Wanna read the latest
from Clever Magazine?
by Dianne Kochenburg
I've been reading Barbara Kingsolver's new novel, Flight Behavior. It's a depressing book about the effects of global warming on weather patterns, a familiar problem these days. Various parts of our country have had more than their share of bizarro weather for the past few years and other weather-related tribulations galore. Some folks prefer to explain it all away as normal weather cycles, arguing that these things happen and nothing is really wrong with "nature". It's a comforting fall-back position, one that most of us hope is true. But it isn't.
Nearly every scientist working in the field knows we are not experiencing normal weather cycles. What we are going through is the result of human activity and is alarming, to say the least. It might very well be that End of Days is upon us, but it's not the biblical apocalypse, nope, we humans are to blame for it. Meanwhile, those who might be able to do something about it continue to dismiss all the mounting evidence even though the alarm bells that are going off in every direction.
Kingsolver's novel is about the Monarch butterflies, who migrate every year back and forth between continents and are dependent upon predictable weather in both their summer and winter habitat. Something has gone horribly wrong and the butterflies end up in Appalachia instead of Mexico, and are doomed because of it. The local folks are mystified by the biologists who show up to study the event because strangers in their midst are something to be leery of. This tension between the two groups sets up the story. The local property owner wants to cut the trees that are the temporary home to the butterflies, he needs the money. The scientists just want to study what's going on. A few protesters show up. But life goes on in its dreary way for the local folks.
I know this short synopsis won't make anybody want to run out and buy this book. But I'm am pleased to see that it's doing quite well. Kingsolver, who is a biologist as well as a writer, has quite a following. However, I'm not hopeful that this book will galvanize anybody into doing something positive about the horrible future we are facing if we don't face up to the fact that we need to change our ways.
There are so many "clues" and such a huge pile of evidence showing that our planet is in dire straits. Most worrisome right now is the melting of the polar ice caps and the warming of the permafrost near them. In addition to refrigerating the planet, the permafrost contains carbon that is trapped in the frozen plant growth. When that thaws the carbon is released, thinning our protective ozone layer. That ozone layer is all that lies between us and the end of life as we know it. There have been thousands of other "wake up calls" and all the canaries have already died, and still nothing is happening.
There are so many things we could be doing to help cool the planet, mostly having to do with halting the burning of fossil fuels. Instead we are desperately seeking ways to find even more fossil fuels for our cars and businesses, The Keystone pipeline, and fracking being the latest craziness. We should be looking for cleaner energy sources, not scraping and washing away the earth's crust for the last bit of this fuel.
Some people whine that China is really to blame. It's true that China seems to be clueless about this problem even though their factories are spewing so much pollution that the Chinese people are choking on it. Yet the production continues. We here in the US are mostly to blame for that. Nearly everything that is manufactured comes from China. It's runaway Capitalism at its worst. We need to look around us and figure out what "stuff" we can do without and try to harness this madness.
Let's start with plastic goods. Look at all of those big box stores that seem to sell nothing but plastic made in China: Toys R Us for example. All those plastic toys are not necessary to sustain life as we know it. Neither are all those plastic items that fill "party" box stores. And plastic bottles alone are filling our garbage dumps, our drainage systems and our oceans. Our homes, garages and storage units are overflowing with stuff, much of it plastic, that we no longer need, want or use. We are literally killing ourselves with useless plastic junk.
Our closets are brimming with clothes we don't wear. So what do we do? We yearn for larger homes with bigger closets so we can stuff them with useless clothes and shoes. We suddenly need homes with three or four bathrooms, even though fewer of us actually live together in one home.
So we need more fresh, clean water fill those spa tubs and flush all those toilets. Well, we are going to be getting more water, but not where we want it. Island nations are feeling the pressure, some right now are in danger of being covered over with sea water. In the meantime, the oceans are being decimated with overfishing and waste, the coral reefs are bleaching and dying due to a variety of human factors, and marine species are dying off by the hundreds. And the Chinese still need their shark fin soup.
We are about to lose our polar bears, and that's a really bad sign. As far as animal welfare is concerned, we are more likely to protect the "cute" animals. Well, these cute bears are goners. So are African elephants, due to poaching of ivory tusks which are going to China to be carved into stuff that we will buy. Run-away consumerism is to blame for most of the harm to the planet, and we in the United States are the world's largest group of spenders. While much of the world lives in abject poverty, with barely enough to cover their bodies and sleeping on the streets, we figure out ways to spend more and more of everything, including most of the world's precious resources.
Now the latest idea the scientists have come up with is to never say the words global warming or even its benign sister phrase "climate change". Those words drive the naysayers crazy, so we tiptoe around trying to justify monster storms and sinking islands, poor harvests, and dying species as just another day in Disneyland.
This whole scenario distresses me
completely. Especially when I run into friends and acquaintances who
claim that it's all a hoax. If nothing else, read Kingsolver's book to
get an idea of what scientists are up against these days. Or just spend
a few hours on Wikipedia and other easily accessed websites to learn
about this very serious problem. There is no "other" side, it's all bad
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