There has been one issue that has occupied my mind for quite some time. Recently, I listened to a report that put my brain on high alert based on the fear that humans have run out of time. Here’s my thinking.
I fear that humans don’t have what it will take to stop global warming brought about by our desires and habits. I am left feeling sad for humans. I am also left feeling that the basis of our condition stems from our greed, our desire for progress and convenience, our still primitive mythologies, and our lack of cohesiveness as a species.
We’re all guilty of this. As a human species, we’ve allowed ourselves to compromise principles for what we want here and now. Think of how our society markets to us.
We all want the latest phone. We all want the latest, classist, most up to date computers. We all tire of our cars after a few years and begin thinking of our next car. If we are up and coming in our work, we think of the next, classiest vehicle with all the bells and whistles, and such features as sporty appearance, or rugged handling, etc. We focus on whatever fits the self-image we present to the public, our audience.
There’s a commercial for Grub-Hub that chants the line, “I want it all. I want it now.” You know the one. You can probably hear it in your head as I do.
We do want it all, now, not later or never. But, at what cost?
I’m not talking about the monetary cost to our wallet. I’m talking about the cost to our environment and our future. Now, consider the reports that are becoming more commonly published. Think of the two whales a lot of us recently saw posted on Facebook.
Two sperm whales were found beached on the shore. The photo was an aerial one. The focus of the photo was these two behemoths lying side by side as specks of humans hovered around the giants. The humans were saddened, curious and befuddled by the spectacle.
Later, scientists determined the cause of death. As they cut open the bellies of the whales, the researchers discovered they died of malnutrition. Yes, their bellies were full, but what filled their bellies?
Their bellies were bursting with all the gadgets of technology we all throw away while we replace them with newer, smarter gadgets. Their bellies were jam-packed with plastic bottles and bags, fishing nets left in the ocean as well as car parts. Yes, car parts! We, humans, have trashed our oceans so we can have it all and have it now.
Greed goes way beyond you and me.
The upper management of the oil industry has known for decades the damage fossil fuels are causing to our environment. Nevertheless, the oil industry continues to focus funds on digging deep into the ground and ocean floors for oil. The same energy companies also rupture the subterranean rocks of our planet as the industry digs deep and fractures that same ground through the violent means of fracking. The marketers tote fracking as a safe means of siphoning “clean” gas.
Clean, where have we heard that term in the recent past? We heard it from the dying coal industry. Common sense tells us that oil, gas, and coal are anything but clean. All we have to do is pull up images on the web showing how oil fields destroy everything under the ground, as well as on top, and around that same ground. Reports of flames spewing out of people’s faucets and causing those same people to purchase and drink bottled water because the well water that naturally houses their drinking water has been poisoned by the fracturing of the ground around it is commonplace. Fracking is not clean and it’s not safe.
In fact, according to the experts who study fracking, fracking causes extremely small earthquakes, but they are almost always too small to be a safety concern. However, the injection of wastewater and salt water into the subsurface can cause earthquakes that are large enough to be felt and cause damage. However, humans probably won’t accept that potential result as dangerous until a major earthquake is caused by fracking.
Greed persists among the wealthy and climate change deniers as they refuse to do what is needed to stop the pollution of our planet and its atmosphere. Our president conveniently calls climate change a Chinese Hoax. Then he eyes our natural and historical monuments which previous administrations designated public and protected lands such as Bears Ears, and Escalante National Monument among twenty-five other national monuments and parks, including parts of Yellowstone for extracting fossil fuels and precious minerals.
Escalante will lose half of its pristine beauty while Bears Ears will lose 85%, all in the name of progress and convenience. Trump was caught on camera when he mouthed the words, “If it’s in the ground, we will go dig it up and use it!”
Then we have politicians with whom we entrust our future, that of our children’s, and great-grand children’s future as well chiming in as they too deny that climate change isn’t real. Consider Oklahoma Senator James “Mountain” Inhofe’s snowball stunt as he decried the global warming hoax.
In the winter of 2015, as a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Senator stood at the podium on the Senate floor. In his right hand, he held up a snowball and asked, “Of National attention, in case we have forgotten, we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair, do you know what this is? It’s a snowball from just outside here. So it’s very, very cold out. It [the weather] is very unseasonal. Alright, Mr. President, catch this,” as he tossed the snowball out to the Senators sitting in front of him.
How ironic his stunt was. It was sarcastic because twice Senator Inhofe chaired the same Senate Committee. In fact, during his committee tenure, the senators were listening to Scientists testify on Climate Change, when Senator Inhofe made the following comment. “Do you realize I was actually on your side of this issue when I was chairing that committee, and I first heard about this? I thought it must be true until I found out what it would cost.”
Inhofe has since repeatedly decried climate change as he invokes the Bible as proof that God would not allow humans to perish over something as benign as climate change. During his career, Inhofe has invoked two failures of how difficult it is for humans to deal with, let alone accept the reality of climate change. His cost comment appeals to human greed, while his bible quoting summons biblical mythology as reasons for not allowing our Federal Government which is supposed to protect us from harm from addressing the topic of climate change.
The Bible states, “And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and every living thing.”‘ Genesis 1:28
I can grasp that the mainstay of religion and its mythical beliefs stem from our human fear of death. As I march toward my demise, I feel the pull of the strings that link me to my Catholic background. We all need to have hope that there is a life after death. That belief or desire to believe is what gets us through life. However, it is mindboggling that humans prefer to invoke that mythology when there is pragmatic evidence that climate change is real.
The best science technology dates the oldest found Biblical transcripts, the Dead Sea Scrolls, as having been written as far back as the third century BC. In fact, according to historical research, scientists believe the Hebrew Bible in its standard form, first came about some 2,000 years before the carbon dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
How can we trust the research and its empirical findings that tell us how old the Dead Sea Scrolls are, while, at the same time, we deny the identical type of research findings because we believe they go against the mythology of believing in something we can neither see nor touch, let alone prove? Why would that God take care of everything instead of giving humans the means to figure it out for themselves? In that sense, God did not abandon humans once He kicked them out of Eden. Instead He gave us the ability to help ourselves in our new paradise we call Earth.
As we consider this current scientific dating process, we discover that the men who wrote the transcripts lived over 4,000 years ago. How could they, who were mere humans, know what the distant future would bring? How could they know that their distant descendants would still be primitive in some of their thinking and behavior yet be brilliant in their ingenuity to invent and build the technology of today? How could they know that their descendants would become consumed with greed and convenience? How could they know that their descendants, every one of us, would consider that, if we are so smart and all animals are not, then we are kings and queens of our dominion?
That type of thinking encourages those same kings and queens to misinterpret the bible in order to rationalize that everything in our new paradise must be here for our use and abuse. As such, God simply wouldn’t accept our interpretation. He would, instead, expect us to use the gifts He gave us to help ourselves! If faith, hope and charity are virtues, then covetous and sloth are not. Instead they are two of the seven deadly sins and the complete antithesis of the virtues.
Senator Inhofe also claimed that God would never allow climate change to harm humans; and, as such, He would prevent the damage to our atmosphere from happening in the first place. What makes humans think that the same God wouldn’t expect us to solve the problem for ourselves? After all, we all know that God does indeed help those who help themselves, especially in this new paradise He created for us.
Now consider that, it was the same God that banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden because they disobeyed God by caving to their own human selfishness as they ate the forbidden fruit. Thus, this same mythology and God would further warn all the descendants of Adam and Eve to take care of their new paradise by respecting its riches. He would warn against exploitation and corruption of those same riches found in that new paradise to the point that it harms that paradise. As such, if God would become angry and punish Adam and Eve for eating the forbidden fruit, then, it makes sense that God would also punish Adam’s and Eve’s descendants for creating harm to all animals He created and for usurping the riches of their new paradise.
That same mythology would teach us that God created the knowledge called science. Subsequently, He also created the inquisitive science-oriented mind equipped to figure out when humans were causing harm. He would encourage those science-oriented humans to develop methods that would protect the new paradise. In that sense, God is helping humans to help themselves.
Progress and Convenience
What is progress? The definition of progress is an advancement. The description of progress claims it as the developmental activity in science, technology, etc., especially concerning the commercial opportunities created thereby or to the promotion of the material wellbeing of the public through the goods, techniques, or facilities created. As one species of living creatures among a vast number and variety of living creatures, we must exam that hypothesis.
The word that jumps out at me the most is the word public. The culture of that word describes only one species, the human species. In other words, progress calls upon the advancement of the human species alone. It suggests that humans should not factor in the welfare of other living beings when considering, planning and creating progress. That definition is the most careless description of human intention.
Progress denies the right of other living creatures who co-habit the Earth. Every time we drive down the highway, we witness our selfish notion of progress when we see animals who have lost their lives as a result of human progress. Every time we drive down the same street we’ve driven down numerous times and see an empty lot where trees stood, and animals lived and played; we see the result of human progress. All the progress we see around us is species-centric and only defines progress in human terms and for human convenience.
As we again consider the two beached whales, we can’t help but admit that our greed, and our lack of conscience toward all other creatures who share this planet with us have suffered. We’ve been so focused on our perceived needs that whales are dying because they mistake our trash for food. In addition to killing the animals of Earth’s oceans, climate change is also poisoning the oceans as well. However, that’s a topic for another blog.
Lack of Cohesiveness as a Species
We don’t need to look very far for evidence of that. When Donald J. Trump took office, one of his first acts was to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement which is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Change (UNFCCC), dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, starting next year in 2020.
As of November of last year, 195 UNFCCC member countries have signed the agreement, and 184 countries have become a party to it.
The agreement’s language was negotiated by representatives of 196 state parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, and adopted by consensus on December 12, 2015. The Paris Agreement’s long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, since this would substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change. (Source, Wikipedia)
Under the Paris Agreement, each country must determine, plan, and regularly report on the contribution that it undertakes to mitigate global warming. No mechanism forces a country to set a specific target by a specific date, but each target should go beyond previously set targets. In June of 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw our country from the agreement. Under the agreement, the earliest effective date of withdrawal for the U.S. is November 2020, shortly before the end of President Trump’s current term. In practice, changes in the United States policy that are contrary to the Paris Agreement has already been put in place. (Source, Wikipedia)
As he does with all other matters, Trump has placed our country in violation of the Accords we signed and are obligated to adhere to. Without human cohesiveness at the national and international level, cohesiveness at a local level seems fruitless.
In closing, I wish to define for those sitting on the fence of believing or not believing that climate change is real, the distinction between climate and weather.
First, I am happy that our species is finally having open and public discussions regarding climate change. It wasn’t until last week that a verbal distinction between climate and weather was discussed. It is a distinction that should have been expressed years ago. If it had been expressed, Senator Inhofe would have exposed himself to be openly ridiculed for bringing that snowball onto the Senate floor as evidence that global warming is a hoax.
According to the American Geosciences Institute: Whereas weather refers to short-term changes in the atmosphere, climate describes what the weather is like over a long period of time in a specific area. … Looking at Climate Normals can help us describe whether the summers are hot and humid and whether the winters are cold and snowy at a particular place. (Source, Wikipedia)
Both weather and climate refer to local conditions (temperature, rainfall, wind strength, etc.) in a particular location or region, but the main difference between them is a matter of time. “Weather” refers to local conditions on the scale of minutes, hours, days, and even months to years: you can have a particularly wet month, warm winter, or rainy decade. Whereas, “Climate” is an average of weather conditions over 30 years or more, and can be assessed for a single location, large area, or globally. While weather can change dramatically in a single location from day to day (for example, cold and rainy one day, followed by hot, dry conditions the next day), climate generally changes less quickly because it represents the average of weather conditions over a longer period of time. (Source, Wikipedia)
When someone laughs at the notion of climate change while invoking the fact that the Earth has experienced Ice Ages, it becomes instantly apparent that person has no clue what he or she is speaking of. It is true that the Earth has experienced at least five ice ages, but those took thousands of years before they began to form and thousands of years of frozen ground ice before the ice began to recede giving way to more temperate climate conditions. Those five ice ages were natural phenomena. Humans had nothing to do with causing them.
On the contrary, the climate change our Earth is currently experiencing is human-made and the changes we are experiencing took less than 300 years to reach the critical stage we now find our home.
The climate change scientists speak of began at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution which took shape between 1760 to 1840.
Before the Industrial Revolution, most humans lived in what we now call rural areas. There were towns, but those towns were small, and they largely serviced the rural outlying areas. With the revolution came sprawling cities populated by masses of humans who were needed to fill the jobs of the industries the revolution birthed.
Many of us remember industries with their factories that spewed out huge plumes of dirty smoke from large smokestacks that rose up to the sky. The factories also deposited their waste into the rivers that ran through the cities and those rivers dumped into the oceans.
In the hinterlands, farms began to grow. Those farms not only fed families, but they began to feed cities. Farming changed dramatically.
More ground was needed to be cultivated, and more plants needed to be planted. Equipment became large, and they all depended on gasoline to fuel them. Chemicals were developed to encourage crops to grow larger and produce more. Other poisonous chemicals were developed to kill the insects that posed a threat to the health of the crops. All those chemicals found their way to the rivers during rain runoff.
In the cities, people needed transportation, so automobiles needed to be purchased which also gave way to public transportation. All these vehicles needed gas to fuel them. What happens to fuel as it burns? It dumps into the atmosphere and as the years progress the atmosphere experiences an abundance of invisible fumes from the fuel that causes the atmosphere to choke. It chokes just as you and I choke when we stand in a garage with the door shut and the car running.
The fumes have nowhere to go, but up into the atmosphere. For some time, our trees that evolved to breathe in carbon dioxide (the fume composition of the gas that fuels the cars and factories) were able to breathe in the carbon dioxide and change it to oxygen. However, when tons and tons of carbon dioxide are exhausted into the atmosphere, those trees become incapable of inhaling all the exhaust, so the atmosphere chokes more.
Then, because the cities encourage human population growth, more and more trees are cut down to make room for buildings whether they are office buildings, factories, stores or living dwellings. Continue to multiply that and soon you have an overworked atmosphere which is becoming sicker and angrier, when, suddenly, that atmosphere can’t take it anymore so it begins to rebel via climate change which causes more powerful storms taking place at unusual times with winds and floods that destroy the buildings in the cities.
Climate change also causes droughts which have plagued a large portion of California. Last year was so dry, that fires broke out and spread so rapidly that fire fighters couldn’t keep up. The result was massive, out-of-control fires that destroyed a large percentage of land and forests, including an entire town.
Just this week, the upper mid-west and the east coast experienced record-breaking temperatures that took the lives of nine individuals. Several areas recorded temperatures below those in the Arctic Circle. The cause was a fracture in the vortex over the Arctic Circle which caused the air that typically swirls over the Arctic to be blasted south into Canada and the upper mid-west states as well as the uppermost eastern States even causing unusual frigid air into southern States such as the one I live in, South Carolina. Although fractures in the vortex over the Arctic Circle are not un-common, scientists claim this recent fracture was indeed a result of climate change, caused by the warming of the atmosphere over the Arctic Circle.
Climate change is real alright, and it’s only going to get worse. Scientists thought we had more time to work up the courage it will take to address that climate change to stall it and then stop it from progressing. However, their research is proving that the changes are happening at a far more rapid rate than previously thought.
Recently, scientists reported that we have only twelve years to change our ways before the weather becomes even more erratic and more damaging. We can’t wait that long. In real time, twelve years is a blink of the eye.
Still, the question remains, do humans have the will and the dedication to change to save the only home we have. If we don’t, we have nowhere to go. The only place we can move is another place on our planet. However, that will be an act of futility because the entire planet is suffering from climate change.
I am typically an optimistic human being. However, I must confess. Given the state of the desires and habits of the human species, I am not at all optimistic; and, that makes me very sad.