost all of us)
Well, all of this is my way of introducing something I've been working on: the vilification of greenhouse gas pollution. Pollution is "the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects." Yup, too much CO2 in the atmosphere has harmful effects, making it a pollutant (despite its beneficial effects on plants at the right levels, meaning before global warming causes heat waves, droughts and floods that harm plants).

So what do you think? Does that carbon dioxide molecule need a mustache to be seen as an enemy we can fight together? Or is it scary enough just the way it is? ;-)

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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?