While I Battle Hoards of Hungry Scavengers

Folks, anyone who knows me very well knows that I haven’t watched the news for many years.  In fact, I try to avoid it for the most part.  What I’m talking about is the Elephantine News Production Machine that seems to be spewing out “information” 24/7.  And hey, I don’t care what network it is, who’s sitting at the desk, or what political affiliation they might have or worse act on.  It just bothers me … greatly.

For issues that I care about or for which I have a vested interest I tend to research my “news” online or via libraries and local news outlets. That’s just me and perhaps it colors my perception of the world a bit. But frankly I don’t need to know about riots in Libya until I’m crossing that border and I don’t care about the next new piece of tech Company A is releasing until the old one I have in my hands is on the verge of death and there’s nothing I can do, but say good by and recycle the damn thing. I do enjoy tracking natural disasters, so as part of my routine, and amongst other things, until January I have been following Sandy. (Incidentally, did you know that there are three volcanoes in the yellow list in Alaska right now? Cleveland, Iliamna, and Little Sitkin)

Ok, so first let me offer my condolences to those who are suffering or those who are left behind as a result of this storm making landfall. Its a shame that so many on the East Coast had to go through this and for those that are still living through this I hope you find an outlet with current to charge your cell phones.

Pretty scary stuff huh? Maybe now some of you can understand how I’ve been feeling since about June of this year when I realized that the “drought” most of the Northern Hemisphere began to wake up to started producing some very serious changes in the Arctic ice pack. Just so no one is confused, when Arctic temperatures and/ice pack change as quickly and as profoundly as they did this summer its no wonder that weather events have gone bonkers as a result. This is climate change, weather events respond to changes in climate, they have no choice.

Now, my wife and I earlier today had a discussion. It is her hypothesis that Sandy is galvanizing public support for climate mitigation. Oh, how I’d love to agree with her, how it would make my day and even this year so much the better. But my only response has to be time will tell. Yes, I see the photos of politicians shaking hands. I read the reports of New Yorkers riding their bikes and using public transport (bus) into and out of the city. And if trees were green and skies were blue, you’d see them doing all this for me and you. But I think to myself, it probably won’t last.

You see climate mitigation requires two things.

  • Drastic reduction in emmisions
  • Order of magnitude increase in efficiency of energy use or Order of magnitude decrease in energy use ACROSS THE BOARD

That folks, is just the way it is. That very thin and somewhat fragile layer of atmosphere surrounding what is otherwise an unremarkable sphere of rock and water can’t take much more abuse. And lets face facts here, you can blame the Chinese or the people down in Zimbabwe, but the first world is largely responsible for this abuse. So, what am I looking for? What would force me to agree with my ever loving wife and say, “Wow, Sandy opened people’s eyes and they’re not only ready and willing to make changes they are making those changes.”

  • Increased Bicycle and Public Transportation Use in Major Metropolitan Areas: Hey, I know how hard it can be to get around. But, and I know I’ve said this a million times, its easier to get around using these modes of transportation. They produce either none or markedly less emissions per rider than their alternatives. Right now, at least in the US, Portland, Oregon and Minneapolis Minnesota are neck and neck for highest percentage of commuter traffic by bike. They’re a tiny fraction of most Norther European cities which have, on average, worse weather to cycle in. And neither of these American cities is know for their dry, warm weather. New York City, one of the places affected by Sandy, has an estimated population of 8,244,910. If Sandy had a climate mitigating affect on the people there its reasonable that more people would chose to ride their bikes to get around. Let’s set a threshold of success at the percentage of Portland’s population which gets around on two wheels under their own energy (6%) in one year. That would mean on November 1st, 2013 I’d love to see 494,695 cyclist estimated riding their bikes or using Public Transportation to get around.
  • Voluntary Shortening of Food Miles: Food miles, the number of miles your food has to travel to your table, is a transportation energy expenditure which results in a significant release of climate changing emissions. Bananas, for instance, don’t grow in New York. In fact, they only grow in one US State which has a small percentage of the total market share shore to shore (I’ll leave it to you to figure out which one). As such, this food is largely grown and then shipped via various means to the shores of the US. Its a great indicator of the number of food miles people are choosing when they make food choices because its so transparent, it even tells you where the banana came from on the damn sticker.So what are we talking about here? People choosing foods that were grown closer to them so that they don’t incur the climate cost of shipment. “The United States is the largest single-country importer of fresh bananas.” And I like them too, but we consume far too much. And like many things which take lots of energy to move around and are tasty our appetite is growing.

    What I’d like to see here is a nice steep decline to, let’s say, 2002 import levels (~50,000 tonnes). This would indicate without a doubt that people are thinking about where their food comes from, how much energy it takes to get it here, and what kind of impact that movement has on the atmosphere.

  • Constant Media Attention of Weather Phenomenon with Obvious Climatic Influences: Jill Stein is right about a lot of things. Personally, I think that she’s going about showing she is right the wrong way, but that’s another story. Her recent attempts to get Climate Change brought into the political forum have, however, been admirable. She says it for her self pretty well:

    Climate change is the gravest environmental, social and economic peril that humanity has ever faced. Across the planet, it is causing vanishing polar ice, melting glaciers, growing deserts, more violent storms, rising oceans, less biodiversity, deepening droughts, as well as more disease, hunger, strife and human misery.

    And I couldn’t agree more, in fact, if you’re currently living it what seems like a post zombie-appocolyptic New Jersey you’re probably of a mind to agree too. But once the lights get turned back on, the subways get drained, and you can reach your car I don’t think you’ll continue to think about it. In fact, I believe that the only reporting of Climate Change we’ll see via that aforementioned Elephantine News Production Machine will be when someone generates enough of a scandal for us to stop contemplating the release of The Hobbit on the silver screen or a bloody crash on the local portion of the highway.

    Lets face facts, Climate Change is a fringe issue and will remain so unless and until its so commonly mentioned in our day-to-day lives that first, there is no remaining doubt about its anthropogenesis and second, that it becomes a central focus of a significant portion of the population.

    So where is the bar here? First, I want to see Climate Change Deniers publicly and ruthlessly ridiculed. The first story I see that spreads through out the Elephantine News Production Machine which picks up on and then rides out of town a doubtful statement from a public figure will be enough. Never mind, that once its happened it should happen again and again, until Climate Change Denial is a by-word for Moron with Sever Issues.

    Additionally, I know always with the caveats, I’d love to see accurate, unbiased reporting of weather phenomenon from people who at a minimum read current climactic and meteorological studies. I know, crazy! But, seriously, if you have no interest in the weather (but have nice teeth or a set of knockers) you don’t belong anywhere near reporting it. Seriously, as long as he was accurate, I’d rather see Stanley report on the weather while clutching his red stapler.

  • A Manhattan Project for Climate
  • : Here, I’ll set the bar first. If someone manages to pull this off and can truly get all of us on board than you can toss the other tests. What I mean to say is that there have been and will continue to be examples, largely in fiction, of people putting together some sort of super comity or involving the military or managing to convince through the weight of their charisma most everyone to get on the bandwagon and make some serious change (mentioned above for those of you with short term memory loss like myself). If I see anything like what is depicted in Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Science in the City” trilogy than my wife’s hypothesis will be proven, an immutable law for all of us to revile in.

    Conversely, there are plenty of writers and story tellers out there who write about the way things are and have been going for some time. This is the route I believe humanity will take. You’ll all find a little comfort after the storm and sink back into your lazy, fossil energy consuming ways and the world will turn out like this (if we’re very, very lucky). If that is the case then, while I battle hoards of hungry scavengers, I can rest easy in the knowledge that I was right. Or something.

So, what’s it going to be world? How about about New Jersey? Or maybe I should set my sites a little lower and simply ask New York City how you’re going to improve things here on planet Earth?

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