Saturday, October 4, 2014

"It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)"

The caption for this post comes from the lyrics of a song by REM from the late 1980s.   This particular line has been stuck in my head for years in the context of climate change.  As I go about my daily life, I carry an awareness of climate change issues consciously.  We are foolishly trying to create a global middle class of rampant consumers all of whom create increased demand for energy, products, and waste.  This is utterly unsustainable and it seems inevitable that economies will begin to crash in the foreseeable future.  But I realize that almost everybody else does not see the world this way.  This troubles me deeply and gives rise to a range of feelings from helplessness to hopelessness, and rage.  Climate change is the single largest crisis that humanity has ever faced and yet everyone is going about their daily lives "feeling fine".  

To put it in context, anytime there is a major news event that captures the attention of the world such as a hurricane, plane crash, or major terrorist activity -  it becomes a topic of conversation in almost any social situation.  Yet I cannot remember a single conversation that I have had with anyone about climate change in which climate change was recognized as the crisis that it is for humanity.  In a sense we are at war with our climate, but this war is not a topic for conversation as it would be with any actual war in which humans slaughter each other.

I would very much like to see humanity wake up and respond to the ongoing crisis in the same way that we do after major hurricanes make landfall.  I am was somewhat encouraged by the major climate awareness marches a few weeks ago in New York and other major cities, and sincerely hope that they will have some effect on global policy.  But we need to bring this issue down to personal responsibility and direct action.  We cannot trust our willfully ignorant elected officials many of whom are in complete denial about this issue to take assertive action.  It is my feeling that we all need to have frank and open discussions with each other about what it is that we are doing and can do to protect future generations from the fallout of our actions or inactions today.  

The fossil fuels that we are burning that pump massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere took millennia to create and store underground.  Yet we have been removing and burning this stored energy over a period of a little more than a century which is an eyeblink in the context of geologic history.  We have so little time to act to prevent the worst outcomes of our actions.  Every day I learn that scientists are discovering new feedbacks that are accelerating change like the melting glaciers and ice caps and releases of methane as the permafrost is exposed to melting conditions.

So I am challenging myself and anyone reading this to go out and stimulate conversations amongst friends about this crisis.  And more importantly take some form of direct action every single day.  Almost every dollar we spend as individuals has an impact on climate change in some way or another.  Becoming conscious of how we spend our money is equivalent to voting for change.   Investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy on any scale at all will make a difference.  

For myself, I have invested tens of thousands of dollars over the last 13 years or so in improving efficiency and renewable energy systems for my property, and that has paid returns better than the stock market.   We own electric and hybrid vehicles and our home and my workshop are both extremely efficient, requiring very little energy for heating, and lighting.  I am still finding ways to improve small things.   If you need some suggestions, go to my webpage: "Some notes on living sustainably".

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