APPROACHING WARM FRONT

8 03 2006

No matter how much b.s. the politicians sling, the planet’s climate just keeps on shifting. In the last month, it has come to light that Antarctica is losing forty-eight cubic miles of icecap per year, and the meltdown in Greenland is accelerating, which should come as no surprise—it’s one of the physical properties of ice to melt at an accelerating rate. If you’re looking at a cube or two in your drink, that’s no big deal, but when we’re looking at dumping more fresh water into the planet’s oceans, there start to be consequences. The Gulf Stream is slowing down, bringing colder weather to northern Europe—Scandanavia’s glaciers are the only ones in the world that are growing. England’s National Trust reports that much of that country’s seacoast is eroding at an alarming rate. In my wild eyed, fanatical opinion, this is an early result of rising sea levels and stormier winters. Actually, it’s not just my opinion—it’s been documented that storms in northern Europe are increasing in their intensity.

Meanwhile, Africa is suffering from severe drought, which is diminishing river flow and threatening both human culture and what wildlife remains, as the deserts expand. A massive sandstorm spilled out of the Sahara and buffeted the Mediterranian island of Cyprus. This has happened before, but last months sandstorm was far and away the most severe ever recorded. I have reported before on the increasing desertification of Portugal and Spain—birds native to the North African desert are now breeding there.

Rising sea levels and more serious storm surges can have a domino effect. The Sacramento River delta of northern California is already below sea level, and as vulnerable to levee breakage as New Orleans. It is also where the City of Los Angeles draws a sizable percentage of its water. Salt water inundation of the intake valves for L.A.’s water system could dry southern California right out of business.

But if pioneer climate scientist James Lovelock is right, losing LA could be the least of our worries. In his recent book, “The Revenge of Gaia,” he posits that, unless humanity takes immediate, drastic steps, the planet will pass a tipping point, and our current environment will topple, leading to a new stasis, much less friendly to human culture—the most quoted line from the book (which, honestly, I have not yet read) is that the human race will be reduced to “a few breeding pairs in the arctic,” which will, in his vision, be the only part of the planet still cool enough to support human life.

We here in America rarely stop to think about how wealthy and lucky we are. The World Health Organization says that human beings need about 12-13 gallons of water a day for proper hydration and sanitation. The average American uses about a hundred and twenty-five gallons. The British, whose standard of living is notoriously lower than our own, get by on only about fifty gallons a day, while inhabitants of many countries in Africa get by on two or three.

Those dirty Africans…why can’t they just take more responsibility for themselves, eh? Global warming’s their fault, with all their deforestation for cooking fires and slaughtering all the jungle animals for food. It’s not our fault, not our fault with our automobiles and air conditioning and electricity and international trade and oil wells and all. We’re driving full-tilt boogie towards a brick wall, but it’s not our fault. Nuh-uh. Nuh-uh. Uh-oh.

music: Taj Mahal, “Giant Step”

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