11 May 2008

Three fiddy

A "500-year" storm devastates The Nation Formerly Known As Burma, killing tens - if not hundreds - of thousands.

Multi-year droughts in southern and eastern Australia - and the Southeastern U.S. - parch the land and put further upward pressure on the price of food.

The icecaps are melting, along with the permafrost... darkening the Earth and releasing the potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere in the mother of all vicious cycles from hell.

I have been really wary of all the global warming hoopla, because it has a feeling of being sort of "flavor of the week" stuff - remember when recycling was cool? Then Al Gore put out a movie and everybody became climatologists. And as an old-school environmentalist, it worries me to see global warming push all other issues off the agenda, as the land and oceans get more and more toxic, species destruction reaches insane rates, and our air turns more and more into an unbreathable murk.

Worse - like some 50s horror movie monster - here's nuclear energy making a comeback: The Really Stupid Idea That Wouldn't Die. Using nuclear fission to boil water and create huge amounts of radioactive waste is now being trotted out as the answer to our global warming ills, as if replacing one long-term problem with another is any kind of solution.

There is, however, no question that the danger of global warming to human civilization is fast outstripping everything else. And since many of my friends are human people, it is something that is increasingly freaking me out. The U.S. has successfully foot-dragged for long enough that we are approaching - if not already past - the point of no return. And even if Saint Barry Obama wins the Presidency (something I am not at all sure of, especially if we go to war with Iran this summer), he will still be facing a very powerful let's-keep-doing-nothing lobby trying to stop the U.S. from taking any meaningful action until New York looks like Venice.

Bill McKibben wrote a pretty powerful piece that was published in many U.S. papers today, including the LA Times. In it, he describes Project 350, a campaign that he's starting to build public interest around the idea of lowering the level of CO2 in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, a level that NASA climatologist James Hansen has determined is necessary to "preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted."

Now, I am one of the few who actually believes what global-warming-denier nut jobs say all environmentalists believe: that action to stop climate change is actually a secret plot to destroy capitalism. Because, fundamentally, the manic desire for growth, growth, growth at all costs is what brought the environment - and all of human society - to the brink of catastrophe. We are not going to get out of this with shiny hybrids and compact fluorescent bulbs. The relationship of people to how things are produced and how they are disposed of is going to have to undergo a complete shift if we're going to avoid a global collapse that will probably take industrial society with it. Carbon credits, or the promise of millions of jobs in the "green industry" is just not going to cut it.

So yeah, I'll go "single issue" on this. The goal is to put "350" out there as much as possible, in advance of the successor to the Kyoto Protocol to be signed in Copenhagen next year. I mean, it's not like I think my dinky blog and my beloved six subscribers can do a whole lot of world-changing on our own, but I like to feel I'm doing my small part.

And, like I said in my last post... I'm keeping my eyes open for my next Mission in Life, and who knows but that this might be a part of it?


bleeding espresso said...

Reading the info now. Sounds like a future post at my place as well.

Down with capitalism! Yeah! And I'm not saying that just because il Duce II is the latest trend around here....

Leanne said...

I just came across your site from finding the link in Michelle's site. Interesting post and nice blog :) - Being Australian it is shocking to see how much of a serious drought we are in. I don't live there anymore, but when I was younger there was never a problem (that I recall) with water, now when I went back it was a level 4 restriction in the city and level 5 (which is the top) in the country which means no washing cars, having 2 minute showers, no flushing the toilet unless necessary, only watering the garden between set time frames and only a few times a week. There are 'water control' police out there fining people (rightly so) who are abusing the little water we have.