Saturday, June 30, 2012

More on Climate Change: Colorado Fires as Window into Global Warming

Another quick Sunday flashback to something I discussed earlier in the week: on Tuesday, I wrote, 

And it seems that far too few people at the "everyday" level have a clue what's going on or what the climate changes mean--that too few of those who were hurrahing about the early, exceedingly hot spring in much of the country have any inkling that when areas of the world which once produced abundant food crops become deserts, we're in serious trouble.

I followed those statements two days later with a posting about the very serious wildfires ravaging much of the American West this summer, especially Colorado.  

And now this morning, I'm reading this from Alexander Reed Kelly at Truthdig, as he talks about the Colorado fires:

Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University, a lead author of the United Nations’ climate science panel, said: "What we’re seeing is a window into what global warming really looks like. It looks like heat, it looks like fires, it looks like this kind of environmental disaster. … This provides vivid images of what we can expect to see more of in the future."

In my neck of the woods, we've continued to break all-time records for heat almost every day this week.  It was 107F two days ago and 105F yesterday.  We have had almost no rain at all for two months, and the entire state is now classified as in extreme or severe drought.

When we have the opportunity to take an early morning walk before the heat becomes truly dangerous, especially for our small, energetic dogs, we keep passing in the park a small buckeye tree on the edge of the woods on the east side of the park.  It is some 12 feet high, and in late spring was a beautiful sight, with its dark green leaves and spikes of scarlet blooms.

It is now dead or dying--its leaves entirely brown and dropping.  Off into the woods throughout the park we see many smaller trees and much of the undergrowth dying.  

And this is the first month of summer, a season that, for us, runs from June through at least the middle of September, with July and August typically much hotter than June.  

I am not sure how much more the earth can bear.  I am sure it cannot bear much more of the kind of climate change that, in my region, is now typical, so that we are moving towards a xeric climate akin to that of the American Southwest--when we have, for quite some time now, been the chief rice-growing state in the nation due to our abundance of streams, rivers, bayous and rain, which gave the state a reputation for being one big swamp throughout much of its early history.

To me, the attempt to fix blame on one political party or another as the situation of climate change grows more severe seems misplaced.  From where I stand, neither major political party in the U.S. has had a pronounced interest in addressing this serious problem.  Neither party can afford to address it seriously because to do so would force the party to run up against the special interests of the 1%, who are chiefly responsible for the uncurbed exploitation of the environment that has landed us in this crisis.

I also sense that we have reached a turning point from which we may not ever turn back again, which may soon make whatever governments or political parties say about anything at all totally beside the point, when the damaged ecosystem becomes unable to sustain life.  I'm not entirely sure Wendell Berry had our present crisis in mind when he wrote the following line in his poem "The Morning News," which declares that "the earth is news":

The morning’s news drives sleep out of the head
at night.  Uselessness and horror hold the eyes
open to the dark.  Weary, we lie awake
in the agony of the old giving birth to the new
without assurance that the new will be better.

I'm also not entirely sure that Wendell Berry didn't have our present ecological crisis in mind when he wrote that poem, because he's a human being of rare prescience.  What I am sure of is that we have failed to listen seriously to such prescient writers (e.g., John Muir, Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold and many others) when they warned us that we were headed to a moment of great crisis if we did not address the ecological imbalances we were creating through our greed and lack of care for our planet.

We did not choose to listen, and the price we are paying for our obtuseness--and will continue to pay in the future--is very high, I think.

The graphic is a USDA photograph of the Colorado fires, from Kelly's Truthdig posting to which a link is provided above.

No comments: