Tuesday, December 15, 2009

There aren't two sides to every issue

Marie's comments on an earlier post inspires these words.

We know from tree rings, pollen, ice cores etc. that the climate can change radically, and sometimes surprisingly quickly. Even within the rather small sample of human history, we’ve seen major climate change: the “Medieval warming period” was followed by the “little ice age” – e.g., the Vikings settled Greenland and Iceland at the tail end of the warming period, and then their colonies failed as it got colder.

And we know it’s getting warmer right now. Average temps rising, plant and animal species moving further north, hardiness zones being shifted, spring coming earlier, alpine glaciers shrinking, etc.

I think you’ll agree with me on these two initial paragraphs.

The question becomes: is this normal, since we’re in an interglacial, warming, period, or is it exacerbated by the greenhouse gasses, chief among them CO2, that we are producing. To stress: CO2 gets all the press, but it isn’t the only greenhouse gas turning the atmosphere into a sweat lodge; there’s the methane that comes from all the domesticated ruminants we eat; there’s the deforestation, which both releases carbon (the wood is often just burned off) and subtracts the numbers of trees that can sequester carbon.

Actually, now I think the question is this: even if the warming isn’t anthropogenic (after all, scientific consensuses have been overturned before), there’s still the question of what we’re going to do about the greenhoused earth that will be the new reality for our grandchildren. The Pentagon, for one, is already thinking about for the instability that’s going to result in the developing world, where rising seas, shifting climate patterns, drought/flooding, and potentially greater storms will have a much greater effect than on the developed world. This is why those little bitty island nations in the Pacific are in such a state of panic; islands are always the test cases, the canaries in the coal mines, and these places won't be around in a century.


amarilla said...

Wow, you sound exactly like my sister (who is always right, of course). You should meet her someday. BTW, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the photo. I was drawing a drawing like that yesterday, only inverted, so that what looks like rivulets (water eroding away the white sand down to the darks) in your photo were small trees in my drawing.

Marie said...

Thanks, Matthew.

And that brings up the question grandchildren, and whether they are necessary, and why :-)

I'm sometimes tempted to say, when guiltily asking for a plastic bag* (into which my trash goes at home) at a store, But-but-but, I don't have children, and consequently my carbon footprint is TINY!

We are preserving the planet...for ourselves, no? No animal will know if it is extinct, nor plant; but we will. We will miss it and the hole it leaves in the continuum. We want it to exist so that our lives are better. Our big, important, enquiring lives.

I'm not really raving on the subject but it makes me very thoughtful, sometimes. Would welcome input.

* what IS the bloody alternative to a plastic bag, assuming one has recycled and composted but still has trash?

Matthew said...

The planet will certainly survive us, and it will survive without us, but will anything know it?

Those plastic bags are a problem I for another haven't figured out either. I've seen those corn-based "plastic" boxes around fancy baby lettuces; supposedly these biodegrade harmlessly. I hope somebody is working on garbage-bag versions.

One good thing about children is that you can eat them when times get tough. ;)

YourFireAnt said...

If all the insects disappeared human life would disappear within a hundred years. If all the people disappeared, every other species would thrive.

Marie said...

Hm, with rosemary and lemon zest? :-)

Matthew said...

And onions.