Tag Archives: Global warming

Environmentalist No Go Phrases

Arid country, Brown’s Canyon National Monument

The severity of the environmental crises we face should not be downplayed with poor word choices. Here are my top three:

Tipping Point

The argument in favor of saving nature often goes something like this: “If we don’t start working to curb global warming (or habitat loss or what have you) we will reach a tipping point past which catastrophe will ensure. The time when this will happen is coming soon.” That statement might (maybe?) have been true in the 1970s, but we are long past the time of waiting for the tipping point to arrive. The disasters of crashing wildlife populations, ocean plastic contamination, CO2 emissions led us to pass the tipping point years ago. The Sixth Extinction and global air and ocean temperature rise is well under way. The best we can hope for now: mitigation lessening the long term damage.

New Normal

Permanent drought in arid regions and gigantic oceanic storms caused by human activities should not be normalized. Self-destruction is aberrant, not normal. The new abnormal?

Global Warming

This term glosses over the existential threat posed by human alteration of the climate. Throughout the Western U.S. the annual number of frost free days has significantly increased over the course of several decades. (I have seen this happen in Taos.) Summer nighttime lows are higher now than during the previous century.

Climate disruption. Climate crises. Global heating. All of these are more accurate statements of account describing our situation, although even these are not dire enough to fully capture the existential danger to the biosphere. We need a one to three word phrase that everyone can immediately recognize as encapsulating the growing threat to our survival. The phrase must be powerful enough to convey immediate recognition of the true magnitude of the disaster.

2016 election Academy for the Love of Learning ALEC Ansel Adams Wilderness Banner Peak Big Pharma boundaries California Climate Change Cold War Commies COP 21 Devil's Postpile National Monument Donald Trump Electoral College Environmental Movement Ernest Thompson Seton Ethnic Cleansing Fish and Game Framework Convention on Climate Change generally true patterns Global warming Herakleitos Hillary Clinton Israelis and Palestinians Koch brothers KrellPedophile scandals Lake Catherine Mammoth Lakes Mt. Ritter Nature Nature photography Paris Climate Conference Prison Industrial Complex Putin Sagebrush Rebellion Shiite Starbucks cups Sunni Syria refugees systems Trump Wilderness photo essay Wolves Yosemite National Park

IPCC Climate Change Report

Sunset for Civilization

Sunset for Civilization

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has put out a monumental report. Ninety-one authors from 40 countries, plus 133 contributing authors, cited over 6,000 references, creating the Special Report on Global Warming of more than 700 pages in length. The results predict sunset for our civilization.

We have a decade or so to work on changing our anti-environment ways. But maybe we have no time left to gradually change. We must do so immediately in order to reach “net-zero” human-caused carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Opposing this view, the British scientist Mayer Hill, among others, believe that achieving net-zero by mid-century will come much too late.

Whatever the timeline, every day during which CO2 does not diminish makes achieving net-zero more difficult to achieve. Making this worse is the increasing methane leakage from Artic permafrost, which will almost certainly require us to reach net-zero before 2050. (I experienced alarmingly hot Arctic conditions on my two trips to the far north.)

The IPCC report received scant attention from the major television news networks. The same networks refuse to acknowledge climate change in their hurricane news coverage. One could argue that the impending end of civilization deserved a bit more. But try convincing their commercial sponsors of that. (Parts of the print media have given better coverage to the issue.)

Would it be possible to mobilize against big-Carbon (or if you prefer, mobilize for net-zero) in the way we did for World War II? Back then, our way of life was at stake. Now, it is our lives that are on the line. And if so, who might lead us to net-zero?

The prevailing political conservatism is hostile to anything that might be anti-capitalism and even more so when internationalism is involved. If you believe with President Reagan that government is the problem or with President Trump that globalism is the problem, then pro-environment mobilization by all the world’s governments becomes an impossibility. IPCC is for them just another example of a world government agency run amok.

This is not trivial: the very psychological identity of the conservative is at risk. You can’t admit the existence of global climate change when your entire being is based on an ideology of anti-domestic big government and opposition to international bodies infringing upon national sovereignty.

American liberalism, in its current pro-Corporate incarnation (President Clinton’s contribution), is no less destructive to the environment. Liberal flirtation with identity politics doesn’t help, because “Nature,” as an identity in and off itself does not find a home in that worldview.

Free market capitalism (North America, Western Europe, etc.) and state sponsored capitalism (China, etc.) believe only in resource extraction for economic growth, in contradiction to the laws of biology. Our prosperity comes at the expense of all the other life forms on the planet.

Theological concerns largely center on human-to-God issues without recognizing Nature as a part of the mix.

We all have our political, religious, national, ethnic, gender identities. Have many of us identify first of all with nature itself? Narcissism is triumphant: we won’t/can’t give up our identities even if it kills us.

Modern civilization’s great political philosophers such as John Locke, Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and John Stuart Mill did not prepare us for a challenge of this magnitude. Our great naturalist philosophers including Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and Ernest Thompson Seton demonstrated insight into our relationship with nature, but neither did they prepare us for what to do next in our current situation.

The IPCC report on climate disruption is just the most recent; similar ones show up every few months only to be subsumed into the larger news flow of political scandals, natural disasters, celebrity shenanigans, etc. For their part, IPCC and other scientists suggest technical solutions, but the mindset needed to move us toward a net-zero ideology won’t come from them either.

We are awaiting neither left-wing nor right-wing leaders, not technical or social engineers, but instead, the rise of consciousness-raising moralists. Maybe a Gandhi or King or Mandela for Nature will show up. We need them soon.

This is non-gradual diminishment.

Why Trump is like Nasal Congestion

dsc_8391     Send Trump to the North Pole—it’s warmer there.

It’s beginning to look a lot less like Christmas up north. Mid-month December temperatures at the North Pole have risen 50° F above average to just below freezing—nighttime temperatures in Taos are colder. During summer, parts of the Arctic are warmer than Taos.

Time to start panicking?

Meanwhile: Hysteria reigns in North Carolina over who gets to use which bathroom. “Liberal” media (MSNBC, Huff Post, etc.) continue giving Trump more of the free publicity they used to propel him into the White House. The Obama administration slams Russia for providing armaments to Syria used to kill civilians there while at the same time providing armaments to Saudi Arabia used to kill civilians in Yemen. Democrats blame (among others) the Russians for costing them the election—easier to blame foreigners than there own stupidity (e.g., they really should have won).

From the Radical Natural History perspective, it is clear that negative media about Trump misses an important point. He is not a cause of our problems, but a symptom. Think of him as nasal congestion, an outcome of the corruption of the common cold, not the cause. It is the deeper virus-like corruption of a world civilization—that can tolerate, ignore, or even benefit from (in the very short term) the cataclysm of rising temperatures and species extinction—which has not the slightest compunction about producing Trump and his illiberal companions.

Time to start panicking, or past the time when we should have done so?