20 August 2017

Toothache as Metaphor for the Climate Change Blame Game

From LifeHacks Mama
I, quite blessedly, reached the autumn of my life without ever losing a tooth or suffering from toothache. Well, all that has changed. And whose fault is it, anyway?

The year I turned 40, I landed in hospital twice — both times for "old people" problems. It was quite a shock to so suddenly "turn old." I'd thought I was healthy and fit. What the heck? (I'm happy to report that I haven't been in the hospital since, although I have sat in the emergency ward several times with a sprained or broken ankle.*)

Twenty years later and shortly after my 60th birthday, I'm suddenly in excruciating pain and facing my first root canal or tooth extraction. The funny part is that I've started playing the blame game!
  • Is it that new dentist's fault? Did he go a millimetre too deep when drilling to replace that lost filling?
  • Is it my old dentist's fault for not repairing the tooth properly in the first place?
  • Is it my fault for not getting to the dentist sooner?
  • Is it my community's fault for not finding a new dentist to replace the old dentist in a more timely way?
  • Is it my fault for not taking care of my teeth properly for the last 55 years?
  • Is it my parents' fault for giving me lousy teeth genes? 
And all of a sudden, I've realized how ridiculous the blame game is. What matters is not whose fault it is. The inventors of the internal combustion engine? The captains of industry who saw big profits in a world of manufacturing using fossil fuel energy? The car makers who, perhaps quite genuinely, pushed their automobiles as a way to clean the streets of smelly, unhealthy horse manure? Rich people in the USA for spewing more than their fair share of greenhouse gases in order to luxuriate in their wealth? Hollywood for promoting that lifestyle? The millions of people in Africa and Asia for burning wood to cook their paltry meals? Each one of us for partaking in what's available to us?

Sure, each and every sector must now be accountable for their role in the climate change emergency. Each must take responsibility for doing their part to save my tooth, er, the biosphere.

What matters is that I need to get my tooth fixed so the pain will go away. And we need to stop spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We need to get our carbon emissions down to practically zero, as rapidly as possible. We need to work together as a global community of nations to achieve this zero-carbon economy — or perhaps race each other to zero. 

I think a global race to zero carbon would be fun! Am I alone in this? The USA loved the race to the moon. Why not a race to ensure our survival? Developing nations have a head start, in a sense, because they haven't gone as deeply down the fossil fuel energy rabbit hole as we have (in the same way that they leapfrogged over landline telephones and went straight to cellular phone technology). 

So, getting my tooth fixed — or losing it completely — is going to be painful, but trying to pin the blame on anyone is not helpful. And I'll feel much better once it's done. Getting our energy mix down to zero carbon is not going to be easy, but we are going to feel so much better once it's done.

* Completely unrelated, here's the best advice I've ever heard for people with weak ankles. Every time you brush your teeth, stand on one foot for half the time, and then the other foot. This balancing act is what will strengthen the ligaments in your ankle. It's working for me. Touch wood, after seven sprains and three fractures, my ankles have been strong and healthy ever since I received this advice. (And tooth brushing has become much more fun ... even if it didn't work for this poor aching tooth!)

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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?