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Last month we planted some carrots, potatoes, and onions in the vegetable garden. The garlic and onions from the year before had already sprouted because of early warm weather. I like this activity — it is full of promise and surprise. You do the planting and given enough rain and sun, fresh food will arrive, eventually. It is dirty, patient work, but a great deal more fulfilling than a trip to the supermarket.
Ultimately, this is what survival is all about. It is a matter of trust that with planting and care, food will be produced. All of human achievement and endeavor is built upon this biological covenant— the earth will provide. No matter how much money we can make, no matter how fast the computers, how spectacular the graphics, how powerful the engine it is all built on this tiny promise.
The truly horrifying consequences of global climate change is that it places into jeopardy our ability to provide food in sufficient quantities. With the Conservative Harper government proclaiming loudly how there was an “agreement” at the G8 summit that green house gasses should be reduced but having no firm targets, and then resoundingly pronouncing the Kyto protocol dead, there is little hope that any government with allegiance to its corporate masters and financiers will attempt to address the issues until it is far too late.
But, in the long term it might not be all that bad, depending on how fond you are of civilization. Micheal Griffin does not think it will that bad either. Recently, Micheal Griffin, a NASA administrator stated during an interview with NPR:
“I have no doubt that a trend of global warming exists,” Griffin told Inskeep. “I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.”
He went on to state that his primary objection is that maybe the climate that we have been used to might not really the best climate after all.
“To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change,” Griffin said. “I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.”
I am not sure how this particular scientist draws his conclusions. I suspect a great much of his funding comes via the Bush administration. To pronounce that the dramatic shifting of water levels, ocean currents, weather patterns may create something better seems profoundly stupid. Sure it might, like a good hurricane, stir things up a bit. We have the choice to act or not, either way provides a solution.
Global climate change strikes at the foundation of what civilization and mankind has depended on. How well do crops grow in flood or drought? Civilizations have always succeeded when there are numerous environments to support its growth, if one fails there will always be another part of the country or empire to support the rest. But, if the environmental disaster is sufficiently widespread enough and for long enough, there is nothing we can do. Oil has been our buffet against uncertainty, because with it we can exit outside of our immediate environments. The burning of oil also got us in this mess.
Our great profusion in the last century has been due to the availability of cheap oil. It fuels our vehicles, and our food production (pesticides and fertilizer). The reserves of this are vanishing quickly, and perhaps sooner than anyone really expects.
Dr Campbell, is a former chief geologist and vice-president at a string of oil majors including BP, Shell, Fina, Exxon and ChevronTexaco. He explains that the peak of regular oil – the cheap and easy to extract stuff – has already come and gone in 2005. Even when you factor in the more difficult to extract heavy oil, deep sea reserves, polar regions and liquid taken from gas, the peak will come as soon as 2011, he says.
It will be a race between the oil running out and global climate change being an irreversible phenomenon. But, we may have already reached the point of setting into motions process that are irreversibe. Arctic sea ice has failed to regenerate in the winter.
The loss of Arctic sea ice is most often tied to negative effects on wildlife like polar bears and increasing erosion of coastlines in Alaska and Siberia, he said. But other studies have linked Arctic sea ice loss to changes in atmospheric patterns that cause reduced rainfall in the American West or increased precipitation over western and southern Europe, he said.
Researchers also have seen pulses of warmer water from the North Atlantic entering the Arctic Ocean beginning in the mid-1990s, which promote ice melt and discourage ice growth along the Atlantic ice margin, he said. “This is another one of those potential kicks to the system that could evoke rapid ice decline and send the Arctic into a new state.” when you factor in the more difficult to extract heavy oil, deep sea reserves, polar regions and liquid taken from gas, the peak will come as soon as 2011, he says.
Even if there is chance that any action we take can stop this chain of events, it is unlikely we will do anything of any worth in time. I do not think we as, a species, are capable of escaping the comfort trap. We like the world we have created too much, despite the devastating ecological costs to other animals and to other people. Humans can never truly seem to understand reality until it hits them in the head, several times. Any talk on global warming is always buffeted by protestations that the science is unclear (95 % of scientists are certain, the other 5% received money from oil and gas), or that a little bit warmer world would mean longer growing season and other arguments showing a complete misunderstanding. Global warming is better named global climate change – anything from floods, to drought to hurricanes. A truly accurate prediction can not exists because humankind does not have enough of an understanding of the complexities of climate. It is in this confusion that we will hope. It is in prayers that we will blind ourselves. It is in clinging to our comforts that we will smother the world.
There is nothing that states that humans will continue to live or that civilization will continue to flourish, except the words that we have written and parroted back at ourselves. Other hominids have come and gone and other cultures have only been resurrected through dusty writing. We are a species like any other on this earth – bound to cycles of life and death and dependent on the bounty of nature as any other beast . In our modern world we have forgotten that underlying our existence is uncertainty.
What is needed is not a new energy source. A new energy source would only prolong our slow suffocation of the earth. We need a profound shift away from the cancerous havoc we have created. We need a system that can live within the limits of the earth and produce no waste. The economists , companies and politicians will cry that developing such a system will hurt the economy. As if the economy is the wellspring of life. There must be some way of balancing cancerous growth and sustainability. Cancer kills. Like all organisms that fail to evolve and outstrip their environment, humans will not survive if we cling to outmoded thoughts and unnecessary comforts.
Unfortunately, I have no answers. I drive at least 40km or more each day to work. But, I walk or bike to the grocery store. I’m trapped in a web of consumption as well. I think if we were to survive with civilization intact, people would have to return to small scale, local production and governance. Maintenance of our resource heavy, top down, wasteful system can only lead to collapse.
Sun, rain and good soil. In perfect proportions and all at the right time. This is all that ultimately holds together our grand civilization together. Not the economy, not our science, not religion. It is this simple promise of life. The earth will eventually find a balance with our without humans.