Brie: It's What's For Breakfast

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Earth Day 2007

Since April 22 falls on Sunday this year, and all good Bible Belters are in church even if they subsist on wheat germ and granola, they had the big First Annual Earth Day Extravaganza down at the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library a day early this year.

Bill wasn’t going to be there so I saw no need to attend. It wasn’t a command performance for us former interns. Anyway, Hillary seems to be wearing the pants in the family these days. Oh, who am I kidding? She always did. Bill couldn’t keep his up.

There. The requisite Bill-and-Hill-bashing is done and out of the way. Whose thunder did I steal?

Let me just say that the festivities at the Inconvenient-Truth-Al-Gore-Was-My-Veep Presidential Library were remarkable. In fact, they were so remarkable I’m about to embark upon remarking on them right here in my very own blog, for all the world to behold. According to the Clinton Foundation, it was a “carbon-neutral event,” whatever that means. I guess they ate their hot dogs raw, since cooking them over an open flame meant releasing CO2 into the air, and even microwaving them would use energy derived from some polluting source.

About noon yesterday I was getting my pearl necklace (from the jewelry store – get your sick minds out of the gutter – I’m a Virgin, dammit) when another customer mentioned that she was heading downtown for the event. Not because she believed in global warming or anything, she assured us. “I just like to watch those hippies dance around. They just look so funny.” She giggled in that cute, helium-brained way certain women of melanin-challenged hair have.

I stood there in my socially conscious and politically correct hand-batiked cotton sun dress made by some woman in an unpronounceable third world village and sold to the rich (all things are relative) American for about ten times her annual income. Wait a minute, I thought. I used to be one of those hippies!

After my freshman year in college I lived in a co-op called Peace House. We operated a soup kitchen once a week for all two of the homeless people in Hamilton, New York. (They were students who were crashing in someone else’s dorm room for the semester.) We knew people in the Peace Corps and people who played sitars; we wore organic skirts and were interested in other organic things that I won’t discuss in detail in a public forum, even if the statute of limitations has run.

We had no knowledge of AIDS or global warming back then, but we wanted the CIA out of Nicaragua and we were utterly appalled that an actor was in the White House. I finally managed to get a bit jaded on the whole shtick when the student who led the soup kitchen’s weekly bread-baking marathon said, in my hearing, “I love minorities. They’re such colorful people.” She was dead serious. And she was a brunette. GAH!

Social and political issues were important to me when I was 19. They still are. And there few things more important, socially or politically, than our continued social and political existence.

Yes, that statement has to do with Earth Day.

Before anyone reminds me that earth’s climate has changed in the past and will change in the future, let me go ahead and say it myself: the average temperature on our planet has been both much colder and much warmer than it is now.

But something different is happening. Something the scientific community is screaming about. While there are those in the scientific community who disagree, the overwhelming majority are in accord: Global warming is real, and it is caused in considerable part by us, and it is happening at a rate faster than climate change has ever occurred in the history of our planet.

The cataclysms thought to have caused the mass extinctions in the past – at the end of the Devonian Period, when most species on the planet disappeared, and the end of the Cretaceous (the K-T extinction), when the non-avian dinosaurs died – caused massive climate change. Yes, climate change caused by an event of apocalyptic proportions is believed to have been instrumental in those mass extinctions.

In 1998 the American Museum of Natural History issued a press release regarding the results of a survey of biologists pertaining to global climate change and the continuation of life as we know it. It stated in part:

The survey reveals that seven out of ten biologists believe that we are in the midst of a mass extinction of living things, and that this loss of species will pose a major threat to human existence in the next century.

According to these scientists’ estimates, this mass extinction is the fastest in Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history. Unlike prior extinctions, this so-called ‘sixth extinction’ is mainly the result of human activity and not natural phenomena.

The American Museum of Natural History is not prone to histrionics. When 70% of the people who study life say that it is disappearing at such a phenomenally rapid rate, and that human abuse of the planet is the main reason, it seems to me to be a wake-up call.

Climate change and extinctions go hand in hand.

What is causing the climate change? It’s not just fossil fuels. It’s deforestation, both of temperate and of rain forest. It’s water pollution. It’s surface mining. It’s planting crops and digging them up and wiping the dirt clear of brush and planting a crop again. It’s the way we abuse our planet.

Two weeks ago the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that was unequivocal: human activity is a significant contributor to global climate change, and it may well kill us all. Hundreds of scientists from all over the world participated in the studies on which the IPCC report was based. I strongly encourage anyone who cares about this issue one way or another to read the report.

The IPCC report wasn’t released when it was supposed to be. There was political maneuvering as to how to word the report. Who was doing this political games playing? Not the scientists who composed the report. The scientists were outraged that some of the the governments involved were “watering down their warnings.” Specifically, diplomats from China and Saudi Arabia demanded that the authors reduce the confidence level they said they had in the report’s conclusions. In other words, these two countries did not want the warnings to be as dire as the scientists believed they should be.

What a travesty for politicians to dictate scientific conclusions.

The report says that if things continue at their current levels, by 2020 global temperatures will rise one degree Celsius or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. That doesn’t seem like much until we understand that one-sixth of the world’s population will be affected by widespread famine and lack of water.That’s a billion or more people. By 2050, fully a third of the population of the planet will be in these famine conditions, and fresh water will be even scarcer. Twenty to thirty percent of the species on the planet will become extinct. According to the report, the estimates of one degree Celsius over the incremental periods of time are conservative estimates. The third world human populations will be hit hardest by the temperature increase. Equatorial countries will see their fresh water supplies dry up even as more temperate countries reap the benefits of longer growing seasons.

We can’t stop global warming. It is a crisis, and we as a species will have to adapt. It won’t be pretty.

The Bush administration has steadfastly maintained its ostrich-like response to this crisis, as it has to other scientific matters. Perhaps when ostriches and bushes of all varieties become extinct, whomever among us is left will pull our heads from the sand to see a vast desert not unlike Mars. At least at the equator. The populations of coastal cities in temperate zones, which will be flooded much like New Orleans was after Katrina, will have to cope, too.

I just hope when that coastal flooding happens, FEMA doesn’t commandeer back the trailers we’re using for dorm rooms at the Virgin Training School. Now that would be a catastrophe.

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April 22, 2007 - Posted by | Environment, FEMA, News, Politics, Science

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