Much as I want to see the ongoing climate change stopped and reversed, I honestly don't have hope that humanity has the ability to stop, turn around, and ease our way back from the tipping point that may already be irreversably tipping. I personally tread a narrow knife-edge between pragmatic and idealistic. First, I have not given up driving to work. I may work on practices to reduce my carbon footprint, keep the heat down, not using air conditioning (fortunate to live in mild climate), drive a modest car that is not a gas guzzler, mainly eat foods that are cooked at home, garden, compost, recycle, reuse, repurpose, but still I know that my personal carbon footprint is far, far greater than the vast majority of people in other countries. And I'm fairly motivated. Most people are not.
Add to that, the US and world's political and economic systems are not motivated to bring about rapid movement toward reversing climate change. It's not even fair to ask countries like China and India, and the African continent, not to develop in ways similar to the West. Then there is religion, with narcissistic "god made the world for us to suck dry" mentality, and "the world is going to end anyway, for god to make the new world to come". A billion catholics, give-or-take, all being told to reproduce like rabbits. A billion muslims, give-or-take, who knows what they are told, but I doubt they are going cut back today's population for tomorrow's children. A billion Chinese, with a country rapidly developing and growing, seduced into flashy comfortable fun consumer society. A billion Indians, also headed that way. A western culture, elite, addicted to consumer goods and amazingly wasteful commuting lifestyles. And the great portion of humanity just doesn't agree or have the where-with-all to think about climate change.
So is there a choice other than hoping for the world to "listen" and "act" in ways that it doesn't appear willing to do, vs. nihilism, vs. survivalism? Is it time to think about a "third way". Which could be, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Climate Change".
Hoping for, and decrying, climate change diverts resources from finding ways to adapt to, and maybe thrive, in a changed world. The future will belong to people and cultures and companies and countries that embrace the future, plan for the future, and devote resources to the future. As individuals, what can we do to anticipate the changed world that may well arrive during our lifetimes, and certainly in the next generation?
Searching on the topic, most hits land on decrying climate change, deer-in-the-headlights "The end is near", or denying climate change, or arguing about the cause, or decrying the climate change denialists. It's much harder to find ways that people think about learning to live in a changed world.
I may well get slammed for suggesting this. I am re-reading the book "1491", which describes the Americas prior to the incursion of invading people, animals, plants, philosophies, economic, political, and religious systems, and most of all, microorganisms. Bottom line - the native peoples had no way to know, understand, or prepare for the apocalypse to come. They were decimated, according to the author, 90 to 97% dying off in the greatest destruction of humanity in history. The "pristine" world that explorers found, was the result of local peoples and their agricultural and social systems vanishing.
We have the advantage of seeing, imperfectly, the world to come. How do we prepare our society and culture to survive and even thrive in that world?
I don't have answers. I would love to see discussion on how society can realistically prepare. Should we continue building metropolises at sea level? Should we be working on farm crops that will do well in expected climates of the future? How do we, if imperfectly, preserve and promote biodiversity? What happens to the people who will be displaced from coastal areas and new deserts? Think New Orleans / Katrina. I don't want to see a "survivalist" mentality, so how do we prevent that and still prepare? If there will be a changed world, what would a successful society look like?
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Thanks Chris for this information.
Sentient Biped, so thoughtfully and powerfully stated. Economically, politically and religiously, some of us know what we are doing wrong; the problems overwhelm us as we realize the trends of the times are not toward caring for the planet. You have identified the problems and ask the same questions as I. I refuse to be afraid because that gets me back into feeling helpless.
Your idea, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Climate Change", makes about as much sense as anything I have come up with. I would have to add to that to learn how live calmly with the chaos that economic, political and religious challenges present.
As for myself, my little patch of earth 50' x 185' provides a safe haven, at least for now. Who knows how long this will remain a sanctuary. the weather reported yesterday, March 15, 2012, "Spokane set a daily record for rainfall on Thursday with 1.18 inches, more than double the previous record of 0.54 inches set in 2003."
Perhaps the Mormons have it correct to stock up food, and that would make sense if we lived in one of the areas that doesn't grow good crops. We should continue to be able to grow delicious foods, especially if we use organic methods. My little Lady Bugs, Lace Wings, ground beetles, parasitic wasps and tachinid flies are safe on my place.
I have no intention of hiding my head in the sand, but I don't intend to be overly excited either. Living one day at a time, knowing changes are happening very fast, being as flexible as possible, and enjoying the good days we have makes about as much sense as I can come up with.
Thank you for your well thought out comment.
THank you Chris and Joan for your thoughtful comments!
What I was thinking about again went to that unrelated book, "1491". In it, the critical role of Native American invention of Maize is described. Starting from a nearly inedible teosinte grass, Native Americans, through selection in their gardening process, greated Maize, which went on to feed the largest civilizations in the world, at the time. Then, through further selection by Native American farmers and gardeners, Maize evolved (intelligent design, by humans) into farm crop that became the civilization supporting staple in North America. Then through human action, Maize became one of the most important food crops on the planet.
Where I'm leading is this. Native Americans did not have a plan to create such an essential crop - they did it through their own gardening to improve a plant they found useful for themselves. Generation by generation, the practical act of gardening created a plant that is essential to modern civilization. They did the same thing with potatoes, tomatoes, chili peppers, and possibly turkeys. (Although development of the modern turkey was apparently done on the bird, imported from Mexico by the Spanish, then to Turkey where farmers developed the bird into its more meaty state). We now have the knowledge that there will be change in the world. If anyone is preparing food crops and methodology for that changed world, I am not aware. We don't have many generations to do this - at most, it's a few decades. But we do have the advantage of conscious development and experimentation. We can make a difference by experimenting with different crops, selecting the ones that do best in our hands and our communities, and experimenting with growing methods that will allow better food production in the changed climate ahead.
Joan, you may not know it, but by growing your own garden in Spokane, you are part of the process of creating a world for tomorrow. You set an example, of selecting what grows for you, and create a market for what grows in your town. The plants and seeds that you buy, encourage marketers to develop more. I don't know if you save seeds, but in some cases, seed saving could be part of that process as well. By saving seeds from the plants that do well in our own area, we create varieties that are suited for our local climates.
Most of the trees that are sold in nurseries are genetic clones, grafted or in a few cases grown from cuttings. We should grow trees from seeds, to foster genetic diversity. Clones result in the same genetic bottleneck that killed off Native Americans, as well as the American Chestnut, the Corn blight, and the modern banana crisis. It's true, growing trees from seed does not give "instant tree". But I have a ginkgo in my yard that is 20 feet tall, that I grew from seed. I've grown locusts, maples, cherries, peaches, and pines from seed. Creating interest for young people, if they grow trees from seed the trees will be massive when they are adults, and with genetic diversity more will survive and flourish in the changed world.
We need to develop growing methods that are more diverse, and that depend less of irrigation that poisons the fields and depletes the groundwater. As I recall, there used to be reports of how Israel made the desert "bloom" with efficient cultivation techniques. With increasing desertification, these methods need further development.
This is rambling and probably blathering. I think we need to develop concepts in all aspect of life - the layout of communities to support working close to home, home growing of food, and home energy collection and conservation, and home water collection. We need to discourage concentration of communities at coastal areas, so there is less disruption when people are forced to move away from flooded and storm ravaged areas. There are many other changes that will need to be made. We need to start thinking about them now.
Crop diversity is being replace with genetically modified mono-crops. Israel turned the desert green by developing drip irrigation systems. Disease mostly intentionally inflicted and the extermination of the buffalo their main food source killed the Indians off. So many Indians were killed off that it started a mini ice age.
I added an animation showing the global pattern of human land use over the last eight thousand years on the Eco-Logical: A Group for Environmentalists Discussions page.
The only way to achieve sustainability, in my view, is to figure out a globally fair way to manage human population so it doesn't exceed Earth's carrying capacity. Overpopulation is the root cause of the problem. If we can solve that, technology might have a chance to deal with the other problems.
As to adapting to thrive in the changing world, I think you seriously underestimate the change in store for us. We assume a world of near equilibrium, we evolved near equilibrium. The future will be vastly different, vastly bad, compared to any previous human experience. This isn't just "Global Warming". It's not just "Climate Change". It's Climate Destabilization. We are moving to unprecedented far-from-equilibrium conditions.
Consider that the oceans increasing acidity and warmth is already shifting ocean populations away from Pices and toward Cnidaria. Future oceans will have significantly less oxygen, more anaerobic bacteria.
Consider the jellyfish lake a foreshadow for most of our planet's surface, if business as usual continues.
Actually, I don't underestimate the change in store. I also don't think I underestimate the resistance to change of direction. It's a train crash on the horizon. We can stand there and say "stop stop stop" but I think the train is still going to crash. And it will be awful.
What I want to express is that, yes, we should continue to work on turning back from the precipice (to mix metaphors) but we should also realize that we have opportunity to help future generations, by knowing that change is ahead. By preparing, we wont stop the Titanic from sinking (to mix even more metaphors), but we might get a few more lifeboats ready instead of just partying or looking like deer in the headlights (a veritable jambalaya of metaphors) as we veer toward the iceberg.
Speaking of resistance to change of direction, GM has finally decided not to make any more donations to The Heartland Institute, but won't disavow it either.
GM insiders have told our campaign that Mr. Akerson did ask for a review of the Heartland funding, the review was completed, and the company does not plan to fund Heartland in the future. Let me repeat that: the decision has been made. Heartland will not get another dime of GM's money. This is a real victory and a testament to the thousands of people who spoke out about their disappointment with GM. But our campaign is in no way over. Because those insiders also say that GM refuses to publicly disavow their Heartland donation.
The fact that Akerson has quietly moved to cut GM's funding of Heartland is an important step. But the question remains for Mr. Akerson -- if you take an action and no one knows about it, does it even make a sound?
Ruth, thank you for this post. It seems to me that your analysis is accurate, and an important part of that is population issues.
To get at that, we have to address the religious beliefs that support more babies and prevent women from having good health care, including family planning.
As for politics, we need to look at the hungry, uneducated, homeless, diseased people of the world and find ways to solve the many problems presented by these elements.
Economic problems cannot be solved by laissez faire capitalism and we need to stop bowing at the alter of money.
We can't even imagine the changes that are coming, including religious, economic and political. All these things interact in ways we do not understand and need to. Science is the best way to increase awareness and rejection of science proposed by creationists. We can't stay quiet, polite, gentle, or acquiescent any longer. Not if we want to bring about healthy changes.
Article on this topic from Slate.com. I feel a bit vindicated by the fact that people are thinking beyond the (valid) "sky is falling" rhetoric and looking into what to do about it. Planning in no way invalidates the importance of climate change or the desirability of trying to stop and reverse it, but it does recognize that future generations will curse us not only for creating the mess, but also for not helping them have a better world despite the mess.
*Corn does not pollinate at temperature above 95 degrees. Interesting, Monsanto claims to have created varieties that do well in hotter climates such as Africa. But this is very tenuous information. I do wonder about this issue - corn having originated in Mexico, it seems to me that there must be heat tolerant strains. To my mind, asking for Monsanto to create varieties that will do well in the future is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse. But someone should to this - so if we leave it to Monsanto and other agricorporations, we are asking for them to own everyone's future.
*Global demand for food will increase.
*Present agriculture methods and crops will not flourish in the hotter and more unpredictable world of tomorrow.
*More people may demand meat (well, if there's no meat, people will just have to do without or pay more. Less meat means better use of resources. my 2 cents).
*Street riots and destabilization as people scramble for food and water (and shelter).
A couple of issues they bring up -
*Aim for diversity of crops. That allows for more choices and less monoculture instability.
*Capture more rainfall in hot areas by growing trees in the grain fields.
That's not much, but at least someone is thinking about this important topic.
SB I sencond your proposals and ideas and values.
Sorry for late reply. Your actions are all very 'nice'.
Unfortunately, individuals such as yourself and many others, are the very CAUSE of humans not having a chance at reversing the climate trend. And please do not take this as a personal insult, it's meant for all citizens who have bought into the corporate guilt trip of doing little things at home instead of hitting polluters and chemical destroyers in the balls, where actions would really make a difference!!
Every minute you spend changing your personal life with "let your wallet speak your politics" is a minute NOT spent effecting real change.
Without changing the political system, all those lovely nice actions make YOU (not you personally :) feel good about YOUR life, but they don't accomplish a thing in the grand scheme of things.
And one more point... you speak of growing demand for food. GROWTH is a religion that needs to die, now. We ALL need to stop breeding for a couple of decades.