Sunday, April 22, 2018

2018 Earth Day Musings

Shortly after dawn on Earth Day, I walked the site, opening up the parking lot gates for the public. It was 36F (2.2C) at 6:30 in the morning, in late April. Paradoxically, the cold Spring weather can be chalked up to warming in the Arctic, which disrupts the jet stream.

Having written this blog since December 2009, I have a pretty good indication of the conditions in my environment for the past eight and a quarter years. I can look back and figure out when the animals were becoming active, when the plants were starting to bud. This cold Spring, I've heard the spring peepers singing their love songs, I've seen the Canada geese building nests, heard the red-winged blackbirds trill to announce their presence. The nettles are poking up through the frost-bedizened ground. It doesn't FEEL right, though- wearing a watch cap and a fleece under my sweatshirt at this time of year is foreign to me. We humans have broken our planet (but not THE planet- there are plenty of organisms which will thrive in the fucked up world we're producing).

The current maladministration, with an Environmental Protection Agency being run into the ground by a fossil fuel flack, a rollback of fuel efficiency and carbon emission standards (though higher gas prices will curtail some driving), and general hostility to regulation, is an environmental disaster. The Resistance to the GOP, the drive to flip Congress to the Democratic Party, takes on additional urgency. Electing GWB in 2000 was a disaster- a regime hostile to environmental concerns at exactly the wrong time, and electing Donald Trump represented a doubling down of this huge environmental failing.

I'm an outdoorsy fellow- much of my work takes place outdoors, as does much of my recreation. I'm a biology nerd as well. I value our fellow denizens of Earth, but it goes beyond that- environmentalism is about human health, human happiness, human quality of life. The environment we are altering is our environment, destroying it would be our collective suicide... and that is too high a price to pay for maximizing next quarter's profits, or 'owning the libs', or trying to make up for one's deficiencies as a tough guy.


mikey said...

In general, in spite of the current American idiocy, I'm optimistic.

From a profit standpoint, renewables are better for energy producers than fossil fuels, and they know it. We're no longer even TALKING about 'peak oil', because demand is falling. Electric cars have gone from science fiction to commonplace, and alternative energy storage technology is improving at an amazing rate.

Outside of the US, reality trumps ideology, and countries are building out their future energy generation programs without fossil fuels. In China, the air quality issue is seen as a crisis, and they are moving away from coal very quickly. Offshore wind farms - with turbines 200 feet high to capture the steady onshore flow - will power many coastal cities. The economics alone are the death knell for fossil fuels, and the human urge to leave something better to their children (currently sublimated in the US, but active everywhere else and returning soon here) will drive the necessary research and investment.

Now, it's already too late, in a very real sense. We're going to see rising sea levels, changes in crop production, collapse of fisheries and massive weather events. That's baked into the cake. But it won't destroy humanity, it will merely shift the positions of the haves and the have-nots. The earth was NEVER intended to support 7 billion (or more) human beings - we can argue endlessly about an optimal number, but it's almost certainly under 3 billion - and this is a kind of planetary 'reset' that will reduce the number of humans, change the places that they live, and then give the planet a chance to heal.

A lot of species are going to become extinct, but humans ain't one of 'em...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Yeah, we're generalists, like rats and roaches, we'll just take down a whole lot of beautiful, fragile species with us.

The one thing which gets me pissed off is that we've squandered the entirety of the 21st century for the enrichment of a tiny minority of plutocrats.

mistah charley, ph.d. said...

i agree with youse guys, approximately - human population is likely to be reduced by quite a bit in the wake of environmental changes and their impact on food production, and yet the survival of our species is very likely

a bit more iffey, though, and i'm just guessing, like everyone, is whether technological civilization makes it through - if there is a collapse that wipes out scientific and technical knowledge

a)then the possibility of protecting the planet from catastrophic collisions with asteroids, etc disappears for the foreseeable future

b)and maybe forever - the easy-access metal and fossil fuel assets are gone now, and maybe there won't be a path to return to such god-like powers - who knows if it's good or bad

somebody once explained to me the 3 axioms of the mystical worldview

1)the cosmos is here on purpose
2)people have, or could have, some connection with that purpose
3)it's possible to improve your ability to perceive and enact your part in that purpose

see also monty python's 'the galaxy song' - and also the scene that follows it in the 'meaning of life' movie