Category Archives: climate change

Desert Dwellers and Polar Ice Caps

polar ice3

How do we get desert dwellers to care that the polar ice caps are melting. We can’t even get Republicans who can see what is happening in Norfolk and Miami to pay attention. When you live in a dry, hot part of the world and you are bent on conquest or survival it is difficult to remember that everything is interconnected, even if some of your best oil wells are located near coastlines. How do we get a terrorist caught up in bringing back the 14th century to look over his shoulder and see the tsunami in his future?

Republicans, if they entertain the notion of climate change at all, refuse to accept that it is caused by human activities. We know why they do this; investments and power structures. If we find alternatives to fossil fuels they fear that their bank accounts will dwindle. They cannot accept that the age of fossil fuels, and, in fact, the Industrial Age is ending. They are starving poorer Americans, hoarding all the money on purpose. Of course they enjoy being rich, but you can only buy so many homes and yachts. Their real aim is to recreate 1890’s America when there were no worker’s rights, no unions, no minimum wage requirements, and no regulations on businesses.

You cannot get factories back to America if workers expect to get paid thirty or forty dollars an hour. You have to get them down around two dollars an hour. No wonder the GOP hates the movement for a $15 minimum wage. If you add addiction into the no-minimum-wage mix, we get to the bottom even faster. Furthermore if you think that humans have played no role in climate change then you can claim that, ergo, there is nothing humans can do to stop such changes and you can carry on blithely with your plan for a fossil-fuel-based master/serf economy. Take all the people’s toys away and make them climb that ladder of opportunity all over again – an Industrial Age do-over.

I know there are those who will say that we have to still have factories, we have to still produce things and, of course, we always will, but it does not take hundreds of workers to run a modern factory. The application of robotics is setting people free of work and creating new problems because then we have no alternative productive role to offer them.

Some may decide to be academics, but not everyone can or will choose that route. We really need to work on the roles societies will provide for people who are not needed to do work, or we need to find work they will feel good about doing. The American work ethic works against this. Rich folks get all huffy about people who don’t have a reason to or skill set for work. In America those who work labor for longer hours with shorter vacations than almost any other developed nation. There has to be a better goal for Americans who are not wealthy than working for the Future Taskmasters of America. I have heard people trying to start a back to the farm movement but farming was not as romantic a lifestyle in reality as it is in memory. Just read One Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley.

How do we get rich people – Capitalist “pigs” as we used to call them – on board to prepare Earth for the 9 billion people who will live on it by 2050? Without their help, with their very active opposition, it is a push-pull operation and basically a wash. Progress is in baby steps when we need giant ones. How do we get megalomaniacs intent on power to tune into anything except their own selfish drive for fame, or historical relevance, or whatever when they may just be, at base, mad men. Without China, without Russia, without the Middle East or Africa who is left to work on this truly existential threat – in the sense of a threat to human survival?

Are humans worth fighting to save or should we just let extinction happen to a species that has proven to be a bit too rapacious to coexist peacefully anywhere. And as for the idea that freedom alone should be attractive to people in every nation, I do not think that we are setting a very good example for the ways in which freedom makes life wonderful. In fact sometimes our notion of freedom makes it impossible to impose an organizational global design that might help us meet future needs.

There are no walls in the ocean (well, except by the Netherlands) so one body of water hits every nation with a coast line. Bodies of water within nations such as rivers and lakes will eventually rise also. We don’t need more salt water. The world will need a lot of fresh water for those 9 billion people. Water levels are just one outcome of polar melting. It is easy to foresee fear and anger growing as changes occur to geography and crowded coastal cities. It is easy to foresee tempers on edge and fights breaking out. Unless we are proactive and devise strategies to deal with negative human interactions, apocalyptic scenes may be as common in the near future as natural disasters are becoming in the present.

polar ice drowned city

Getting people, made ever suspicious of conspiracy by those who oppose change, worried about losing freedom or losing comfort, to create any sort of “matrix” of leadership that can ameliorate chaos seems almost impossible to imagine. Our war/peace dynamic may be so hard-wired into us that we will continue to fight our way right through climate change and beyond (if there is a beyond). We surely need some heroes and heroines who disregard the worst in humanity to save the best in humanity if we are to survive the population explosion and simultaneous climate change. If thinking about these things does not convince people that war is an obsolete and primitive construct then I don’t know what will.

However the militants will not stop their crusades for some probably unreachable ideal in order to give space to find a solution to issues of climate crisis. It is the human condition to strive for a cultural equality or religious purity or manifest destiny that will, most likely, never exist. So actually the question becomes one of finding a way to keep the weaponized bickering at bay while also creating a new schema for a crowded planet that is at an environmental tipping point. I worry that this will ever happen.

Here’s Jimmy Kimmel on the subject:

 

By Nancy Brisson

Going Bigger, Much Bigger

 
 
These baby steps we are taking to stop climate change are not enough. Yes, I do believe in climate change. I will cast my lot with the scientists rather than the politicians and the oil men (the oligarchs). We need to go bigger. We need to go much bigger.

Solar panels

I have written about this before but I will keep urging that we act on some kind of Solar Panel Program for America. Perhaps it could be a program like the Energy Star Program which gave rebates if you updated to energy efficient windows, doors, and if you added insulation. There were also energy rebates for updated furnaces and appliances if they were more energy efficient. Since solar panels are so expensive, the costs might be prohibitive even with a rebate. Perhaps each year there could be a lottery that would update a certain number of homes without up-front payment. Payments could be made by paying your old average energy fee and subtracting the costs of energy with solar panels and then applying the difference against the cost of the solar panels. I’m not an expert in economics or in designing either public or private programs, but I’m sure there is someone who can turn this idea into a successful program. In fact, there are programs that allow you to lease solar panels.

If all of our homes had either solar power, or if solar power was not viable than perhaps a neighborhood could share and pay for a windmill or other wind capturer/converter, wouldn’t that stop a lot of CO2emissions?  I also saw that it is possible to make solar panels that also act as siding. We’d feel much better about our comfortable lifestyles (which we really would hate to lose) if we did not feel that in order to be comfortable we will end up destroying our planet.

Simplify, simplify

Americans like to go at life with passion, verve, and energy; and sometimes with ambition, chicanery, and greed. We are supposed to succeed and in big ways or we are seen as failures by ourselves and others. Everything in America is supposed to move upward and we have taken this to our hearts both figuratively and literally. We are climbers of mountains, riders of zip lines, bungee jumpers, and sky divers. We will work 80+ hours each week to climb the ladder of success, for corporate advancement, to be a leading entrepreneur, a sports or music figure, a doctor, artist, dancer, film star, inventor, lawyer, thinker, educator, or innovator.

But right now America is slowing down just a bit. Perhaps we are supposed to be slowing down, taking a breath, collecting ourselves, listening for the small voice of creativity that sometimes eludes us until we are in the shower, or driving home, or washing dishes. We have this big energy problem to solve. We use too large a share of the world’s available energy. While it is true that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can be changed into another form. The form that the energy we are using is changing into is CO2 and that CO2 is making our planet warmer. It is also true that the planet will not die off right away if it warms up. But the extra heat will have effects that we won’t like. It already is. Perhaps you are not one of the people who feels bad about the extinction of species (like the polar bear), but some of us do. And whether we believe or not that the level of the oceans will rise doesn’t matter because it is already happening. It does not really matter if you believe that climate change will bring more extreme weather because that more extreme weather is already here.

When I first heard that some states were breaking paved roads up and turning them into gravel roads I was shocked. Are they doing this because we are poor or because they are deep into their small government campaign? My guess is that both things are true. However, maybe for our own reasons we ought to think about simpler lives, less spiffy roads, really switching out our gasoline-powered cars for cars powered by electricity (once again there could be programs to help us switch). We could just slow our lives down just a bit, not go at life like it’s an obstacle to be overcome or beaten into submission. We could be more Zen, more jazz, and less MMA, less hard rock, or rap. We could still be modern with our jets and our high speed trains but our pace would just be less assertive, less aggressive. We’d still work hard, but maybe 40 hours a week will be enough or 60; not 80. If we slow down just a bit who knows how many things might occur to us. We might even get more exercise and stay fit. We could savor that coffee, smell those roses. And stop adding to global warming.

Whatever we do let’s go big! Let’s pick at least one strategy that will lower our fossil fuel use a lot and let’s stay with it. I just do not have faith that my little blue bins are getting the job done. Keep in mind: we are not wealthy. We will need help if America decides to go big.

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com

 

The End of the World/Global Insanity

 
I can understand why we almost believe that the Mayans were right to predict that the world will end on 12/12/2012 or 12/21/12 (whichever). I sort of get why people used to make those sandwich board signs that announced the end of the world. Sometimes the world seems to spin out of control, to lose its footings and to make us feel anxious and a bit unhinged. Lately the world has felt that way times ten. Maybe it started for us on 9/11, maybe it started with the turn of the millennium, but this is not just an American phenomenon. Everywhere we look there is turmoil and upheaval.

Go continent by continent and the whole planet seems to have gone haywire, nuts, offering no solace anywhere we look. Start in Antarctica where the ice is melting and the penguins are losing habitat, sources of food, and nesting grounds. This is an Antarctica where scientists who need medical care have had to go to rather extreme lengths to get the treatment they needed.

Africa has been breaking our hearts for a long, long time. Gangs have ravaged parts of Africa. Disease has had its way with Africa. Civil War has caused horror in Africa. Now the areas of North Africa that were once fairly stable have broken out of the authoritarian governments that have created big gaps between their rich and their poor and they are trying to form new structures which allow the people to govern themselves. We have called this the Arab Spring and it has spread beyond Northern Africa into Syria. Syria, we feel your pain. Your leader will not yield. He bombs his own people. Syrians must become refugees living as orphans in neighboring nations. Children are dying. And the war goes on and on. These Arab Spring nations that took such brave risks to win the right to create their own governments have not had such an easy time making this happen. And we have terrorists who see opportunity wherever there is unrest.

Asia takes in an enormous number of nations and many of these nations have been affected by internal strife, social change, or natural disaster. North Korea likes to be a sort of aggressive enigma, and even though its new young leader might hold out some promise for a less antagonistic relationship with the rest to the world, we publish material that pokes unnecessary fun at the leader of this scary nation, a “joke” which is culturally specific and which humiliates this young leader who needs to understand that the world would really like to count his country as a member of the world’s friendly nations. We are not getting along really well with Mr. Putin in Russia, although we operate as allies most of the time. China owns a large portion of our debt, has now become a major polluter, and has a long way to go in terms of human rights, so, although China is fairly stable and is growing right now, it may experience more instability down the line as the people become more affluent. Japan experienced that awful (and awful is the correct word here) earthquake/tsunami with massive death, destruction, and nuclear contamination. Even now the detritus of this disaster is floating eastward to pile up on the shores of Hawaii and eventually the west coast of the US. Southeast Asia has also experienced political unrest and was hit by a terrible tsunami. India had the bombing in Mumbai, a terrorist act. India also has its slums to deal with. Those slums represent India’s shame and India will have to come up with ways to end the desperation, hopelessness, pollution, and disease that are embodied in these slums. It goes on and on; I haven’t even mentioned Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iran.

Australia – I don’t know anything really bad about Australia although two Australia DJ’s recently may have caused a suicide in London because of a prank, and there was some kind of extreme weather event in Australia this year, I believe.

Europe has partnered with America (unintentionally) to fall into a giant recession. They have lost some of their manufacturing to Asia and unemployment is high. They are having trouble with their “entitlements” and have gone through a long period of austerity making life difficult in many European nations. They are even more affected than we are by the upheavals of their neighbors. Europe has also had some extreme weather to deal with. What Europe has achieved is one of the few positive outcomes we can look to. They may not be out of recession; they may still have economic problems to face, but they have worked together because the European Union and the Euro have forced them to find ways to do that. In fact they were just given the Nobel Peace Prize.

South America has had to deal with several earthquakes, but South America has perhaps been one of the most trouble-free continents in this past year or two. Even so, Hugo Chavez, leader of Venezuela finds that his cancer is back and if he can no longer lead then the stability of that nation may be affected.

As for America, we have really had a rough time of it lately with our extreme weather, especially some very destructive hurricanes and frightening tornadoes, droughts in some places and heavy rains in others. Our weather and our economy have been quite unstable. Our government has been contentious with both politicians and citizens divided into two opposing camps. We don’t have enough jobs for people who need them and we seem to be losing our confidence. We are also worried about the insanity that seems to be dominating countries all around the world. Which brings us back where we started from: to the end of the world.
 
 

Of course I doubt the world will end on 12/12/12 or 12/21/12 or anytime soon. In fact scientists have said that the Mayan calendar was interpreted incorrectly, or they discovered more writing which changed their analysis about the prediction; I forget which one. We are probably just in an era when many elements of our existence on this wild planet are in transition. Economies are changing, governments are changing, religious bargains will have to be struck, new energy sources will have to be found or lifestyles will have to change. Just when the whole world wants to enjoy the comfortable lives Americans live, the resources to live that lifestyle may run out.

It is difficult to live in the midst of all this change and anxiety. We prefer security and a sense of comfort, peace and productivity. We definitely don’t have enough of these things that we crave right now. But we certainly can say that we live in interesting times. I hope next year gets a bit more boring and holds a few more of the certainties that give us pleasure and optimism. Please, settle down folks, we can’t control the weather, but everyone could soft pedal the power grabs for a while.

 

 

The Keystone

 
 
I sincerely wish that going forward we didn’t need to use fossil fuels ever again but that is not the case. We aren’t done with coal, gas, or oil quite yet. It is also essential that we keep trying to set America free from reliance on foreign energy resources, especially oil, because needing to keep other countries happy to insure our oil supply gives them leverage and it gives these same countries potential power to control our response to world events. Also, it is possible that we can use the pipeline as a bargaining chip to help keep the Republicans from insisting on cuts to “entitlements” before they will allow tax rates to go up.

We must accept, however, that we are walking a dangerous line between environmental catastrophes and our energy needs and this dilemma is becoming more and more obvious. Most of us accept that the climate changes we are seeing like the melting ice caps and the rising sea levels and the severe storms can be linked to burning fossil fuels and the levels of CO2emissions produced by that chemical process. Using combustion to produce mechanical energy will not work well for us for much longer unless we create domes to live under and move well away from coastlines.

 

Unfortunately we don’t have a great new source of energy waiting in the wings that will provide enough power to meet our energy needs. We have our little collection of problematic alternative energy sources:  solar, wind, nuclear, maybe some thermal – each with pluses and minuses. Right now there are more minuses than pluses.

This is why I say we should go ahead with the Keystone Pipeline. I am not really in favor of the pipeline, but I believe they have agreed to change the route so that it doesn’t cut across Nebraska’s fresh water aquifer. It’s practically a done deal and a pipeline is not as bad a risk for our fresh water as drilling offshore or fracturing shale. Sad to say, unless something comes along, we will probably end up doing those also, but let’s wait until we’re desperate. Let’s also keep pushing for the toughest rules we can possibly get to force the energy industry to protect our fresh water (and even our oceans) and to keep CO2 emissions as low as possible.

 

Waterworld?

I am relieved to know that I am not the only person worried about water resources on our lovely planet. I was beginning to feel that I was being a weird lefty liberal once again, which is not how I see myself, but, I have been told, is how I may be perceived by others. Writing in the New York Times on April 8th, Thomas L. Friedman writes in his op-ed column The Other Arab Spring that he sees a tie-in between climate change and political instability like we are experiencing in Northern Africa and the Middle East.
He points out that Yemen is the first country in the world expected to run out of water.
He says, “The Arab awakening was driven not only by political and economic stresses, but, less visibly, by environmental, population and climate stress as well.”
He goes on to say, “If climate projections stay on their current path, the drought situation in North Africa and the Middle East is going to get progressively worse…”
“12 of 15 of the world’s most water-starved countries according to Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, the executive director of the Institute for Policy, Research and Development in London, writing in the Beirut Daily Star in February are (no real surprise) in the Middle East:
Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Israel, Palestine.
He ends with this, “While you may not be interested in climate change, climate change is interested in you.
So here for your enjoyment is a picture of our earth as it is today:
And here is a picture of the moon, which is exactly how the earth will look without water, except smaller: