Feb 14, 2006

Our Lonely Planet is the Only Home We've Got

Science and Common Sense Dictate Our Environment is at Risk
We got record-level snowfall this past weekend here in the New York Metro area. Actually I liked it; though I would have preferred a “snow day” on Monday too. It wasn’t too bad though, as the roads I had to use were OK, and I didn’t terribly mind working that day as I enjoy my job at the university. Thank goodness we didn’t need FEMA or the Homelanders. Any time there is some extreme weather, I can’t help but wonder about the state of our environment. Obviously there has been a warming trend in the last 30 years and all indications point to this phenomenon continuing in the foreseeable future. The question for us to ponder is whether this trend is the result of human activity or is it part of the earth’s cycle.

I believe it’s good to be a skeptic, though open-mindedness is necessary. Perhaps we can’t come up with a definitive answer as to the causes of global warming right now, but this doesn’t mean we should sit back and do nothing. Who can really argue that our energy needs and our wasteful ways do not produce huge amounts of pollution? Just on these grounds we have to sit up and take notice. Unfortunately, there is more
bad news. Humans have been responsible for dumping incredible amounts of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere (and in the oceans through absorption)—so much that we alone may be responsible for increasing the global temperature by 2-3ยบ Celsius. It’s a risk assessment, and it appears that we are at risk.

Granted, the earth has had temperature cycles in the past, but because of our species’ technological advances for the first time in geological history there has been such an influence on earth’s climate. NASA’s top climatologist, Dr.
James Hansen, has issued an alarm, “Multiple lines of evidence indicate that the Earth’s climate is nearing, but has not passed, a point or no return, beyond which it will be impossible to avoid climate change with far ranging undesirable consequences.” So, can we tip the balance to the point of no return? Dr. Hansen was one of the many scientists who participated in the New School’s Conference on Politics & Science this February in NYC, and all agreed that we have to be pro-active, and the US a leader, in reducing the emission of gases that contribute to global warming.

Of course, there are those (too many) who believe that we are living in the “end of times” [check the
Rapture Index], and there are those who believe in the divinity of the marketplace to regulate everything under the sun. We also have the socio-economic elites in power who gain so much today from lax environmental standards that they’re willing to skew the scientific evidence to fit their political agendas. NASA, NOAA, EPA and so many other federal agencies have been under pressure from the Bush administration to suppress data that’s politically inconvenient. Scientists have been assigned “minders” who monitor what the scientists say to the media & the public! But, it’s no secret that El Presidente Bush is no fan of science, and the Republican Party has started a war on science for good measure too. [Read Chris Mooney’s book on the subject]

When half of the people in the world don’t have access to clean water, when acid rain is destroying forests, when polluted air shortens lives, then we have lots to do to improve our housekeeping and stewardship of our lonely planet this side of the universe. We don’t have to wait to make it a better place to live in; it’s for our own good and it will feel superbly invigorating. For starters, we have to kick out those who’ve been partying at our expense and have been messing our house. Let’s pick up a broom and put it to good use…

Fishing for whatever bites the lure
Besides, I'm tired seeing them distort science, common sense, the English language, and ..hunting! Maybe it's their privileged, elite in-bred, upbringing that makes them unable to understand. For example, they think hunting is getting in an SUV, driving to a ranch, and shooting some farm-raised birds that were just released for their target practice! Oh yeah, and according to Barbara Bush (the elder witch) sleeping on cots in the Astrodome is like camping in the woods! Anyway,it was probably an upgrade for "those underprivileged people" ...Tsk, tsk.

Addendum: Bobby Kennedy has written a great book, Crimes Against Nature, exposing in detail the conservatives' attack on the environment. It's a must-read for those who want to understand how the economic elites and their advocates take over power (via Republican presidents since Reagan) and are placed in charge of the "common good" which in turn they plunder for the benefit of the big fat corporations and to the detriment of our interest and our health.

Humans have been around for only a few tens of thousands of years--a blink of an eye in geological terms--but we may be pushing Gaia to a "tipping point." There is a new book out, The Revenge of Gaia, by James Lovelock, who adds his voice to those who believe our Mother Earth is about to catch a fever that may last 100,000 years! Interesting stuff, even for a skeptic.
[my thanks to Elizabeth and Gus Karam for bringing this book to my attenton]