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The NBC news tonight reported that the population of giraffes has dropped by 40% in just 10 years, to about 80,000. When I took this photo of giraffes out on the great Masai Mara plain of Kenya about 10 years ago, and wrote about our safari it in an essay titled “The Masai Mara Hood Ornament,” I reported that wildlife in East Africa was then down about 60% since the 70s. Why? Climate change, human development, poaching, legal hunting. If the global human population had dropped as much over the past 10 years, we would have seen almost 3 billion people die. While the loss of so many of these magnificent animals is shocking in itself, perhaps their devastation makes them canaries in a coal mine:for mankind.
Everyone is taking about the new film, Intersteller, about a dying earth and the search for another planet for our species. A recent episode of The Newsroom dramatized the announcement, over a year ago, that carbon levels in the atmosphere and their consequences for mankind may be irreversible. And meanwhile we spend more and more on war and see renewal of primitive tribalism all around the globe, despite the internet and global communication.
I’d like to think there will still be giraffes, and people around to watch such wonderful animals, in the next century. What might we do to increase the probability of that?. .
Today, it is predicted that Oklahoma City can expect their highest recorded temperature — 114 — ever! Yet cultural disinformation efforts designed to discredit 6,000 peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate that global climate change is rife persist. Not one such study demonstrates the opposite. There is not a comprehensive energy policy in the U.S., much less a climate change policy. Neither Presidential candidates mention climate change, much less make public warnings nor propose comprehensive initiatives related to climate change.
Yes, unemployment and economic disruption and erosion of education are major American issues. But without an effective strategy to reduce the negative effects of climate change, we are burying our head as to the future. None of these other issues will be solved with addressing climate change. One of the few leaders to address climate change through constructive analysis and positive proposals is senator John Kerry, in this address before Congress just yesterday. Take a listen: http://sn128w.snt128.mail.live.com/default.aspx#n=180166905&fid=1&fav=1&mid=7e19162a-dc33-11e1-8362-00215ad8015c
Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney, please make climate change policy a priority, now! Humans are almost surely the cause, but even if we are only part of it, climate change is real, and we can act to moderate and reduce its effects on humanity, which there is still some time left.
As evident climate change rages — the US saw the highest temps ever in the 12 months ending in June — the world goes on with its little wars, petty politics and fixation on Hollywood scandals. As our forests burn, our lawns crinkle in the merciless sun, our crops wither and storms rage through the countryside, the news media babbles on about the symptoms, but almost no-one locks in on the issues and the decisions that are needed for climate management and mitigation.
As the US moves toward our Presidential election, the talk is all about jobs and the size of government, and not about energy policy and transportation and the things that will effect us all, for eternity. As the future of mankind goes at risk, we cut out the manned space program. Heads in sand.
Doth the world fiddle while the climate changes? Isn’t it time for a new politics, and for building hope for a new world? Following from the EPA:
Climate change affects everyone
Our lives are connected to the climate. Human societies have adapted to the relatively stable climate we have enjoyed since the last ice age which ended several thousand years ago. A warming climate will bring changes that can affect our water supplies, agriculture, power and transportation systems, the natural environment, and even our own health and safety.
Some changes to the climate are unavoidable. Carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for nearly a century, so Earth will continue to warm in the coming decades. The warmer it gets, the greater the risk for more severe changes to the climate and Earth’s system. Although it’s difficult to predict the exact impacts of climate change, what’s clear is that the climate we are accustomed to is no longer a reliable guide for what to expect in the future.
We can reduce the risks we will face from climate change. By making choices that reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and preparing for the changes that are already underway, we can reduce risks from climate change. Our decisions today will shape the world our children and grandchildren will live in.
Watching cultural commentator Jeff Greenfield discuss his new book, “Then Everything Changed”, this morning, I was reminded of how much might have changed over most of the past decade if Al Gore‘s victory in the popular vote in 2000 (he won the vote by a margin of more than the population of Milwaukee) had counted.
Thanks to the obsolete Electoral College, and a little politicking by the Supreme court, it didn’t. Under President Gore, would we have gone to war again in Iraq, in Afghanistan? Would global climate change have been substantially shoved under the political rug? Would the national debt have grown to such proportions? We’ll never know, yet we came so close to finding out.
Those who think the future is set in stone, beware. For more on how future history will ultimately be distorted by America‘s unwillingness to deal with the failed Electoral College system of electing our Presidents, and how we can still fix it, see my essay for the Chicago Literary Club, “One Collage Too Many” at: http://www.chilit.org/Papers%20by%20author/Ebeling%20%20-Collage.htm
For any who remain skeptical about whether the earth is in a warming trend, as evidence of climate change, watch this moving graph: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=YB_VxEQVGBw
Of course, the new factual graph does not indicate whether that warming trend is man-made or not, but the proof of the science is in. The news media has played down this revelation. I suppose many in Congress will too. But since when did the facts get in the way for Congress?
Last night governor Perry reiterated his belief that the “science is unsettled” on whether man’s carbon emissions is the primary cause of climate change, and whether we should change our economies on that basis. He raised the example of how Galileo was considered crazy in believing the world is round by the preponderance of scientists in his time.
In our time, today, the preponderance of science is on the side that mankind has accelerated potentially devastating climate change through our increase in modern carbon emissions related to burning fossil fuel. Yet there os also a historical perspective that suggests that monumental natural climate change has taken place several times before, but that the consequence to mankind is now greater because of the size and dispersal of our human population.
For example, after hurricane Katrina, some said that the answer was not to rebuild New Orleans in its aftermath, as has been done, but to rebuild a “new” New Orleans at another location that is not in the natural path of catastrophic storms.
I’d like to propose, not as a scientist, but from the perspective of a thinking person, that mankind should be taking a hedged approach to climate change: assume that to some extent that it is inevitable, but also assume that mankind should reduce carbon emissions that can only make climate change worse. For example, perhaps we should begin moving populations inland and to higher ground, at the same time we strive to reduce use of fossil fuels and develop alternative energy sources. Perhaps what we need to do is BOTH evolve our cultural footprint on this world and change our intensity of use and sources of natural energy.
Here’s a segment of my 2007 essay, “The Masai Mara Hood Ornament,” which can be found at http://www.chilit.org, that reports one scientist’s expert opinion on this issue:
“The guest speaker was Richard Leakey, the renowned paleoanthropoligist, former director of the National Museum of Kenya and of the Kenya Wildlife Service. Yes, he is the 64-year-old inheritor of the legacy of famed fossil hunters Louis and Mary Leakey. Richard has devoted his life, as did his parents, to helping conserve the habitats of wild species in Africa and elsewhere.
“He shared an increasingly familiar concern when he said, “I think the most threatening crisis facing us and our descendants is climate change. No single thing is going to do more damage or wreak more havoc than the climate change cycle we are now entering on.”
“He observed that many byproducts of human activities, such as carbon spewing into the atmosphere, have a negative impact. But he went on to share his view that the human race, our very species, might not be what and where we are today but for naturally caused climate change, in earlier prehistoric times.
“The first of such changes was 2.6 million years ago, when the response to fairly rapid desiccation or drought was the development of the earliest record of technology – the first time primates started to use sharp edges to access a meat diet.
The second sweep of climate change took place in Africa about 1.8 million years ago, when early humans first left Africa, and we began to find their fossils in parts of Europe and later in Asia.
“Some of you may have participated in the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project, a landmark DNA study of the human journey out of Africa to populate the world. Vicki and I sent our DNA samples in, and found the portions of Africa from whence our earliest descendants moved on into Europe.
“The last major pre-historic climate change, and one that still affects us, occurred just 8 or 9 thousand years ago, when humans around the world underwent pressures from desiccation that led to the domestication of plants and animals.
Leakey concludes, “Had there not been such climate change in three separate episodes, we probably would not be where we are today, as a species.”
“The difference is that in previous times there were relatively few people to be effected by climate change, but today it can affect an enormous population – some 6 to 8 billion people across the continents. He believes that today there are far too many people on the planet to absorb such change, particularly if we go through a period of years when rainfall patterns change dramatically, mean temperatures rise, and most significantly, ocean levels also begin to rise.”
With the unending reports of tornadoes, eruptions, earth quakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, et al, of which the news media covers the aftermath ad nauseam, why aren’t we hearing more analysis on the media about the role, or non-role, of climate change in al this aberrant weather around the globe? Are the news media tone-deaf to climate change, or just afraid to let science get in the way of political correctness and electoral sensitivity? I’d like to see some headlines and in-depth reporting telling the scientific truths, and some politicians not afraid of the third-rail of “global warming” and “climate change.” Let’s hear at least as much science and discussion about how we can save and protect ourselves, as we see reports wallowing in the damage done.
Come on news media, show a little spine (better known as journalism)!
We just had 65-mile-an-hour winds pass over southeaster Wisconsin, with hail and warnings of possible tornadoes. Yikes!