Is This Somehow Related?

Our media shocked, MTV fragmented, tiny attention span culture has rendered us largely ineffective at making decisions. We don’t seem to be able to focus on anything longer than a sound-bite now. Perhaps we should all be taking ADHD drugs? (No, I don’t think so.)

That’s my tentative conclusion, and I’m attempting to stick to it.

Farm road in Champaign County, Illinois
Image via Wikipedia

The alternative would be to believe that we’ve all developed the attention and memory of the average goldfish.

Not long ago Bill McKibben wrote an Op-Ed that that summed up what we’re being asked to believe quite nicely. I’m quoting it below the fold, but the folks at Plomomedia were kind enough to set it to video, with pretty good visuals, so I’m putting it right here. I suspect that most of the American Public (The “We” in “We the People”) have forgotten this video, and the associated OpEd, so I’m gonna repost it periodically just as a reminder. The Texas Drought is still going on, but not everyone lives in Texas. Oklahoma got a little rain, so it may not completely blow away. Although after the haboob in Arizona it’s not exactly certain whether Oklahoma is all that safe.

For those of you with the connections, please spread this around, use it as a conversation starter, maybe an icebreaker at dinner parties. It might really start a conversation, and I doubt if the evening will be boring. 

Description: Dust storm approaching Spearman A...
Image via Wikipedia

Without further sarcasm, or ado for that matter, here’s the video:

And here’s Bill’s OpEd.


A link between climate change and Joplin tornadoes? Never!

By Bill McKibben, Published: May 23

Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn’t mean a thing.

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.

If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, globalwarming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air.

It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods — that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity — that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. No, better to focus on the immediate casualties, watch the videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the news anchorman standing in his waders in the rising river as the water approaches his chest.

Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year drought in the past five years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the past decade — well, you might have to ask other questions. Such as:   Should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal mining? Should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sign a permit this summer allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta? You might also have to ask yourself: Do we have a bigger problem than $4-a-gallon gasoline?

Better to join with the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 240 to 184 this spring to defeat a resolution saying simply that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” Propose your own physics; ignore physics altogether. Just don’t start asking yourself whether there might be some relation among last year’s failed grain harvest from the Russian heat wave, and Queensland’s failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France’s and Germany’s current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwesternfarmers to get corn planted in their sodden fields. Surely the record food prices are just freak outliers, not signs of anything systemic.

It’s very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there’s no need to worry because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.”

I’m pretty sure that’s what residents are telling themselves in Joplin today.

Bill McKibben is founder of the global climate campaign and a distinguished scholar at Middlebury College in Vermont.

OK, Bill’s done, now it’s my turn.

That last bit is pretty bold. The Chamber of Commerce thinks we shouldn’t do anything to head off Climate Change or begin to adapt to it.   The part “acclimitize” and those adaptations:

  • “behavioral”,
  • “psychological”, and
  • “technological”.

Those would be the same sorts of acclimatization methods that the folks in Somalia are enjoying right now, doncha know.

Displaced Somali girl carries younger sibling - Photo LaTimes

You see, it’s called Climate Change, (although several of us prefer to call it “Global Weirding”) because it’s changing lots about how the climate behaves. Since there’s more energy in the system, there will be more energy to go around. Storms are one of the ways energy is distributed around the globe, so storms will likely be more frequent and probably a lot stronger than we’re used to. So it will snow more in the winter, or possibly get lots colder, maybe both. In the summer it will get hotter, storms are likely to be more violent, and depending on the ice at the poles, it may be that dry spells are longer, rains are harder, and snow pack will go away sooner.

Not to worry though, the boys down at the Chamber of Commerce have our backs. They think we shouldn’t do anything that might inconvenience their members, like Koch Industries, or maybe ExxonMobil, because fixing this stuff will eat into their profits. After all, you’re ready to give up more freedoms and more income for them aren’t you?

Peeling back the weasel words, the Chamber thinks that if the heat, flooding, drought, sea rise, or whatever is making your day difficult is too much for you, then you have acclimatization options:

Technological acclimatization could be:

Build yourself a bio-dome of some sort, you know, like Pauley Shore was in. That went well didn’t it?

If you’re in the south, plan on

  • Paying for tons of air-conditioning
  • Having your drinking water trucked in from the north
  • If you’re a farmer, don’t plan on growing anything that won’t already grow out in the Sonora. You won’t be able to count on irrigation any more
  • Maybe look at importing livestock from Africa, that sort will have a better chance of surviving the summers

If you’re up north you should expect to:

  • Make sure you have two or three months worth of food on hand before winter, since you might not be going anywhere once it starts snowing
  • Don’t run out of fuel, because no one will be able to reach you until the storms end
  • You may want to get training as a doctor

Behavioral acclimatization can include:

  • Moving away. Finding somewhere else to move to might get tricky though, you know, that “global” part
  • Your best strategy is probably to pick what you hate the most and move away from that
  • Plan on finding the place you hate the least to move to and settle for it

Psychological is much simpler I imagine:

  • Stop drinking.
  • Stop eating.
  • Give up.
  • Die.

Now remember, those aren’t the only options, but that’s what your options will tend to look like if you want to follow the Chamber’s lead. If not, there’s stuff you can already do…

Oh, I’m running on here! I had intended to add more here, but I think it has to go into a separate post, to meet my goal of attention conservation.