Authors: Brian Adams
Love in the Time of Climate Change
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HERE IS AN ANCIENT
Chinese curse that goes like this:
“May you live in interesting times.”
Damn those ancient Chinese! They were clearly onto something.
Times are always interesting, but we've certainly managed to ratchet things up a few notches in the last decades.
One issue that virtually all of the world's scientists agree on is that we are in the midst of an alarming, unprecedented, and potentially catastrophic era of climate change. Essentially, we are knee-deep in shit and sinking rapidly. Climatologists may phrase it a little differently, tweak a word here or two, but that's it in a nutshell. No matter what illusions or mind-boggling fantasies some of the right-wing nutcases continue to cling to, there is overwhelming consensus on this one: global warming is real, it is happening, and we are the cause of it.
A quick primer on how the hell we got into this mess â¦
As always in complex situations, there are lots of folks to point fingers at. The blame game can take on astronomical proportions here.
Let's begin by going back in time to the Carboniferous Period, 350 million years ago, when the earth was dominated by dinosaurs and ancient fernlike species of plants. Cool as they were, these things had the sheer audacity not only to survive and to thrive, but also to die in this whacked-out way, crunched and squeezed and pummeled into the earth, their pressurized remains becoming coal, oil, and natural gas.
Curse them and their fossilized remains! It's ashes-to-ashes and dust-to-dust for the rest of us. Why did they have to go and make such a lasting impression? I mean, seriouslyâwhat the hell were they thinking?
Fast-forward a few hundred million years to the middle of the eighteenth century and we have a human to blame this time: James Watt, one of Scotland's finest. Tinkering with the steam engine, he helped usher in the modern industrial revolution. No more resting in peaceânow we could finally do something with all those ancient dead bodies. Blast, dig, drill, frack, whatever it took to get them out of the ground so we could burn the hell out of them. The world was transformed.
Whoa, you may argue: don't get carried away here. Don't go dumping on poor James. After all, let's give credit where credit is due. Wasn't the Industrial Revolution a good thing? Didn't it substantially improve our quality of life? Didn't it make the world a much better place to live for millions, now billions, of people?
It's useful to recall the terrifying tale of Johann Faust and his legendary pact with Satan. Faust's obsessive quest for knowledge leads to a deal with the devil which, after a few really awesome years for Johann, ultimately does not
go down well. The original Faustian bargain ends with splattered brains and gouged-out eyes, and with Faust, not the Prince of Darkness, getting the raw end of the deal.
Who knows? Dig deep enough and there may just be a modern-day moral to that fable.
Of course, we could take the easy way out and blame the nonliving. Lacking a voice to defend itself, carbon dioxide, that son of a bitch, makes for an easy scapegoat. The primary greenhouse (heat-trapping) gas, it just begs for vociferous curses to be hurled its way. But you can't really blame something you can't see or touch or even smell, even though every time we burn oil or coal or natural gas to heat our homes or drive our cars or make our electricity, more and more of the shit goes into the atmosphere. The higher the concentrations of carbon dioxide, the hotter the planet gets.
It's as simple, or complicated, as that.
Of course, without carbon dioxide we'd be completely fucked. The earth needs it to keep us from freezing our asses off. Plants need it to photosynthesize. Without photosynthesis there's no oxygen. Without oxygen there's, well, no us.
But here's the rub: too much of a good thing turns out not to be a good thing. In fact, too much carbon dioxide could end life as we know it.
Which, most of us agree, would really suck.
While it would be so much easier if carbon dioxide weren't such a Dr.-Jekyll-and-Mr.-Hyde kind of molecule, there's simply no way around it: we've got to add CO
to the naughty list.
Who else to blame? Hmm â¦ so many culprits and so little time. I suppose that, ultimately, and in good conscience, we need to point the finger where it really and truly belongs.
Yup. You guessed it.
Look in the mirror, bro.
The blame sits squarely on your shoulders. Yours and mine.
We're oil junkies. We're coal addicts. We want our natural gas and, damn it, we want it now.
And we're hell-bent on frying the planet and everything on it in order to keep getting our fixâno matter the consequences.
We are the ultimate fossil fools.
Once againâcurse those ancient Chinese!
“May you live in interesting times” indeed!!