400

On a mini-run of non-legal posts here, but I have opinions and I have a blog, so look out…

The news of the day is 400 — carbon dioxide (CO2), the main “greenhouse” gas responsible for the warming the earth, has surpassed the 400 PPM milestone. As the New York Times notes, it’s really an “odometer moment,” 400 being a nice round number, but it’s been increasing for a long time, so no one should be surprised, except I suppose for the deniers of man-made climate change.

The consequences we are starting to feel are just the tip of the melting iceberg: changes in global weather patterns, featuring more frequent extreme weather events — hurricanes, cyclones and draughts; rising sea levels resulting in coastal flooding of heavily populated areas; soil erosion, crop loss and food shortages in the most vulnerable areas of the world (leading to political instability); loss of habitat and biodiversity; and so on.

And yet, our country — the main producer of CO2 due to our historically unprecedented material prosperity — cannot even muster a small amount of political will to make some modest changes to the way we do things, in order to mitigate environmental degradation and avoid collapse.

We just can’t seem to contemplate that some small changes to the cushy lifestyle to which we have become accustomed may be in order: walking and biking more and turning our thermostats down, so as to use less fuel; not leaving our devices powered on at all times; building world-class mass transit systems; having just a bit less stuff; living closer to where we work and shop; and so on. Would our lives be so much worse? In some ways, perhaps, they could be better.

Yet instead of changing in ways that we know will make a difference, we are addicted to fantasies of easy technological solutions (meaning, things that don’t require us to change our everyday behavior at all). Examples include dramatic breakthroughs in alternative energy (you know, the ones that are always just around the corner), or even more delusionally, “geoengineering” ideas such as blasting tiny particles into the atmosphere to absorb just enough sunlight and cancel the warming. All I can say is, people need to get real.

As I discussed in my last post, don’t expect to learn much about this on TV news. If there’s a hurricane, you can bet the local news will send someone to stand in the middle of the street with a microphone, and I am sure that the 400 PPM odometer moment will be reported, on a very superficial level. But intelligent discussion of what’s causing extreme weather and what changes might have to take place to mitigate it? Don’t hold your breath. Not while there are lurid details of murders, rapes and kidnappings to report.

Somehow, though, we are going to have to get smarter, and help our so-called leaders get smarter, and fast.


Categorised as: soapbox