Flooded Planet

Exploring the World to the Very Last Drop

Category: Climate Change (page 1 of 3)

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!

 

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

 

2017 Remix

We’re well past the first quarter of the calendar year for 2017, and I’ve pulled back quite significantly on the intentional reading of Climate Change news stories. I realized several weeks back that, once I became familiar with the basics of the Big CC, I only need peruse the headlines and skim through the paragraphs to update myself on what I am now largely familiar with. It is for this reason that I stated some few posts back that 2017 is shaping up to look a lot like 2016. In essence, this same statement can be used over and over again, going back many years sequentially, so that one could say that 1982 looked a lot like 1981, for instance. What do I mean by this, and of what use is it to even bother with such a non-committal, non-useful comment?

Well, I’m limiting the statement to Climate Change only; however, I suspect that it could probably be applied to many other disciplines with equal accuracy, the premise being that, for the most part, big change still happens rather slowly. Even though small changes taking place now are shaping the next moment, the next decade, the next century, they oftentimes do so in ways that can basically be considered imperceptible, at least in the short term. You feel something is different, but you’re not sure what. You know that something has definitely happened, and it’s most assuredly exerting pressure on your circumstances, but you’re just not able to express that change, that pressure, in meaningful, concrete terms.

Back when the Industrial Revolution really got to cooking along, nobody but perhaps a handful of really astute observers would have said that the climate was going to change as a result. It simply did not compute, and still doesn’t for many to this very day. The excitement of the steam engine and its limitless potentials would have drowned out any voices expressing concern over such trivialities. John Tyndall and Svante Arrhenius would have been like so many lone voices crying wolf in the wild.

So, the seas rise imperceptibly and no one’s the wiser. Who really notices such things? Most of us only acknowledge that fact…the sea level rise…because it’s what we’re being told to believe. Same with the increase in atmospheric carbon levels, coral reef bleaching, ocean acidification, sea ice decrease, ocean temperature rise, etc.

You name “it,” “it” is mostly imperceptible to someone who never leaves their concrete jungle but for a two week vacation in some other concrete jungle (this one with a water slide and roller coaster in the middle of it to justify the time and money spent getting there, and the term “tourist destination” to make the weary traveler feel better about things).

Recent studies (although this really only requires some good ole common sense) tell us that, just because we say we believe in the things science professes to be true, doesn’t mean that we truly embrace what our mouths say we do. In other words, if we don’t change our world view as a result of what we claim to personally embrace as real, factual, and valid, it’s kind of like a little white rationalized lie we perpetuate on ourselves to get through the day. Like responding on the survey we were asked to participate in that we believe recycling is a good thing for the planet while, back home, we continue to throw all our plastic bags, gallon jugs, and water bottles in the regular garbage. Why? Because it’s such a major hassle to get them to the recycling center.

Up until now, Climate Change hasn’t been dramatic enough to fully proclaim it as the new reality. It is, of course, but we really still don’t quite believe it. The big weather events being the one exception, most people respond with a big yawn when the climatologists present their latest numbers to the public, shocking to those who understand them, next to meaningless to those still in search of a valid reason to care.

And then there’re the cautions, caveats and disclaimers. Such academic trepidation means that the rest of us wonder how much of this is solid science, how much is informed guesswork relying a bit too much on computer modeling, a bit too little on sound field observations (I’m just parroting similar remarks I’ve read in the media here, nothing more).

This approach clearly has not, and will not, serve well the goals I think we’re all collectively after, i.e., saving ourselves from our own misguided ways so that the planet might continue to serve as our home beyond just another generation or two.

It is for these reasons and others that I am no longer pursuing the minutiae involved in every aspect of Climate Change, such as those I used as examples above. That’s a very small sampling of the data points Science is keeping its eye on, and, as I also mentioned, things are trending this year in the same direction they have for several decades prior. After all, one would have to be a fool to think that any of these tracked metrics are going to suddenly reverse themselves in some big time way, or for any significant amount of time. No, 2017 is looking a whole lot like 2016, with just a little more of that imperceptible concern for all those things that will eventually make this planet uninhabitable (or at least extremely uncomfortable) for homo sapiens.

All the items I listed on my blog’s 2016 page will be there with us in 2017. Speaking in generalities, and in no particular order, we can rest assured in confidently predicting that this year will bring us:

  • More extreme weather events
  • More scrambling for clean reliable water sources (water is scarce on a planet that’s soaking wet with the stuff) (so, more desalination plants, more hydroelectric dams, more subsidence, more salination of ground water, more water wars)
  • More coral bleaching
  • More sea level rise
  • More carbon in the atmosphere
  • More record high temperatures
  • More flora and fauna extinctions

In short…more crisis. This is what Climate Change represents. This is what we have behind us, and, as it turns out, what we also have in front of us. Does that mean we’re kind of stuck in the middle? Seems to be the case.

Sincere Thanks for stopping by.

G2

 

A Different Kind of Flooded

When I started FloodedPlanet.com about eight months ago, my intent was to have some fun writing about water-related topics, then sharing my stories with readers through the ever more popular blogging approach. It was a totally unintended consequence that my rather simple and joy-filled pursuit should get caught up in the pernicious, all-encompassing sticky web that is the Big CC – Climate Change. But it happened, and I’m not sorry for it, and now I must move on.

If you’re not careful, Climate Change can latch onto you, like it did me, with its insidious tactics and strategies, sneaking its way into your gray matter, turning you into a junkie, of sorts, causing you to crave more and more news about all the events that the Big CC claims to be a part of. I ask, “How are the coral reefs faring this year?” I must know. “What heat record did we set today? What’s this about the methane bubbles? How fast is Greenland melting? What does ocean acidification mean? How much will the water rise?”

Each question drives you on to the next one, then the next, until you realize that you’re obsessed with this beast and how it’s taking over the planet, threatening to gobble up everything in its path, including your very own life. “Whoa…Wait…Slow down and lighten up!” I told myself. There’s got to be more to my existence on Little Blue than obsessing over how many ppm of CO2 we’re heading toward in 2017.

Here’s my admission—I’m done with being an addict. The news pours in and wrestles for my attention and I can decide to ignore it. It’s a choice, after all, and entirely mine to make. This has actually been taking place subconsciously, without me being totally aware that it was even happening. When I finally realized that I had reached saturation point, I wondered how it had occurred, and why. One of the biggest interests I think I’ve ever had in something, and now I was walking away. What gives? I’ll tell you what—our own apathy. I’m more than just a little resigned to the fact that there is a huge gaping disconnect between what is going on with the weather and the everyday concerns that the majority of people have as they go about the business of living.

Telling a smoker that the cigarettes may eventually kill her won’t stop her from engaging in the habit she loves most. She may even burn through her little sticks quicker if you really press her into a corner about it. Same for the alcoholic, the drug addict, the gambler, the men and women hooked on one or more of any of the vices the world has to offer, including the addiction of consumerism. We can’t very easily save the planet (er, I mean, ourselves) if doing so means we have to give up all the conveniences of modern day life we love with all our hearts and souls.

So the back and forth, the give and take, the one step forward and two steps back approach to reining ourselves in, and weaning ourselves off the fossil fuels nipple simply isn’t going to cut it. Sometimes compromise just isn’t near enough. When the compromise is compromised, it’s not a good deal. We are firmly in the business of “business as usual,” and there’s nothing going on in a big time way that will convince me otherwise.

The current administration’s salacious and shameful acts with regard to the environment and its blatant disregard for the well-being of the country’s citizens is enough to give the most ardent optimist reason for pause. If you’re a born skeptic, as I am, however, the whole fiasco could easily be deemed as nothing more than what we should expect when our priorities are entirely misplaced. Our core beliefs have been supplanted by whimsical fantasies about technological diversion and disruption.

Our futures are dictated by the capricious and callous decisions of those in control, perhaps more deluded than the rest of us by the power they wield, the money they control, the influence they can buy. People who look surprised by it all have probably been living lives under a heavy influence of diversion. As I said in my last post, we’re asleep at the wheel. What does that really mean? It means that serious dialog among the citizenry about topics that fundamentally matter to a strong society concerned about its well-being has largely gone the wayside.

Consumerism = Climate Change. The more we consume, the more of the Big CC we can expect.

When I named this blog FloodedPlanet, my emphasis was on water. Now, the name will be a reflection of a broader approach to the flood that is taking place down here in every way imaginable. The source of the flooding is, of course, us. We the people, all 7 billion of us, are responsible for this deluge. So, let’s talk about that…the people, I mean…in all the ways we can.

Sincere Thanks for stopping by!

G2

 

Killing the Messenger

It doesn’t seem a rational reaction to kill the messenger who brought distressing news to the attention of the villagers. It’s a primitive, knee-jerk reaction that releases tension through the very effective means of violence. Warding off bad omens by snuffing out the source of the dark clouds. Short term satisfaction at the expense of viewing reality without blinders on.

Denying that something is real because we don’t like it, then killing the messenger (even if speaking metaphorically at this point)—these are really just two different sides of the same coin. If you have a weak constitution, and the spillage of blood makes you queasy, maybe you just make light of the bitter pill you’re being asked to swallow, casting doubt on the news itself by casting dispersions at the messenger. If you play your part to paint the delivery schmuck as an ineffective boob, maybe your villagers will play along and everything can return to the way it was before somebody rained all over your parade. Either way, you’re chasing down the same troubling demons. Demons being demons, you probably won’t catch them.

Fear makes all of us do strange things. Irrational things. Dumb things. Fear is running the world now. Fear wastes energy, wastes time, causing us to find ourselves in even more dubious and dreadful environs than we would have been had we courageously addressed the things that make us tremble in the first place, rather than hiding from them as though they were merely shadowy figments of our imaginations.

In the case of Climate Change, the reactions to fear run the gamut. In the business sector, the loss of income is the fear. Doing more of what we’ve been overtly warned about is the expression of that fear. It’s the sign of denial. It’s an act of defiance. It allows us to thump our chests in the face of that fear.  In a sense, it’s a bold way of saying “I’m still free, and this is how I’ll show you that I’ll continue to do exactly as I please.” Think of the captains of the fossil fuel industry. Their number one priority is profit, not a clean environment. The two are mutually exclusive ambitions.

In the political arena, falling out of favor by delivering the wrong message to your constituents is the fear. Cutting the funding to some pivotal agencies that run counter to your message, gutting their brain trust in the process is the perceived solution to that fear. Think of the current administration running things poorlyin DC. As far as its concerned, the entirety of the Climate Science community could drop dead tomorrow and the world would be a better place for it. Damn science anyway.

I’ve been doing this blog since August. That has given me nearly eight months to learn a massive amount of information regarding Climate Change, and it’s only a drop in the bucket. One thing has become increasingly evident to me: even though Climate Change isn’t supposed to be political…that’s mostly what it is. We aren’t ready to face Climate Change head on, with all our cards on the table, with no more poker face in the game, with no more belief that we can get around this thing, with no more self-deception about having our cakes and eating them too.

No, that day is still a long way off. We’re scared, but only a little bit. To be filled with so much fear that we are humbled in our hearts, humiliated in our souls, horrified by our circumstances and quite ready to fix the mess we’ve made without hesitancy and without caveats, disclaimers, ifs, ands, or buts…that day is probably years off yet.

In my estimation, when Nature has rattled us back to our senses, when we’re finally ready to take the bull by the horns and wrestle it down to the ground, we will already know what it’s like to be viciously trampled and gored, robbed of much of our strength and resolve, surprised time and again at how relentless, how brutal, how strong the world feels now when we try to push back against her. The world has always bent to our will. Now it seems the tables are turned. The laundry list of untenable challenges shows up increasingly in the news.

We’re thirsty, we’re hot, we’re poor, we’re hungry, and we’re fighting harder and harder over less and less. There are too many of us and the resources are running low. We’re sitting in a pan on the burner and the heat’s just barely bumped up. Imagine how it will be when the temperatures get to the places the scientists tell us are coming our way in the very near future.

One day, we will finally hear the wake-up call, but it will already be late in the afternoon, when opportunity for decisive action has largely passed us by. We’ve been asleep at the wheel, and it seems that the happy slumber will go on for a while longer yet.

Thank you, as always, for stopping by!

G2

 

Coral, Giraffes, and Oil

Irony abounds…and the more the prevalent species tries to fix things, the more ironic the consequences become.

I wrote in my last post, Evolution of Thought, that the world’s oceans are heating up faster than the scientific community previously thought. That’s not the least of it, of course. The Great Barrier Reef is experiencing catastrophic coral bleaching for the second year in a row now. Experts say this is a first, since usually ocean temperatures ease off from one bleaching event to the next, giving the coral time to recover before being thrown into its next environmental tumult caused by stressors it simply wasn’t built to withstand. That tenet is not holding up so well this year.

Ironic that a British cruise ship (the thing weighs 4,200 tons) ran aground on some of the fragile stuff in Indonesia, causing extensive damage to a large section of reef skirting one of the country’s bio-diverse marine habitats. The locals were none too happy, with livelihoods dependent largely upon a healthy tourism industry catering to intrepid divers and other water-loving adventurists. Well, it’s bound to happen, though, isn’t it? Something that large is apt to cause some damage when it accidentally scrapes bottom with something as delicate as coral.

I also mentioned the idea that civilization is riddled with these deep holes we call landfills, where we dump our used up wealth so we can go buy shiny new wealth. In Ethiopia, the landfill probably consists of more humble offerings than those here in the United States. Ironic there, as well, that a landslide at the city dump of Addis Ababa should kill some 60  people who had been living there amongst the rubble.

Tragic in the extreme on a number of different levels, not the least of which is that human beings in a third world country are subsisting in squalor on the rim of a dump, surrounded by stench, filth, disease, and fires caused by the methane of rotting things. All while the government claims that it is striving to relocate them to better environs; but where to put your displaced poor when your whole country offers little more than better poverty over worse poverty?

Meanwhile, a humble giraffe holds the world entranced with her impending birth of her little one in a zoo somewhere in NY (I haven’t tracked the specifics). The world celebrates, as though victory can be claimed while her erstwhile, wild-roaming relatives across the planet are on the brink of collapse, with numbers tumbling fast and a classification of ‘endangered’ probably just a year or three off.

I read a story by a journalist lamenting the ironic backwardness of it all and was amazed at how his opinions aligned with those I offered in my recent post Views on Zoos. We both mentioned the idea that a giraffe confined to the narrow margins of a zoo is, almost by necessity, something of a heart-wrenching tragedy to behold.

Also ironic is the fact that Scott Pruitt, a shameless Climate Change denier, is now heading up the EPA, the very agency officially and diametrically opposed with reference to the Big CC as the opinions held by the agency’s new chief. He has sued this agency more than a dozen times in the past as Oklahoma’s attorney general. It’s clear what he quite possibly intends to do to the very agency he now holds in his clueless hands – destroy it from the inside out, all with the full faith and confidence of our fearless leader, Mr. Trump.

Also ironic that Japan, the dark aggressor in WWII, and a peace-loving nation in the decades since, has recently felt it necessary to add to its military fleet the biggest carrier it has commissioned since the end of that terrible war. North Korea lobbing missiles into the sea, just shy of making Japanese soil its target, probably has something to do with it, prompting observers everywhere to view the situation in that part of the world as the powder keg it most assuredly is.

Ironic too, that China, now the aggressor on the world stage in too many ways to count, is playing a large part in the potential (and probable) collapse of some of the world’s largest and most diverse fisheries located in the South China Sea. Legal decisions ruling in favor of other nations with stakes in the area have not backed China off of its own overly ambitious claims. In short, it would seem the Chinese believe that possession is nine tenths of the law. Their approach seems to be working just fine.

So many of the waters, islands, and territories that were once rightfully claimed by as many as seven other neighboring countries (used as fisheries for generations to sustain their families and contribute to their nations’ economies) have now fallen into Chinese jurisdiction by fiat. Overfishing is the new law of the land, and with each succeeding catch becoming increasingly smaller, it may just be a matter of time before the abundance of the South China Sea is also a thing of the past.

Probably the most stunning irony among those appearing here is an article I just read moments ago about a huge oil field find in northern Alaska, purportedly containing some 1.2 billion barrels of oil. Here are a couple of paragraphs:

“First production from the discoveries could come as soon as 2021, with output of as much as 120,000 barrels a day, Repsol said. That would represent a lifeline for Alaska, which has seen oil revenues plummet after prices crashed in 2014. The state also needs new crude to keep oil flowing on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.

‘We must all pull together to fill an oil pipeline that’s three-quarters empty — and today’s announcement shows measurable results of that hard work,’ Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said in response to the news of the discovery Thursday.”

So, let’s just scuttle the idea that we’re supposed to leave the oil that remains in the ground right where it pools if we’re to have a fighting chance of continued survival down here. No, it would seem we’re going to go right on exploring, discovering, drilling and refining until we’ve sucked the well fairly bone dry.

Ironic that what seems to be such a massive find (1.2 billion barrels) would actually keep America happily motoring at its current frenetic pace for all of about 62 days.

These are but a few of the ironies currently littering the stage, and all with the unpleasant mark of Climate Change (vis a vis anthropogenic activity) as the culprit of their occurrences. I’m quite certain that more of the same can be reported on soon.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

Psych!

I’ve been doing a lot of observing lately. I suppose it’s what they call Progress that I’ve been watching. You know, all the usual stuff—new roads being built, new housing developments being slapped up (brimming with spec homes that all look exactly alike, spaced about ten feet apart from one another, with no yards, no trees, no personality, no privacy, and selling for around $325,000 each because they’re situated only several blocks back from our pretty replenished beaches), more strip malls (yep, they too look like any other strip mall just up the road, or several states over, it matters not), more schools, more administrative buildings…well, just more in general. Of course, this is all in response to the influx of people heading south to the warmer climes, about 10,000 per day, if statistics cited in the media are to be believed. We were born of the water, and to the water we yearn to return.

I watch the hustle and bustle as whole new swaths that used to provide habitat for lots of creatures other than just ourselves are carved up, cleared, leveled, and readied to meet all the zoning regulations currently on the books. The sitting city council will be convinced that all is unfolding as scheduled, in accordance with the statutes that cover such human activities as scraping the land clean of all its natural living stuff so that a bunch of non-living, human-manufactured artificial stuff can be erected in its place. Seems to make perfect sense for most of us. Progress.

Such activities are, of course, for one reason only…an ever expanding human population wanting to live the same dream that it’s parents got to live. A whole bunch more peoples want to come in and park their massive vehicles in massive parking lots, then waddle their massive bodies, like so many corn-fed ducks, into the massive new establishments, buying up massive amounts of cheap plastic crap, followed by the consumption of massive meals that have nothing to do with fine cuisine and everything to do with cardboard.

They’ll haul everything they purchased back to all those uninspired little spec homes they live in, replacing the older plastic crap with the newer stuff in an ongoing cycle that feeds the machine, feeds the voracious heat engine we collectively call Civilization. Eventually, everything that got shoved out of a factory somewhere is shit out yet again, in one form or another, into a toilet or a landfill, so we can go back the next day, or next week, maybe in a newer, bigger vehicle, and do it all again, over and over for the rest of our lives.

When I moved to Panama City, Florida nearly a quarter century ago, it really wasn’t much to write home about. Redneck Riviera laughed the locals, and proud of it. A sleepy little place with a beach that sort of “dried up” as they say, once the tourist season ended each year. Now, everywhere I go on the beach, aint nothin’ dried up; no no, it’s filled up all the time with us peoples. Everything I see is either falling down and hoping for that developer’s bulldozer to roll in one day soon, or brand spanking new and already drawing in the new peoples by the thousands.

In short, there’s no place left to breathe, and the patience needed in tolerating the crushing pressure of ever more peoples makes me want to run for the hills where there’s nothing human-made for as far as the eye can see, and with bucketfuls of unadulterated air just waiting to be sucked in by my lungs.

Now don’t worry. I’m not having a panic attack on the page, or a mental breakdown here in cyberspace. I’m too old school for any of that. Nerves of steel my friend, nerves of steel. This is just my roundabout way of saying that I’m convinced, at least as much as I ever was, and probably more so, that our fate is very probably sealed already. Many climatologists (according to insiders) want to say just that, but are too afraid to do it for fear they’ll lose their funding. Ironic wouldn’t you say? Plus, they’re supposed to maintain a hopeful countenance amongst their colleagues, lest someone start to wonder what the serious one knows that the rest are supposed to know.

The equation is simple, maybe even elegant: Cease and desist with our current careless ways or perish. Stop dumping CO2 into the atmosphere to give ourselves the remotest chance of continued existence on this here planet. That’s it. Ignore this warning and pay an increasingly higher toll in the very near future. It sounds like an apocalypse of biblical proportions. Well, read the dirty laundry list further down and decide for yourself.

I’ve said it before—there’s very little reason (in fact none) for us to believe that the same sorts of heat-producing activities described above aren’t taking place in every other industrialized nation. Maybe a little more here, a little less there, but on the whole, the pace is probably indistinguishable in the aggregate. Of this we can all be quite sure. The only evidence we really need to ascertain that mitigation of our dreadful circumstances is virtually non-existent is plainly before us:

  • Atmospheric CO2 levels are still rising steadily, year after year, as manifested on the Keeling Curve in Mauna Loa. Those numbers WILL NOT go back down in our lifetimes, nor our children’s.
  • Ocean acidification, and hence coral bleaching, is also steadfast in its progress. Remember that coral reefs sustain massive amounts of bio-diverse colonies on which much of the oceans’ other species depend.
  • New planetary heat records are set year after sweltering year. The fires, the droughts, the flooding, all baked in, and with the promise that things are only going to get worse.
  • Greenland’s ice sheets are melting, and will continue to do so now until the job is finished. It’s not a matter of if, but only when. We can measure and monitor* the pace all we want, but that’s about it.

(*I’ve also said this in the past…Climate Change generates a lot of jobs for people, many of them futile in the extreme…with the appearance of upmost scientific importance. I don’t disagree that computer modeling is important, but it feels sometimes that we are deluding ourselves with our gadgetry. Ever more sensitive monitoring and measuring devices won’t solve the problem. Only action will. We have a sense of reassurance because we can predict the moment of our demise down to the day month and year. Good for us, although do we really want to know?

I often listen to scientists talk about Climate Change now, as though expecting that something new is going to be conveyed. I’m consistently disappointed. All the rhetoric mostly revolves around the idea that we can really really really pinpoint with exactitude and laser sharp accuracy what’s going on with the planet, everywhere and all the time.

Let’s strike a balance, shall we? I don’t want a doctor to hook me up to a dozen machines and predict with a high degree of certainty when I’ll take my last breath. I’d rather she pick up that scalpel of hers and wield it with authority, perhaps even rid me of my tumor.

The socio-political equivalent of this would be to never allow a president, such as the current one we somehow deemed to be the most fit for the office, nor the Climate Change Deniers he has packed his cabinet with, to ever be the remotest possibility in the future…we can’t afford such immeasurable wasting of oh so precious time twice over).

  • Habitat will continue to be lost and the species die off will also continue to accelerate.
  • Sea levels will continue to rise.
  • Weather anomalies will also be something we can no longer deny or hide from. The storms are finding us, no matter where we try to hide. Our possibilities for a safe haven have largely run out.

The list of concerns is much much longer…

The reason I named this post Psych comes from the stupid thing we used to say to one another as youngsters after instilling false fear, false hope, false whatever, in our closest friends, then pulling the contrived moment out from under the victim, like a carpet, yelling “Psych” in their faces as a way of affirming what a moron they were to fall for it in the first place. Like Joe’s friend declaring enthusiastically that Mary Lou wants him to know that she thinks he’s super cute and hopes he’ll ask her to the dance. Joe responds excitedly with “What? She did? Really?” Joe’s friend chuckles, “No, not really…PSYCH!” Good clean cruel fun. Like I said…stupid.

If you’re paying attention to all the conversational noise going on all around you on any given day, you’ll realize quite quickly that the culture is full of Psych. It starts in the media and flows out from there, into society’s information pipelines, big and small, until it enters your ears, in one form or another, mostly in sarcastic overtones regarding the idiots who buy into all that Climate Change crap.

The sun is shining outside, the sky is blue, the birds are singing, the economy is good, you’re going on vacation in three weeks, and your boss just gave you a raise. Plus, America is now producing so much oil, we don’t even need those stinking Saudis (there are many ways to delude ourselves). You smile, knowingly, agreeing with the naysayers.

Yeah, what a fool you’ve been to ever think that this Climate Change stuff was ever anything to worry about. It’s just weather. Nature does weird things, sometimes. It will eventually fix itself and we can get on with it. Climate Change…really? C’mon, Man. Who cares?

Psych.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

The Last Extinction

I promised myself that I would make a point to read Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, and I’m happy to say that I did. Coming off the final chapter, the perceptions I’m left with are mixed. I’m not  sure why I find myself unsatisfied. It’s rather like the anticipation one has upon entering a posh restaurant in hopes of that one great meal, then wondering why the bill is so high for what was actually served up.

I’m certainly not trained to present a critique of a truly remarkable book that was well received by the readership, written by someone who can run circles around my own pen with her little finger (that’s not supposed to make sense). It’s probably best to say that the book was unable to fulfill my expectations and leave it at that. It’s not the professional writer’s problem to figure out why the amateur reader feels let down. You can’t please all of us bookworms all the time.

I can say that I found mostly everything I thought I would within the voluminous pages; but the way in which the facts are arranged and presented are perhaps too sweeping for a nosy mind that only wants to know what’s in one or two garbage heaps at a time, not the whole landfill.  I can only focus on one or two aspects of the local environment at any given time. With Kolbert’s panoramas too grand and vast in number, and with no chance for me to really chew on any one aspect of Climate Change, I might rightfully count myself as among those who perhaps feel just a bit overwhelmed.

In short, it was too much too fast for me, and probably because I’m not a casual reader when it comes to the Big CC. Needing to know a lot about every little component of our current grand mess means that I might have done better with less historical fact. Kolbert provides volumes about an awful lot in a colorful fashion that suggests a story incessantly unfolding. To quench my thirst, I was being offered a drink from a fire hose, and really no way to turn the damned thing off. To learn about Natural History, I was being shown the Smithsonian, but only if I was willing to run through all the hallways without stopping, unable to study the intricate textures of any one exhibit slowly, carefully, earnestly.

This was an effort I dove into at first, then found myself paddling back to shallower waters, time and again. The book took me close to a month to get through. I’ve digested books twice as thick in half the time. Something was wrong…reading about a planet that’s being overrun by a homicidal maniac, i.e., me…well it gets somewhat tedious, no matter how good the writing.

By the time Kolbert was finished with me, I found myself having forgotten much of what she told me. Being whisked away to other places and times, and with numerous personalities also becoming part of any given narrative, I was hoping toward the closing chapters for the voyage to simply end. I wanted to catch an earlier flight home from my vacation destination. Eventually I finished the book, of course, and the conclusions I had to draw, inevitably, is that we have decisively entered truly terrible and frightening territory (having read plenty above and beyond Kolbert’s book, I can also safely conclude that we haven’t a clue as to where our ship is heading next).

The Sixth Extinction could almost have been written as a work of fiction, with prose that is beautiful and flowing, bringing the dire news that these homo sapien characters are bringing about so much awful consequence to their own home, they’re threatening to set ablaze the only house they have. The message is palatable, though still a bitter feast, and with a longing from the reader that Kolbert might bring just a bit more moral indignation to her pen.

But the dark news is delivered without any trace of judgment or outrage, as though to say that this is how things are, this is how we got here, and there’s no good reason for passing sentence on any person, place, or thing. There’s plenty of blame to go around, yes, just no equitable way to dole out the punishment, so why even try. I suppose I have to agree.

All I could do was breathe as I sat through the very disagreeable chapter in which she describes how humanity systematically burned and bludgeoned and brought to extinction the Great Auk, a bird that probably numbered in the millions before we learned how easy the feathered lumbering beast was to exploit. Somehow, all these years, the fact that this large predecessor of the modern day penguin coexisted side by side with us for centuries before we managed to completely drive it off the planet had thoroughly escaped my knowledge.

But there is a point to be made in this post other than the ones I’m stating about one book among countless others conveying in delicate language what can only be characterized as devastating to the nth degree. Some say our goose might very well be cooked already (Guy McPherson certainly thinks so, and he’s got a pretty large and well-informed brain, too). The point to be made is that I don’t find purpose in what I’m doing on this blog, anymore. My own approach must now change. I’m recently married, I’m in between homes, I’m commuting too many miles and eating up too much of the precious time I have left to me doing things I truly don’t care to do any longer.

So, the blog is changing, and this will be self-evident as the next posts unfold. In the meantime, I thank Kolbert for the gift of enlightenment with regard to an event of which I think most of the general populace is entirely unaware—the first, and last, mass extinction event we’ll ever witness as a species is happening right now under our very noses, with most of us blind to both the destruction, and the cause—us.

“Right now, in the amazing moment that to us counts as the present, we are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will forever be closed. No other creature has ever managed this, and it will, unfortunately, be our most enduring legacy. The Sixth Extinction will continue to determine the course of life long after everything people have written and painted and built has been ground into dust and giant rats have—or have not—inherited the earth.”

Elizabeth Kolbert

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

Older posts

© 2017 Flooded Planet

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑