Sunday, May 01, 2005

What's Earth Day?

The comedian's timing was impeccable and his presentation very slick. He told the audience that only deadbeat dads who didn't pay child support lived in Alaska. I laughed along with the audience and the host of the show. Of course we have to drill in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge, the comic continued. We are not going to start driving rickshaws. More laughter. This guy was on a roll: Big deal, so the temperature has gone up one degree in the past one hundred years. It means our grandchildren will be living in a climate like Phoenix, that's all. More chuckles as the comedian strolled off stage. Millions just learned the sky wasn't falling. Not to worry. I opened another beer and started clicking through the cable channels. Could a world renown climate expert ever be half as persuasive ... or reassuring?

The environmental movement worldwide has been incredibly successful over the past thirty plus years. Awareness has increased, large numbers of people realize that clean air and clean water can not be taken for granted. Many of us now know we can't simply leave a healthy environment up to the "good" intentions of industry. Large numbers of humans apparently believe we ought not to slaughter other species simply because we can. Yes, many Americans, as well as people throughout the world, claim that a healthy environment is important....

A day or two before Earth Day celebrations on 22 April, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an energy bill that gives some $12 billion of assorted tax breaks and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. It rejected a proposal to require higher fuel efficiency standards for cars. Once again it called for oil drilling in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge.

A lot of bright people are thinking about alternatives to petroleum use. So-called bridge technologies, such as gasification plants, are being studied. Simply put, this process stores carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, deep underground. This process also produces hydrogen, which could be used as a transportation fuel. Another possibility is a growth in biomass. Biomass refers to any organic matter such as cornstalks and certain grasses that could be used in developing biofuels--ethanol.

An Oak Ridge National Laboratory study suggests that by around 2020 it might be possible to have biomass "displace" petroleum consumption for transportation by approximately 30 percent. These are merely two examples of alternative technologies. What of course is needed is a genuine commitment and financial support from national governments for serious research and testing.

The Government Accountability Office in the U.S. reported on 22 April that the Bush administration has failed to include--specified by law--the necessary assessment reports regarding their energy change study due to be made public in 2007. The areas include biological diversity, energy, water resources, and agriculture. A Commerce Department official responded to the GAO finding by saying, "We may commission additional reports, if needed."

The climatologist from NASA called it a "smoking gun." New data from satellites and robotic measuring devises floating on the world's oceans have found that our planet is soaking up much more heat than it's "giving of." The atmosphere, in other words, is warming up. This energy imbalance is likely to grow, even if all the greenhouse gases were shut off tomorrow morning. Melting Antarctic ice sheets is probably not a good thing in the long run. Rapid temperature increases ( some "darker" scenarios show a 10 degree Fahrenheit rise this century ) will probably bring us an extremely unpleasant world to live in. Of course our little comedian may be right; it might just be a matter of getting accustomed to the warmer Phoenix climate. Not to worry.

What in fact do we really believe? I'm not speaking about our publicly stated beliefs, our civic utterances. No, I'm talking about the "deep" thoughts we have, the ones that take shape--and slip out--when the curtains are pulled down and the lights are off.

I don't think this planet's going to make it. The reason is we humans are, collectively, too stupid and too self-absorbed. This is not a civic utterance; this thought gathers in the dark. It takes shape more often now. Can I make it go away?


City Hippy said...

Much value in satire...suspect he did more good than harm

More and more people every day are waking up from their sleepy selfish mentality.

This awakening is only one one concerned about the planet is being converted to the 'everything is fine so lets relax and do nothing' perspective.

Critical mass is therefore approaching. When critical mass is reached change will happen very fast.

Look at how fast the US put a man on the moon. In the space of 10 years this entire planet's human population could radically transform itself and the way it interacts with nature.

As the effects and evidence of climate change accelerates so does our popular understanding of the issues and our ability to affect change.

We are fast moving towards the end-game of this issue. It is inevitable.

Life on earth is going to change but the real question is will we be ready for that change; can we survive that change?

The jury is still out on whether we will make it or not.

For now we must keep forging ahead.

As Ghandi said:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win!

timx said...

There is a lot of stupidity and pig-headedness around - but if we are defeated by anything it will be pessimism! I would go along with Ghandi; and city hippy of course!

Thomas said...

Anyone see the Bill Maher show on, or day after Earth Day? It was good, Bill makes better jokes, usually bashing complacent people, and energy companies unsatiable appetites for our tax dollars to subsidize their polluting activities. PBS came out with a couple 2 hour long documentary series that have Ed Norton narrating and exposes the affects of one degree of average Earth temperature rise. The series' were persuasive, powerful, and visually stunning.