Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Played with the kids after dinner in the living room last night. We were telling each other's fortunes, pretending to read palms.
"You're going to flunk out of high school, be really bad at everything and then work at McDonald's. Then you'll live in a dumpster and move to Nevada where you'll discover a new source of energy and be rich and live in a boat until you're 92 when you get mauled by a panther and die." Michael forecasting his sister's life was quick, certain and big on disaster.
I tried the more traditional route, numbers of kids, lifeline, career, a lot of romance for the girls and motorized toys for Michael. But I kept saying they'd all live near the ocean, preferably somewhere warm where they would invite their parents to visit every year. Then I realized the odds of them living near the ocean were just increased, as scientists are predicting a 2 meter rise in sea levels by 2100.
I'm thinking how desperate this forecast, this real life prognostication is. What happens when Bangladesh goes under is not just lost beach frontage; it's not just the extinction of human and animal life and untold misery of refugees. It's not even just genocide. We don't have a word for the extent of criminality this event implies. It dwarfs colonialism, slavery, all previous inhumanities. What could be worse than condemning entire swaths of the planet, entire nations of people and entire species of animal and plant life to death? I think even the notion of inter-generational equity, which is the result of struggling with how to deal with the implications of what is happening, falls short of the mark.
And then there's the front page headlines made by hacked emails showing the animosity of some climate scientists towards their colleagues, termed skeptics by the press. Many of them are worse than skeptics. Just like the tobacco industry did for many years, paying off so-called scientists to produce reports diminishing the health impacts of nicotine and tobacco smoke, the oil industry has for years now been attempting to "spin" the science to their advantage. And who can blame anybody for feeling a little bit of anger. Scientists are human, too. And sure there must be disagreement on many aspects of the science, the levels of magnitude of change, etc. Certainly there are many variables to consider. But there is one fact that is not variable. Like the hedgehog we must know one thing well in order to survive. Our children only get one planet.
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