Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Someone Tell Me I'm Crazy

Over at Mader's place, 3 of us regular readers beat up on him for calling certain climate scientists "Traitors to science".

The whole debate is over there, take a gander if you're interested. In my last comment I made the following statement:

So why the hyperbole, the emotional and vigorous attacks from members of the scientific community? The key difference in the climate change debate over debating the holocaust is; we have a deadline. I earnestly and honestly believe that we will be dealing with catastrophic effects from climate change within the next 40 years. I'm resisting the urge to downgrade that to the next 10-20 years, but I'll stick with 40. We will see record droughts (and probably record monsoons), which will lead to mass starvation, disease and even war.

This is our most pressing issue, the "war on terror" pales in comparison to the threat that climate change poses. The "war on terror" will be a footnote in the history books. How we devastated the earth's ecology and then suffered the consequences will consume volumes, assuming anyone lives long enough to write that history (I'm fairly optimistic that humanity and some semblance of civilization will survive, but I will not write off complete and utter extinction).

The only debate we should be having is what is the most likely effects, what we should do about it and how quickly we should do it. I believe we long passed the tipping point where we had a chance to turn things around. Change for the worse is coming. "Adapt, Damn it!" is my philosophy.

Its that hard deadline of devastating consequence that causes us eco-nuts to despair. We're losing valuable time, and are wasting valuable resources in trivial side adventures. It won't be Iran's nukes that do us in, it'll be dead oceans, dry rivers and failing crop yields. So yeah, if it gets people's attention, jail a few executives. Maybe then we'll get our asses in gear and take action to save ourselves.

That's an extreme position, is it not? Now I freely admit I am prone to exuberant emotional statements of rhetorical excess. So I half expected to be called on that. When you predict the end of humanity within 40 years, you'd expect someone to call you on it.

Except no one did. It was accepted into the tone of the debate which merrily continued. That blase acceptance gave me the willies.

And there is the irony. I expect the majority of people accept that climate change is happening, and that with a high degree of probability, we are headed for some nasty consequences. And then we shrug our shoulders as if to say, "Oh well, nothing can be done" get into our SUVs and merrily drive to Tim Hortons to get a double-double.

Fuck that shit sez I.

In all likelihood we can't turn back the clock and take all that CO2 back out of the atmosphere. But we can look to the changes and plan for the eventualities. Unlike some, I don't hold the belief that our society will completely crumble if we don't adapt. But that doesn't mean we blindly rush forward irregardless of the consequences.

Canada and the US are blessed with innumerable natural riches. We have so much wealth that we don't realize how much fat is in the system that can be trimmed. I am reminded of this talking to my aunts and uncles who lived under German occupation in the Netherlands (my father was born during the occupation, and was too young to remember this). Many of the popular home cooked meals their mother (my Oma) created were all made with minimal food stocks. It was amazing what she could do with Potatoes, Kale and an ounce of pork fat. These meals kept their family of 9 alive while resources were scarce. Anyone of post WWII European descent has some sort of war food in their culinary history.

Even in my youth, it was common for many mothers to make their own preserves. I remember stocking cases and cases of mason jars and Certo at the local grocery store during harvest. Now? How many people make their own pickled beets or jams anymore?

We have so much so readily available at the local supermart, that we don't even know how little we can live on anymore. When you contrast that with how much farmland we have, you quickly realize that we in North America are not going to be starving any time soon. It would take a massive sudden desertification of most of North America to seriously threaten our food supply.

That's not to say there aren't worrying signs. The events in Zimbabwe illustrate what can happen to a country rich in natural resources and productive farmland.

We also have to contend with the rapid depopulation of insect pollinators and amphibians. Not to mention drought in much of the West, over fishing of the oceans and environmental pollution.

Which is why we as a society have to get serious about planning for the future. When change comes (and it will) we will be better prepared for the shocks it brings. If we identify where we are most at risk, and work to mitigate these risks, society will take comfort and we will hopefully avoid panic and confusion. An unhinged society is more of a threat to itself than the crises that precipitates the panic.

A lot of this even makes economic sense. Investing in a solar/hydrogen/wind/tidal powered society breaks our foreign dependence on oil, introducing stability into energy pricing and isolating us from foreign crises (Nigeria/Iran/Iraq anyone?). Ensuring clean water and ample food supply keeps us alive, and helps sustain local agriculture and industry.

This is where the debate should be. Not about whether climate change is real (or even man made) but what we should be doing about it. And no, doing the Harper "What? Me Worry?" bop and weave is not sound policy.

1 comment:

Ken Breadner said...

Caught the mindwave again...I JUST POSTED on climate change and made a couple of the same points.
There's lots we could do, but that'd involve, you know, doing stuff. Also thinking. Who wants to think anymore? Give me my reality television.
In some ways, this nonchalant acceptance of the end of humanity mirrors the attitude seen in the fifties and early sixties, when everyone knew we wouldn't last another ten years before we blew the world to hell. I still have hope that a new Flower Power generation will emerge, this time growing vegetables instead of flowers--but the time is drawing short. Climate change, Peak Oil, political instability, economic collapse...it's all interrelated. And you're right: it's adapt or perish.