The capacity for human denial is a force nearly equal to gravity. Illustrative of that, quite literally, is the fact that though Aristarchus of Samos (310BC to 230BCE) predicted that the sun was the center of our universe and not the earth, it took 18 centuries for Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) to bring it up again; and another hundred years for Galileo (1564-1642) to market the idea. The Catholic Church did not concede the truth until 1822!
Ultimately gravity did prove to be stronger than denial — it just took humans awhile to figure it out.
Now we have a similar situation. Disruptive global climate change predicted two centuries ago — almost simultaneously by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927) and Irishman John Tyndall (1820-1893) — is another example. But, in this case, climate change is not just a conceptual barrier to understanding our place in the world; now we are messing with the life-giving forces of Mother Nature herself.
Earth, our playpen
The Greenhouse Effect, as this was called in the last century, is the way our beautiful planet provides us with a climate increasingly beneficial to life. Our atmosphere protects us from the killing rays of the sun while allowing its warmth and energy to be accessible and useful to us. By some inexplicable miracle, Gaia has been step-by-step tempering her original fiery birth and creating the conditions most conducive to the abundant life we see around us.
The stunning balance of oceans, rivers, clouds, weather systems and water cycles; mountains and their component mineral elements sloughing off; the rich biome of soils; the interactions of fauna and flora; the incredible multi-layered pyramid of life: from the micro-world of bacteria to the predatory heights — all this we thought was meant for us alone. And like little kindergarten tyrants, we presumed our playpen earth had infinite resources that we could use and abuse to our heart’s content with no consequences.
But the inconceivable is happening: we, earth’s most recent children, are destroying our nest.
Climate change is real, and its effects will be increasingly disastrous for humans, our environment, and other species — in short, everything we do and love is threatened.
But like the institution of the Catholic Church (now grossly in denial of sexual abuse in its ranks), the current version of the Republican Party seems to be able, in a state of perfect hypocrisy, to turn away from the truth. Members of the Grand Ole Party are enabling a criminal president to presider over our welfare, and they are blindly following him over the cliff of denial.
This charlatan’s latest move is to convene a committee of climate deniers to argue with reality. (As Chris D’Angelo says in the Huffpost: “Meet the Ostriches for Trump’s Anti-Science Climate Committee” — http://tinyurl.com/y3k62vjg). This is an obscene waste of time and tax money, and outrageously detrimental to all global citizens. It’s the modern version of Nero fiddling while Rome burns, except, in this case, Nero is out pouring gasoline on the fire. Quite literally, the earth is burning… and also freezing… and generating gyrating impossibly enormous storms… and being swept into the sea… and… and…
Years ago, I was part of a business sustainability consulting firm called the Future500 (still doing good work around the world: http://www.future500.org). I remember conversations about the best nomenclature for the crisis we were attempting to draw attention to. I preferred “climate disruption” as a descriptor of the problem, but the term “global warming” dominated in the media.
Unfortunately, this only captured part of the story and was too easy for numbskulls, like the current inhabitant of the Whitehouse, to latch onto and misunderstand. Our actions are disrupting large-scale, intricately-connected, global systems: greenhouse gasses; thermohaline circulation; global density gradients; the jet stream; earth and ocean surface temperatures; environmental ecosystems; and, yes, weather patterns.
Dear people, we are now in 2019 and global climate disruption — catalyzed by human fossil fuel consumption, deforestation, and other industrial forces — is real and was predicted over 170 years ago. There are numerous data-driven reports now available from scientific and governmental think tanks from all over the world. (I will cite just one of the most comprehensive because it was produced by our own University of Washington: http://tinyurl.com/y6p6qvh2.)
King tides and other ‘inconveniences’
In a way, we’re all fiddling while the world burns — we’re all in denial about what global climate disruption means for us. We may think that our grandchildren will be affected in some misty future, but, folks, look around. It’s happening to us right now.
How did you respond to that king tide rambling up Bay Avenue with enough wave-force to tumble driftwood in front of Full Circle? I thought to myself, “It’s time to sell oceanside property.”
It’s way past time to get serious about how life is changing. If you want to be scared out of your wits, take a look at the recent report written by climate scientist Jem Bendell entitled “Deep Adaptation, A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy” (downloadable here: https://www.lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf). As one Bendell interviewer said, “What if I told you there was a paper on climate change that was so uniquely catastrophic, so perspective-altering, and so absolutely depressing that it’s sent people to support groups and encouraged them to quit their jobs and move to the countryside? Well, good news, it’s here.” In fact there are two of them: please also consider David Wallace-Wells’ “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.” Wallace-Wells says, “Our use of fossil fuels is now the single greatest threat to our survival.”
But back to Bendell who reviewed the vast array of climate disruption data available and pulled his observations together into one place. It’s a rough dose of reality — be warned — and it seems to me we have two responses: we can either all become environmental campaigners, or, as another reader said, “move to the Scottish countryside and wait out the apocalypse.” Your choice. (One reviewer even suggested that perhaps it was inappropriate to “dishearten readers with the claim of inevitable near-term social collapse.” This attitude Bendell feels “is a form of censure found amongst people working on sustainable business issues.” We humans are such fragile creatures in the face of truth it seems.)
Bendell writes, “The evidence before us suggests that we are set for disruptive and uncontrollable levels of climate change, bringing starvation, destruction, migration, disease, and war. Our norms of behavior — what we call our ‘civilization’ — may also degrade.”
“It is time we consider the implications of it being too late to avert a global environmental catastrophe in the lifetimes of people alive today.” He feels the more obvious and painful effects of climate change — some of course we’re already feeling — will escalate within the next decade. Erik Buitenhuis, a senior researcher at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, says that Bendell’s conclusions may sound extreme, but he agrees with the report’s overall assessment.
You don’t need to be a scientist now to notice the changes. Since 2000, 17 of the last 18 years on planet earth are the hottest on record. We’re at the beginning of the sixth mass extinction on our planet, this one human-caused. Weather patterns everywhere are unpredictably dramatic and even lethal. We’re witnessing the loss of Arctic ice in our lifetimes.
It’s true, the Peninsula may likely be one of the best places to weather (ha!) the coming disaster: we have water; we can grow our own food; we have a tight-knit community that looks after its own.
Our Gov. Jay Inslee just threw his hat in the ring to run for president in 2020. He may not have a snowball’s chance in hell (ahem), but he is going to rock the boat by putting climate change at the center of his campaign. Bravo! Let the revolution begin and not one microsecond too soon.
I’m just sayin’ — let’s get our heads out of the ground. For me, getting real about climate change has been like journeying through the stages of death, because the first stage is a deep grieving process for all we’ve lost and are losing. Let’s just try to make it to acceptance: we’ve left the Garden of Eden, in fact, we’re destroying it.