Flooded Planet

Exploring the World of Writing to the Very Last Drop...of Ink

Author: G2 (page 2 of 8)

Don’t Hold Your Breath

During my brief hiatus from this blog, I did a lot of looking about, both locally and regionally, as well as keeping a close eye on news events. The hiatus wasn’t intentional, by the way. Life just got extremely busy, and the blog’s priority started slipping down a notch or two. Of course, because I love this blog, the fact that I wasn’t writing left me with feelings of guilt. So I’m back…maybe not in full swing, but doing my best to get there. In the meantime, my look about left me convinced that there was no need for me to change any of my notions where Climate Change was concerned. No, I am more doubtful than ever that we hold any promising developments for resolving our predicament on the planet. Some terribly rough times lay ahead for us humans, I believe, and I’m certainly not alone in that perspective.

When I say that I “looked about,” I mostly mean that I did a lot of reading. What I continually discover is discouraging in the strongest sense of the word. Downright depressing is a more apt description.

Because I do keep such a close eye on Climate Change news (even though I’ve vowed not to because it’s changing my entire world perspective much faster than I would like to shift…I’m dizzy), I can tell you that I am perceiving a palpable increase in the number of stories readily accessible to the average reader concerning Climate Change, and of course none of them uplifting or holding much promise for the future. The warning signs are becoming more prevalent, and this must be the cause behind the more focused attention that is being paid to the scientific community and its persistent alarms.

Here are ten random factoids about the climate, ranging from the very cold to the very hot. With these kinds of observations, as with many others, the term “feedback loop” comes to mind, and it’s important not to consider such unfoldings in a linear manner. The way that the Big CC is proceeding would appear to suggest exponential acceleration, and that’s about as frightening as things can get:

  1. Larsen C is scheduled to calve off from its parent ice shelf any day now, becoming one of the largest icebergs ever recorded, comprising about a ten percent loss to the ice shelf it has always called home. Some scientists say this will only accelerate the rush to the sea of the glacier that is “held back” by the shelf.
  2. According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, glaciers around the world have been retreating, with few exceptions and at unprecedented rates for decades now. Some have disappeared altogether, and other are retreating so rapidly that they may vanish by mid-century. (Note that, because glaciers are so sensitive to weather fluctuations, they are one of the most reliable indicators of change. It would be hard to draw any other conclusion about the planet, based on this collective glacial retreat, other than the fact that it is warming up, and fast).
  3. The melting of Greenland’s ice sheet is accelerating at an alarming rate. So much can be said about that fact alone, but mostly all you need to hear is the collective alarm of all those who research the ice on Greenland as a vocation to send chills up your spine. As I’ve said before in this blog, rejoinders to most quotes included in media stories, such as, “We knew it was bad, but not this bad,” or “It’s happening so much quicker than we expected” almost seem obligatory now.
  4. Last winter’s temperatures in the Arctic were record-setting, with highs that could only be categorized as “extreme” in nature (30 to 35 degrees above norms). As a result, sea ice melt is occurring months before it normally would. Instead of the ice becoming thin and sparse more toward August and September, these conditions are already present in May and June. An Arctic that is free of sea ice in the summer becomes more of a potential reality with each passing season.
  5. When I began this blog nearly a year ago (August 2016), reporting that we had reached 400 ppm for the very first time (2013) seemed like a big deal for the scientific community, at least in a symbolic context. Since that time, we’ve already breached 410 ppm, and are seriously flirting with 415 ppm. The take away here is that these same levels of CO2 in the atmosphere occurred millions of years ago.
  6. As of March 2017, the world has experienced 627 consecutive months of warmer than normal temperatures.
  7. Some 93% of all Climate Change heat is absorbed by the ocean. It’s an incredible heat sink. Lucky us. The downside is that the coral reefs that live there are taking a huge hit as a result of all this excess heat. The corals are now experiencing the worst bleaching event (most widespread and longest lasting) on record. The worth of the Great Barrier Reef was recently valued at approximately $40 billion or so. Reefs occupy only about one percent of the ocean’s floor, but support about 25% of all marine life. A disproportionate loss of marine life could be experienced if we lose the coral, not to mention the millions of livelihoods directly connected to the vitality of this eco-system.
  8. The Doomsday Clock is now set at two and a half minutes before midnight. The clock is now closer to midnight than it has been since 1953. If you’d like to know the primary reason for this extremely concerning move, look no further than the current resident president and his utter failure to lead politically.
  9. Scientists tell us that the sixth mass extinction event to ever occur on the planet is actually taking place right now. Every day, scientists estimate that some 200 species go extinct, well above any rate of occurrence we have experienced as a species since the dawn of civilization.
  10. Food production around the globe is diminishing, and will continue to do so as a result of Climate Change. While most human population growth in the future is expected to occur in the tropics, the food produced there will decrease in those same zones as a result of higher temperatures, increased plant disease and pest predatation, and a migration toward the poles by plant and animal species (fish) that will only be able to adapt and survive by moving toward colder temperatures. As another surprising result of the Big CC, researchers tell us that increased levels of atmospheric CO2 also results in a lower nutritional value for crops grown under these elevated CO2 conditions. People will develop zinc, protein, and iron deficiencies as a result.

Let’s say someone walks up to me on the street and asks me to participate in their poll (I wouldn’t, by the way, but this is for illustration purposes). The survey is about Climate Change. One of the questions is “On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most optimistic, what are the chances for homo sapiens continuing to thrive into the future as they have until now?” My answer: 1 (the textual translation would maybe be “Don’t Hold Your Breath.”)

Speeding Trains Will Not Budge

As I was barreling down the highway today (well, actually I’m more often accused of driving like an old lady, so I chose ‘barreling’ to make it sound more dramatic than it really was…let’s say I was going 57 mph in a 55…all caution thrown to the wind).

Anyway, so there I was. I had to slam on my brakes in order to avoid a collision. My laptop was situated on the back seat of the car, because I’m dense and don’t think that what happened last time will happen this time). Mr. Hewlett Packard went crashing to the floorboard…again. Inertia does what it’s paid to do—it keeps things going in the same direction they were just undertaking a moment ago, even when some outside force says that the situation has changed.  It takes a moment or two for all things to sync up again I guess.

All objects in motion tend to stay in motion until acted upon by some outside force (I’m paraphrasing, Mr. Newton, so stop looking at me like that…it’s close enough).

Fortunately, the computer is still working…again, after being slammed to the floor for the umpteenth time.

This inertia law applies to pretty much anything and everything in the physical universe, including heavy things, like speeding trains, and even things as light as atmospheric gasses, like CO2, methane, water, or sulfates of various ilk. If we can picture the idea of the CO2 being ‘pumped’ into the air (the classic smoke stack doing its thing is a nice visual), that really means just a couple of things. First, because these compounds are gasses, they’re going to go, and then mostly stay, where we’d expect them to—up. Second, their elemental composition of relatively small molecules, coupled with the idea that a turbo-boost of heat energy helped to send these little cuties aloft in a big time way…well maybe this picture helps us to imagine what will be necessary to get those annoying gasses back down where we can do something constructive with them—we’re going to have to ‘suck.’

I read a headline today that the world’s first industrial-scaled attempt at removing carbon from the atmosphere was recently brought online (question…why would this seemingly simplistic endeavor take this amount of time to come to fruition? Surely I’m missing something here). Sounds exciting, I thought to myself, delving into the story with gusto. Turns out it’s the Swedes once again leading the way, and apparently there’s an enterprising businessman on the development team.

The facility is located somewhere outside of Zurich and basically operating the way most people might imagine. At its most basic, we’re talking about a ginormous vacuum cleaner that sucks the CO2 out of the atmosphere. Once this has been accomplished, the carbon is filtered out, then used, in this particular example, to help grow things in greenhouses (commercial plant vendors already do something similar, introducing copious amounts of CO2 into the plants’ environment so that they’ll be prompted to grow better, faster, stronger… faster). The company’s rep also claims that synfuels may be developed, as well as providing carbonation for soda, which I thought was a very worthy benefit to pursue.

Then I read the part of the story that absolutely did not work for me. The company hopes to remove 1% of civilization’s global annual carbon dioxide emissions by 2025. To do so, he said, 250,000 comparable-sized facilities would have to put into operation, as well. Yes, you read that correct—250,000 plants. So…eight years…250,000 more buildings of similar capacity…to achieve 1% extraction of annual global CO2 emissions. Sounds like a good plan, right?

One other very very important aspect of this story to unfortunately emphasize: this enterprise is not contributing to the concept known as ‘negative emissions.’ What’s that, you ask? In practice, it would mean that we are removing more carbon from the air than we are spewing into it. The theory is that, if we reduce the overall amount of the CO2 floating around up there in the atmosphere (the stuff causing the greenhouse effect that is warming the planet) we might gradually cool things down. This facility is not doing that. It’s ‘repurposing’ the carbon (my term), using the very by-product of their efforts for other things such as those already mentioned.

So, to be clear, yes, this outfit is sucking carbon out of the air, but it’s not permanently removing the stuff. No sequestering happening here yet. One can easily imagine that if a company is going to pursue that business model, I guess what we might call the “Removing carbon from the atmosphere, not to better secure an optimistic outlook for future generations, but to then take the sucked-out carbon and make a little cash on the side by using it for things like safeguarding soda as the sticky sweet carbon-ated beverage king it already is” business model, well, that company might be accused of ethical transgressions, moral hazards, legerdemain, bait and switch, etc., and, indeed, such accusations have already been flying.

I’m sure that businessman tucked amongst them is happy to spin the questions that will surely be leveled against him as this carbon removal enterprise begins to look more and more like business as usual.

I took the time to dive into some of the other alternatives on the table as possible solutions to our Climate Change sticky widget, quickly discovering that nobody out there really has the slightest idea about how we’re going to tackle Climate Change head on. There are fleas on the ticks on the flies on the hair of the half-starved dogs we’re calling the best of the best. A solution that comes even remotely close to something that looks and smells like a bona fide solid scientific promise is as far off as that speeding train looked nearly 50 years ago when the subject matter experts started sounding the alarm. As hard as it is to stop a speeding train, looks like it’s just as hard to get up a good head of steam (objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless acted upon by some…well you know the rest).

The comments I read in many of these journalistic articles are the most honest and unfiltered truth one can find out there. Leave it  to somebody who is a natural born cynic and skeptic to state things as they really are. In truth, we don’t know what the heck we are doing, and we’re simply running out of time to even have a chance at figuring it out.

Meanwhile, the POTUS has taken us out of the Paris Agreement when he absolutely did not have to. Pretty soon, we may have to say that we’re out of the game entirely…all of us, because we understood the rules, we just thought we could skirt around them.

Here’s part of the comment that I liked best because it says the same thing I’ve been saying on this post for several months now. I will not give attribution because I didn’t get this person’s permission. I only offer a ‘two-thumbs-up’ for the honest and simple words that really drive it home for me, simply because it’s true (grammar, punctuation, and slight wording changes mine to improve read…intent wholly intact):

“…I mean besides a very, very select few of us, how many do you observe who take this matter to the level of seriousness it deserves? Most people shrug it off. “Warming, yep, what can you do?” Then they get in their oversized SUV or pickup, crank the AC and floor it into the sunset. There has to be some major major events before people as a whole will take notice, and then it will be too late. I just cannot see people rolling back to the level required to avoid going over the cliff…”

Sincere Thanks for stopping by!

G2

Cleavage

So Trump has decided to cleave the U.S. from the Paris Climate Change Agreement crowd, putting us with unenviable neighbors of Syria and Nicaragua as fellow abstainers (Syria’s busy with all that civil war distraction, so I suppose we can forgive them for not caring about anything other than who’s going to cobble the place back together once the dust finally settles).  The other separation event, of course, happening almost at the exact same time, is the ten percent ice shelf loss down on Larsen C, with its full frontal cleavage line really showing and growing these days. Eleven miles of expansion in just six days, and less than that to go before it’s fully separated, ready for the big venture out into the sea as one of the largest icebergs ever to be recorded. It’s epic proportions have been compared to those of Delaware, for Pete’s sake!

What can we say about these two seemingly unrelated events? First off, I’d like to offer that they’re not unrelated by any stretch. In fact, I would almost say that they go hand in hand. After all, if it weren’t for the anthropogenic activities of homo sapiens, we never would have needed a Paris Agreement to pull out of to begin with. At the same time, if it weren’t for the anthropogenic activities of homo sapiens, Larsen C probably wouldn’t be about to drop 2000 square miles of ice into the ocean. See how nicely that all fits together?

Meanwhile, we have such disparate scientific opinion with regard to how fast we’re going to bump up against circumstances that will spell doom and disaster for all of us. The truth is, nobody really knows. If they did, we wouldn’t have to keep hearing the now common phrase about how things are happening faster than expected, if they even expected such and such an event to happen in the first place.

We’ve learned so much about how the climate works on a global scale, and how intertwined it all is, how susceptible to change, even when slight perturbations in the atmosphere occur. What we do on a daily basis is anything but a slight perturbation. According to James Hansen, the granddaddy of climatologists, we pump the heat equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima bombs into our atmosphere every single day. Can you wrap your head around that? This is Hansen’s number, based on solid scientific data. This guy is a trailblazer. He’s no dummy, and this is his figure going back at least five years. In that same 2012 TED talk in which he threw out this number, he also issued many other dire warnings, none of which I doubt in the least. (By the way, he also justifiably tooted his own horn as a way to lend further credence to his words, reminding his audience that everything he and other scientists had predicted in an article going all the way back to 1981 had, in fact, come to pass, or was well underway). At the time, the ppm reading of CO2 was apparently sitting right around 391. Hansen said we needed to get it back down to around 350 ppm if we were to avoid the most serious climatic consequences. Where are we today? Steadily heading in the opposite direction, with current measurements suggesting an average closing in on 410 (although we’ve spiked above that already).

We’ve known about this CO2 acting as an atmospheric blanket stuff for well over a century and a half. Yet, here we are, way way down the road since this initial discovery, still spewing the stuff into our personal atmospheric cesspit as though it’s the most natural and uneventful thing we can do here on Little Blue.

As a totally unnatural segue into other clueless developments (take that literally), there’s rumor of plans to build a new 6 million square foot ‘shopping mecca’ (not my words) in south Florida, bumping right up next to The Everglades. If all goes as planned, the thing could be approved as early as this fall. Keep in mind that the Pentagon weighs in at 6.6 million square feet as you read this description:

…Developer Triple Five Worldwide Group of Edmonton, Canada, says this will be different, combining retail space with an indoor ski slope, a water park, a submarine ride attraction, a skating rink, 2,000 hotel rooms, theaters, a performing arts center, and places to eat and drink.

Oh, it’s good to be alive in America, if only for a little while longer. Meanwhile, God Bless our President as he continues down his modest, earnest, honest and well-metered path toward the train wreck that is almost certainly coming his way at some point in the first term (and probably in the first quarter of it). My bet is on impeachment, but if not that, then undoubtedly some other variety of debilitating debacle. When it happens, the world will have continued on with its diligent efforts toward reducing the effects of Climate Change, despite our inept leader’s best efforts to derail a most noble undertaking. The world will be hotter, more unstable, more crowded, less bio-diverse, and with our own existence more tenuous everyday. Those are the facts.

Meanwhile, first one to plant a flag on the new iceberg gets to own it for the duration.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

 

Hydroponic Happy

Hydroponic Happy

The three basil ladies you see here started out in life from a very tough place. The attending gardener was doing his best to kill them. I had placed them in a gallon jug container outside with the micro-nutrient mixture I use for my hydroponic efforts. The jug was just a discarded water container, made of plastic, of course, and mostly clear. Me neglecting to darken it so that the algae would not grow was a big mistake. Algae is an amazing organism in that, with a little water and sun, its abundant and rapid growth is virtually guaranteed. I would imagine that the high nutrient content in the water did nothing to help that situation, as well.

By the end of the first day, the algae was already growing in the jug, which was probably no big deal for the moment, but the basil  were noticeably suffering, probably mostly from the shock of being separated from the parent plant abruptly, by way of my scissors. I think a lot of it had to do with the way in which I cut them, leaving absolutely no root growth for them to begin life in a new environment with.  By the end of the second day, I counted the experiment as all but dead in the water (literally and figuratively).

However, life will find a way, and so it went with these three little ladies. I transferred their lifeless and wilted bodies into the three jars you see here, filling each about a third full with clean gravel, then another third of the way with the same micro-nutrient mix I was using outside (not the same stuff…it had been overtaken by the algae…just the same mixture). I placed them in my windowsill, and within a couple of days, they had bounced right back (the aluminum keeps the algae from getting a foothold).  You should see the root system on these plants now! Hundreds of tiny roots growing out of the portion of the plant that I initially cut from the parent. It’s really kind of amazing.

The peppers you see on the table beside the basil are also products of a hydroponic effort and with many more still on the way from the same plant, growing in nothing but expanded clay pellets for support, and the micro-nutrient mixture in which the pepper plants roots are quite happy.

I can safely say that, between my soil-based efforts versus the hydroponic-based planets, the soil-less stuff is winning magnificently. Not to mention that it’s just plain fun!

Chinese Coffee Mugs

Chinese Coffee Mugs

 

Nothing less complicated than a coffee mug

Yet how complex it truly is

 

I know nothing of its beginnings

 

How it was made

How it can be so smooth

Or how it got so white

 

And those beautiful designs placed on that same smooth white surface

What are all those colors made of

What gives them their majestic brilliance

 

What’s the substance of any of it and where did it come from anyway

 

It was simply placed in my hands

I never really have much choice

 

Only know that I’ve used it and many others like it

Never anything more…and never anything less

 

Nothing less complicated than a coffee mug

If I can’t understand that…well how can I possibly know the world

 

Someone whispers in my ear –

 

It was Made in China

 

Oh well that’s a start I say

What do we know about China and her people I ask

 

Someone whispers They drink a lot of tea

 

Oh I say I think somehow I knew that

 

Yes but they’re steadily switching over to coffee

 

Really I gasp and how do we know that

 

Because they’re making a lot of these mugs

 

Hmm I say tasting my coffee

Nothing’s as simple as all that I suppose

 

In the end the Chinese may turn out to be the coffee baron’s biggest customer

 

Amazing I say truly astounding

I continue to sip my coffee in my Chinese mug

 

Someone whispers I believe the stool you’re sitting on is Made in China too

All of a sudden I’m nervous and it’s not just the caffeine

 

Nothing more complicated than the Chinese I say

Feeling as though the only one astonished in the room is myself

 

Why do I know nothing of their beginnings

Or how they got so white

Or what gives them their majestic brilliance

 

Or how we became so Oriental in the first place

 

The stamp is on the bottom the voice whispers again

 

Hmm I say turning the smooth white mug upside down

The coffee spills all over the table but the stamp is indeed clearly visible

 

The voice chuckles as someone tosses me a rag

I make a grab for it but a yellow finger is pointing at a little snippet of white sewn to one corner

 

I choose not to read it

 

When we turn everything upside down there we’ll find the Chinese

 

I stare at the coffee mug and those colors still so vibrant

 

The voice whispers one last time

 

The coffee is also Chinese

 

(© 2005 All Rights Reserved)

A Case of Mistaken Identity

If I can think of this blog as a literary extension of myself and my thoughts, I can safely say that this little dot on the web is about to lose even more of what was supposed to be its foundational purpose,  because I am in the process of losing my own. I confessed some time ago that I had pulled back heavily from the all-consuming Big CC (Climate Change) for reasons that have become even more clear to me in the time that has passed since. To be honest, as I said somewhat unabashedly then, and even more so now, Humanity’s goose is most likely cooked, and there may be very little we can do about it.

(But it does make one wonder why the push to get us off this planet and over to Mars has taken on such an unrealistic sense of urgency, doesn’t it? And best of luck to all you misguided adventurers who are so willing to leave the only place I can think of that qualifies as Paradise for something that most assuredly qualifies as Hell on steroids. The place we are reaching out to is thoroughly incapable of supporting human life without some extremely serious and wholly unproven technologies; people, and probably many, will undoubtedly die in the effort).

I think for the vast majority of us, for psychological reasons that those who study such mental acrobatics have educated us about, Climate Change will forever remain little more than a distraction amongst the many others that occupy our everyday lives. The will to fix this monumental problem may be there, but the immediacy necessary to do so is not, nor will it be until things get even rougher, climatologically speaking, than they already are. By then, it will be even more “too late” than it already is.

The carbon we spewed into the atmosphere ten years back is only now manifesting itself fully on the applicable heat scale. What we spew into the sky this year won’t see itself manifested fully for another decade on. Our past sins catch up to us at some point in the future. It’s like looking through the lens of time in some surreal fashion, like a mental trick being played on us by Nature.

And anyway, even if the will and the immediacy were in place, we are too far down a road that allows no room for u-turns. If someone were to turn off the power tomorrow, utterly shutting down the heat engine we call civilization, in a cruel and twisted chain of ironic events that would ensue, we would bring about our demise even quicker than if we just continued on the same capitalistic bender we’ve been pursuing for centuries now. To put it bluntly, we are in a predicament, and, as Guy McPherson would tell us, predicaments don’t have solutions. Whatever resolve we might have for fixing things now, we can possibly categorize all of it as a well-intentioned lost cause.

In the meantime, in light of the news that should thoroughly debilitate the mind and the soul, I’m doing just fine, and I hope you are, too. After all, thinking of one’s own mortality is something that we’ve always been confronted with. To ponder that we all may have a bit less time in front of us than we otherwise thought we might can simply be a way of focusing one’s efforts, concentrating the enjoyment to be had in our individual and collective existences. I’m all for that.

What doesn’t make sense to me any longer, and brings no joy at any rate, is attempting to emphasize the consequences of our own careless actions where the planet is concerned (i.e. the effects of modern civilization on the blue orb we call home) and the solutions that might have been undertaken in order to reverse the course of this ship (my analogies are starting to grow stale, too). Because this proverbial ship is so intertwined with the element of water, in all its planetary manifestations, it was a foregone conclusion that I would cross paths with the dark underbelly of this beast, this thing that scrapes along, killing off the vitality and diversity that is so necessary for all things to thrive, wreaking havoc in all places, big and small, exposing everything in ways that are uncomfortable in the extreme, shedding light on things that prefer to skitter away into darkness.

What? Speak English, Gary. This dramatic gibberish isn’t making any sense at all, and you’re becoming quite annoying .  Sorry…I was thinking of that massive British ocean liner scraping along that coral reef a few months back, utterly destroying untold eco-systems, so fragile and irreplaceable, in the process (kiss the reefs goodbye as a whole, by the way…many experts say they are all but gone at this point, with next to nothing we can do to bring them back). I was thinking of the mass extinction taking place this very moment, with most of us nary blinking an eye, killing off diversity, obliterating vitality, as well as our own chances to thrive. I was thinking of ice sheets melting at unprecedented rates, and glaciers pulling back and back, and oceans warming and acidifying, and green stuff growing in Antarctica now. I was thinking of an atmosphere full of toxins and greenhouse gasses. I was thinking of the impenetrable mountain fortress in Norway that serves as a repository of the world’s seeds, recently compromised by, of all things, water, partially flooding the entryway that was supposed to be impervious to such elements (you’d think they would have planned for this possibility).

I was thinking of…well, anyway, guess that would all qualify as havoc being wreaked in all places. Hmm…maybe I wasn’t being so dramatic, after all.

So now that the blog is tired of proselytizing, and really just kind of weary of itself, in general, it’s decided to just have fun again. This time, it’s a bit of a free-for-all, I’m afraid, with no defined purpose, no set course of writing action. No agenda. No plan.

We can enjoy the experience of being slowly shoved toward the nearest exit door, letting go so that we won’t be dragged. I hope that I will simply shuffle stage left with the herd that I’m a part of, chewing my cud peacefully, doodling with my pen, writing with my keyboard, thinking about paths not taken with my head, and smiling all the while. If anyone is stuck on that question “Why me?” ask instead, “Why not me?” I do all the time, and it feels quite right to do so.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

 

Where the Wild Things Aren’t (Part 2)

Is it just me, or is the durned wind blowing most all the time now? Of course it’s not just me. More wind is a prevalent characteristic of the Big CC (Climate Change for you newcomers). It’s one of the reasons behind increased evaporation of surface water, whether in rivers, lakes, or your backyard pool. It’s the reason (in part) why wild fires are harder to control. It’s the reason (in part) why weather isn’t the same as it used to be, as anyone over fifty will verify (most likely). It’s the reason (in part) why dust storms rage across different parts of the planet, and at different times of the year, on most any given day.

It’s also the reason (entirely) why the canopy that I was hoping to use in the backyard for the entire summer got ripped to shreds the other night and is now useless to me. Yes, it’s always important to personalize Climate Change, complaining about its small trivial effects that have nothing to do with the big picture. You can always count on me for that. I’m like that figure in history who was more upset about his hang nail than the news that a thousand souls were lost in a mudslide on the other side of the planet (not literally, of course, so please don’t send me hate mail or death threats).

Continuing on that thread, I’d like to say that it’s becoming increasingly hard to rely on the weather to act in your favor for just about anything now. This is also a consequence of the Big CC, and I’m afraid we’re just going to have to get used to it. For the states along the Gulf of Mexico, the rainstorms are going to be a problem again this summer. We just exited the flooding in the late stages last summer (think Baton Rouge in August), and now here we are in the thick of it once more. Panama City, Florida, where I live, is in for a beating over the next couple of days, and I was hoping that last night’s deluge would take care of it. But this is the new pattern – in some ways the wind is out of control, and in others it just sits there, benign and flaccid, letting storm systems sit on top of towns and cities for hours or days, while the bottom drops out and people’s cars go floating down the street. A search on the net (or is it the web? … I never can remember) reveals numerous stories about flash flooding, tornadoes, and severe weather affecting every state from Texas to Florida’s Panhandle right now. Up to ten inches of rain expected in some places. Yep…the new norm.

It rained so hard last night at my place, a pump I had been using for my hydroponic peppers got pummeled into submission. I wonder if the Gub’ment will give out some sort of stipend to people for casualties of war like this. Or maybe it will be a good way to stimulate the economy under Trump. All the plastic junk (like my pump) that gets busted in the fires and floods and hurricanes and tornadoes will have to be replaced with a newer model (still thoroughly plastic, to be sure). Meteorological Economic Stimulation System (uh, yes, I was wondering where I go to pick up my, uh, MESS check?)

When I woke up this morning, I discovered that thousands of ants with wings had somehow gotten blown into my pool (I couldn’t get the cover on it, since the wind was blowing…too…hard). Where they came from, and why they had taken wing like that, I have no idea (ants aren’t supposed to have wings, normally, I don’t guess, unless it’s the Queen, but if everyone’s the Queen, then nobody’s the Queen, and there wasn’t anything royal about any of these little squirming masses of insect balls, anyway, trying to save themselves from the chlorinated water by forming living clumps of writhing panic, clambering up and over the side of the pool to continue on to God only knows where).

I think the fact that we’re killing off species everyday (apparently not flying ants, however) means that there is less wild where living things are concerned. But, because there’s so much excitement otherwise, all being caused by the ever more unpredictable weather, this is probably where we should consider the new wild things to be (i.e., flapping like hell in the weather, itself). After all, isn’t the weather just about as close to a living thing as it gets without actually being alive?

And speaking of flapping like hell, something is definitely going on with the birds. Has anyone else noticed this? It’s one of those things that you don’t even realize you’re taking into account in your brain until you realize that you’re now keeping track of the incidents, like a statistical thing in your life. When I mentioned it to my daughter, I knew it was because I wanted to share my craziness with someone I trusted.

Anyway, the birds seem agitated and restless, less settled than they should be, way too active, and just downright careless. They’re cutting it really super close with my car way too often now. I’ll see them flying straight across my windshield, or coming straight at me before veering off. They’ll land right in front of me on the road before immediately launching back into the sky with mere seconds to spare.

At first I thought it was coincidence. Now, I see a pattern. Could it be related to something in the weather? Maybe it’s the wind. Maybe it’s telling them to get out of town, now, before they become next on the list of species slated for extinction.

Thanks for stopping by!

G2

Where the Wild Things Aren’t (Part 1)

The Meaning of Nature

When we think about that word ‘Nature,’ some of us may not have a clear understanding of its meaning. This is probably due to the idea that the word’s usage is bathed in many ambiguous shades of intent to begin with. Do you need to board a plane to get to this thing called Nature? Is it something ‘over there’ as opposed to nearby? We all say we want to ‘get back to Nature.’ How did we get away from it in the first place? Where is this Nature thingy, anyway? Does it have to be a place set aside by the Gub’ment in order to qualify?

As for me, I’m sitting in it right now, even though there are several degrees of protective separation between me and this thing. I’m wearing a contraceptive called ‘the city’ to keep me safe from the ravages of this beastly foe. A building of some sort will keep me shielded from Her powers most of the time, a car most of the rest. It’s the in-between times that I’m directly exposed to the elements. God forbid that it should start raining and I get caught out in the middle of it. I suppose I could call that ‘Getting back to Nature,’ but it feels lame to me. And I’m pretty sure that’s all I would be if I did ever find myself at Her mercy, exposed without protection of any sort – lame.

My distant ancestors would look upon my sorry, unprepared self and laugh themselves into a stupor at what I’ve become. No survival skills, no knowledge of what to do in this situation or that. No knowledge of where to go, or how to make it through the crisis to see another day. They would have seen said situation as just another run-of-the-mill moment to deal with.  For me, for us, we are all standing in the rain with our pants down.

But I’ve wandered off point. Nature is what the big yellow machines are carving up all over town, and the outskirts of town, right now. It’s where all kinds of wildlife used to call home. Nobody’s going to call it Nature, though. They’ll call it land development. They’ll label it as jobs, growth, progress, zoned construction, economic progress, etc., etc. It’s not Nature. Oh no…anything but that.

It’s not the rabbits, squirrels, birds, turtles, deer, beavers, foxes, frogs, coyotes, raccoons, possums, lizards, snakes, bugs, plants, trees, ground water, springs, lakes, and whatever else might have naturally occurred there before we re-purposed it to our own needs and wants. Nobody on any planning board is going to ask what will happen to all these ‘items’ I just mentioned, because they’re not important. They are part of a bureaucratic process to be taken care of so that everything proceeds on schedule and everyone on the payroll can get a check on time.

The trees and vegetation will very likely be bundled up into several nice neat piles and set ablaze. And nobody has any qualms about rerouting any natural flows of water. It’s one of the things we do best. Name any major river in the world that we haven’t dammed ten times, a hundred times over. Water management is one of our specialties. The huge piles of staged pipe of every color, dimension, material, and purpose will be manifest, no matter what the project, small, big, or massive. The water must either be piped in, piped out, or both.

As far as the living things are concerned, they are entirely on their own. Of this we can be quite certain. As I’ve asked before—what lives in a concrete jungle, anyway, besides us and our pets? We don’t have any time or space for the things that were here before a mall moved in, or a restaurant, or a bank. Even a park has little tolerance for the wild stuff.

A park is largely the same infrastructure as any other city project. There will be sports fields, swimming pools, manicured parking lots, and manicured green spaces. But to think that it will be home to any but the smallest percentage of these creatures on the list is, for the most part, pure folly.

A park is not a wild place. A park gets a trim and a haircut pretty much every day, in some form or fashion. A park is one of the tamest, most purposefully landscaped places you’ll ever encounter in a city. To think you’ll ever see any wild beast much beyond a squirrel is fantasy. Parks are an important component of any civic concern, and the massive expulsion of all living creatures is just a casualty of war.

Anything that does manage to survive for a while in our environs might just as likely be labeled a nuisance as not, and summarily handled by any of a number of ‘pest’ companies that make their money by taking care of other people’s varmint problems.

If you don’t see at least a dozen examples of road kill on even your short trips across town, then you’re not looking very hard. We’ll get ’em, all right, it’s just a matter of time, and odds. The bloody carnage is something we just accept as part of urban living. The squirrels play dodge with oncoming traffic, while the slow poke possums and turtles might as well have left with their affairs in order when they decided that crossing a road was a wise choice for their family. I wonder if anybody has ever done a study to see what kind of increase in road kill numbers takes place in the immediate aftermath, once a project fires up and things start getting ‘felled.’ I would venture to guess the stats would be astounding…for those who care enough about such things to be astounded.

So, yeah…my city’s Nature is getting carved up at breakneck speed, more people are moving in, more wildness is being driven out so that we can all have yet another place or three to park our fat asses and inhale some greasy fast food. Our diets are pathetic, our health is deplorable, our levels of exercise are despicable. Maybe another park is just the ticket.

Apologies to all the little varmints we’re running out of house and home. Hope you find a place to land, while you’re dodging the headlights and looking for a new wild place. Stay clear of the cats and dogs.

Getting rid of Nature on behalf of progress seems to fit in with this scene just fine. The problem is, we need Nature to survive as a species. In Part 2 of Where the Wild Things Aren’t, we’ll consider some of the consequences of unrestrained growth we are now up against.

Thank you, as always, for stopping by!

G2

 

464 (Red Panda / Al-Jazari)

464 (Red Panda / Al Jazari)

To understand what in the world is going on here, please read my post A Remembrance of Personalities.

Red Panda

Red Panda

My youngest daughter, Gracie, drew this stylized version of the Red Panda, another of the unfortunates on the IUCN list of cute little cuddlies finding itself in trouble as it struggles to survive in the Anthropocene. I scanned in her mixed media, then enhanced its color a bit before adding my part to the composition. As we decided earlier between us, because it was a collaborative effort, we will both provide our signatures on the result.

If you look closely, you can see 464 separate one- or two-initial abbreviations (mostly just one now, since space is becoming a consideration) for the historical personalities I have memorized, each person separated from the next by a little dot. They start at the left ear, weave their way down the animal’s body, up the tree, then back down, up and around the bear’s body again, over to the other side of the tree, then repeating this trek going in the opposite direction before finally ending over by the uppermost leaf on the tree trunk.

We’ll be selling limited editions of these over on my Etsy art shop. Each one comes signed and numbered, along with a complete list of the personalities involved. We will be donating 10% of all profits gained in this manner to the World Wildlife Fund.

Links:

Red Panda

Al-Jazari

J’Ville all Jacked up on Progress

Had to go to Jacksonville to take care of some personal business the other day. The long and wearying drive over and back from Panama City, where I live, was to be considered a necessary affront (both to my back and the environment) to get to a city I had never visited before. Not that I wanted to go, but there was no getting around it. Sometimes governments, both big and small, place impositions on us, the citizens, that we’ll have no luck protesting, and will lose out on perceived benefits, even if we consider any protest we do mount as successful. At any rate, governmental bureaucracy, bloat, and short-sightedness have nothing to do with this diatribe. I’ve got other axes to grind (snicker).

So, I took the opportunity to use the day trip as an evaluation of ‘progress.’ If you haven’t read my Entropecology post yet, I hope that you will, as it provides the basis for much of what I share here. In short, what we, as Humanity, consider to be progress is, in fact, quite the opposite. It’s the steady and persistent ‘using up’ of our storehouse supplies, with no replenishment coming, ever, and with serious consequences that will be felt with increasing intensity for a long time to come. We can call the consequences pollution. We can also call them Climate Change. In the end, it’s all entropy in one form or another, and once piled up and piled on, very hard to get rid of.

The unabated growth I witnessed in many parts of J’Ville today is the very same animal running amuck here in PC. The similarities were striking.

I wouldn’t doubt that there exists this small, well-organized and deep-pocketed group of developer / investor / venturist types behind all this outrageous growth along Florida’s I-10 corridor. Starting over there in J’Ville and threading its way clean across our state until it exits around P’Cola (this shortening of city names is a habit of mine), I-10 continues boldly on all the way to the other coast (hmm…I wonder what excessive and ill-planned building projects are going on in those other states? I’ll bet I already know).

These guys and gals are experts at cobbling together the chunks o’ real estate they’ll need to bring in the massive building ventures guaranteed to turn any existing landscape on its head. Neighborhood? Habitat? Farmland? Community? Forget about it. Anything that invokes images of all those things that bind us together in some humanizing way are all tossed out with vigor, replaced unapologetically with more urban sprawl, more concrete jungle, more consumerism, more tired, worn-out franchised predictability.

Once their team is unleashed on your team, it’s very likely that they’ll wind up with most of what they wanted in their back pocket, and you’ll wind up holding the proverbial bag. What you thought was your quaint and quiet little community about two summers back now butts straight up against the backside of a shopping center that runs continuously, with no gaps, for several concreted and blacktopped blocks. The view is dire, and trending toward more of the same, since these projects typically run in phases, y’know. The bulldozers are already assembled on the property that lies diagonal to your own, and adjacent to the one where the parking lots start filling up around 7 or so (you’ve begun to notice), since consumers don’t spot the day’s deals as well on empty stomachs. The fast food chains start serving those yummy sausage biscuits as soon as the sun breaks the horizon. It’s all for a good cause—spending money.

Sidebar: I don’t make these statements casually. I’m witnessing what I’m writing about every day. I see neighborhoods that once existed among live oak and palmetto for as far as the eye could see now surrounded on all sides by strip malls, convenient stores, banks, and restaurants.

I drove past this guy the other day, squatting at the entryway of his very posh abode. He was smoking a cigarette, pointing a garden hose at the street, apparently thinking that blacktop grows better when it’s watered. He had this vacuous look in his eyes, like things hadn’t turned out quite as he’d planned. I could see why. His neighborhood was full of mini-mansions, just like his own, beautiful landscaping, large lots, decent amount of natural beauty left behind to give the whole neighborhood a sense of unity with its surroundings.

But something was unexpectedly juxta-positioned just across the street, where I’m pretty sure a bunch of undeveloped stuff had been when he purchased, all scruffy and uninhabited. Now it was stuffed to the gills with a big old shopping center that was truly a poorly designed project if ever there was one. The streets were too narrow, the parking spaces crammed in, very little plant life, lots of pavement and concrete, and everything plain and whitewashed with black or gray trim. The designer probably thought it would suggest elegance. To me, it suggested nausea.

Anyway, this guy puffed on his cigarette, watering the road, not even acknowledging me or my car as I passed only a few feet from his squatted caricature, I guess in a pose of what disillusionment looks like. I’m pretty sure he was crunching numbers in his head, wondering if he’d ever get his investment back. Who wants to live a stone’s throw from an ugly architecture with mostly unleased spaces? I guess that’s what we get when developers and zoning commissioners strike deals over dinner and drinks.

And about those shoppers able to find the deals better on full stomachs? As I type, I’m literally sitting in a parking lot, watching the people come and go. In the space directly in front of me, there is a van that contains two grossly obese women. One gets out while the other stays behind and eats something fried while she waits. The car next to hers holds the same—two females, both terribly overweight, and wearing brightly colored summer wear that should have been purchased two sizes larger, maybe three. The car on the aisle one over from my own just spit out two more people, the man really chunky, the woman only a little less so.

I really do see obesity everywhere, spilling out of over-sized vehicles and waddling in to the over-sized shops. It’s really quite astonishing these proportions on display. Not only are the people big, but the vehicles, too. The trucks the robots are stamping out now almost require a step stool to scrabble up to that shiny chrome bar that will serve as a rung to get you to the floorboard, where you can then hoist yourself up by latching on real hard to the steering wheel, then swiveling over on the captain’s chair of your plush vehicular domain. It’s the best cardiovascular workout you’ll have all day. God help you if you fall, too, because your melon will go splat from that high up. (Please don’t think I’m poking fun while exempting myself—I’m part of that crowd I describe, sporting an expanding paunch just like the rest of us, enjoying the fried food and soda pop, too).

If the drivers and cars are getting bigger, the parking spots, as they must be, are small, so’s to pack in the most shoppers in the least amount of space. The massive shiny gleaming hunks of Hemi have to be sort of shoe-horned in (crank-the-wheel-hard…Reverse…crank-the-wheel-hard the other way, Drive…crank-the-wheel-hard…Reverse…you get the comical idea). Some of ’em just don’t give a damn anymore and will take up two spots, and screw you if you don’t like it. Yeah it’s five pounds of pure crap in a two pound bag…what about it?

I witnessed all the same stuff in J’Ville. As I drove into what appeared to be one of the very latest building orgies going on in St. John’s County, my jaw did not drop. Why not? Because it was as if I was staring at the same plot of over-developed land I had just come from in my (what used to be) sleepy little Panama City Beach, Florida. The same franchises. Same architecture. Same everything. Matter of fact, I can drive clean across America on Interstate 10 and I will see the same everything in every town I visit. Sameness. All of it. One great big Same. Welcome to the United States of Same. If you have at least one stop light in your fair little Podunk, look out because a Wal-Mart Super Center is looking at you hard (that is, unless you’re already shopping there).

In J’Ville, there was this place where the changeover was absolutely palpable. Farmland, riddled with unattended wide open spaces, dilapidated structures, and the fragrance of Nature running free and wild because nobody was mowing down anything so they could jam through the new infrastructure. Anyway, it had the signs of death written all over it, literally. The massive wheels of the earth movers, already visible here and there, looked like ravenous wolves gathering around their prey, anxious to begin the toothy work. Even the way previously undisturbed lands get violated in a very predictable evolution of sequential movements has that characteristic mark of…Same.

New mortgages dotted the landscape, and the bright orange surveyors’ flags and spray paint, like so much cryptic engineering graffiti, was on display on any flat surface that could be defaced. Pretty yellow ribbons were tied around old oak trees, a sign that their end was nigh at hand (sorry Tony Orlando and Dawn), and the temp plastic fencing defined perimeters that said, “Here’s what it used to be, now get used to what it’s about to become…Sameness.”

The big waste management companies had their roll-offs placed strategically for all that rubble that results from any project, big or small. Yeah, life was good and the slightly sour smell of money was steadily overpowering that cool, fine fragrance that wafts up from any place that’s green and lush, rather than black and hot.

Progress was rearing its ugly head and sneering. Another place where the elements of Nature might have enjoyed at least some chance at freedom were now being broke, tamed, corralled, hemmed in, penned up, sheared off, eviscerated. All the critters of the planet that weren’t human were in the ongoing and unfolding process of flight. What lives in a concrete jungle besides us, our pets, and rats?

Yeah, progress is all backwards. Progress is a heat engine. Progress is loss of habitat and bio-diversity. Progress is resource depletion. Progress is a slow demise. Progress is cheese burgers and thick crust pizza. Progress is a big belly and a weak heart. Progress is finding the closest spot in the parking lot to your favorite plastic crap vendor. Progress must proceed at breakneck speed or the house of cards buckles and the jig is up. Progress is a progression toward something totally undefined. Does anybody have any idea where this train is headed? Who’s the conductor, anyway?

Mostly, Progress must strike a balance. The world is a very small place, and with a storehouse that has borders and limits. Only so much can fit in any physical structure, and so much pulled back out of it. The world is that physical structure. We’ve been emptying out her coffers for quite some time now. Our continued existence has depended on it. Now our continued existence depends on us slowing down…way down. Progress eventually runs out of all the things it needs to keep going. We’re getting there. It’s just a matter of how fast.

Because I’m a skeptic by nature, and a bit of a doubter as a result of living fifty plus years in an industrialized society, I wasn’t surprised by what I saw. I wasn’t even disappointed. The view from yet another city where I’d never gone before was nothing if not predictable to an unspeakable degree. Urban sprawl sprawling more and more. Same thing the rest of America, and the world, is doing. I think the agreements our fearless leaders made for us in Paris in 2015 to cool this planet back down to a suitable temperature simply aren’t going to hold water. Too much progress still to be had out there.

In the meantime, I concluded that J’Ville was all jacked up on the stuff. It’s what I expected, but I guess I had to see it for myself to be sure.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”       

Albert A. Bartlett

 

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