Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Long Road: Part 2. Pogo was right

The most quoted line from Walt Kelly's Pogo strip was surely "We have met the enemy and they are us." At the time, his comments were directed at the Vietnam War. Today, Kelly's target would surely be the manner in which our consumer society is driving us further and further along the path to 850 ppm of CO2.

There is a real question of whether or not we can solve this problem through technology. God forbid that we might have to change our lifestyle. For more of this discussion and some references to appropriate reading material, click Read more!.

Sorting through the various threads of meaning in the consideration of global warming, you find that while there is solid agreement as to the scope of the problem that we are facing, there is little agreement as to what to do about it.

There are now two books about global warming with the same title: Hell and High Water. One is by US physicist Joseph Romm. The other is by Alastair McIntosh, a professor of human ecology at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland. Both seem to be worth reading. I have just finished Romm's book but only have read reviews of McIntosh's.... including one by Romm.

The choice of titles is indicative of more than just the feeling of terrible consequences. If you read Romm's Hell and High Water you quickly understand just how much data from so many sources that all indicate what is happening to warm our world. When sea level rise inundates that entire countries; when it causes the mass migration of tens of millions of people; maybe then we will understand just what the high water is. You don't want to think about the meaning of hell in this context.

Romm never answers his real question. Will we have the political will to do what we know needs to be done. At the present time, I think that the answer is "not yet." When Nancy Pelosi can say that the House can pass a cap & trade bill, but not this year, you know it has not really sunk in. My source for that is Romm's Climate Progress site.

McIntosh has a different focus. He is looking at the human, individual, psychological aspect of the problem. Reviewer Simon Butler cites this passage.
McIntosh writes that “the central thesis of [his] book is that climate change cannot be tackled by technical, economic and political measures alone”. What is also required is a coming to “grips with the roots of life and what gives it meaning”.
So McIntosh subtitled his book Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition. At least, he ends the book with some hope. I wonder if he asked Pelosi if she felt a sense of urgency about this or not.

My conclusion to this is that the politicians will never solve these problems left to their own devices. This is the time when people must change. More than any other politician I have read about recently, the Green Party Canada's Elizabeth May has the right attitude if not the power to implement the right policies. She understands that climate change and weather are not the same, but are connected. She understands that each of use have a role to play, including convincing our neighbors that it is time to get really, really worried.
So for all the reporters on your gift list, please send them a copy of Global Warming for Dummies. Early reports from those who gave it to sceptical in-laws are that they started worrying about idling the car and the life-cycle impact of the gifts they were giving. And a friend in BC has started a very handy reference site for the latest on climate science. Since she couldn’t get out of her house due to the snow, she had lots of time to post recent studies and graphs to the site: http://westcoastclimateequity.org.

I have a feeling that it will be in my lifetime, and I am drawing social security, when the problems we face now: the Israeli / Hamas conflict in Gaza, the genocide in Darfur, the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan, the attacks in Mumbai...the events that fill our news screen each day... will all seem trivial.

1 comment:

Philip H. said...

One that isn't trivial - Russia cutting off natural gas supplies to Europe. It's war without firing a shot, all over the ability to, and price for, burning carbon.

Your thoughts?