Friday, April 21, 2017

Weekend Reading - NYT Magazine, Climate Change Edition

You can read it right here. The New York Times Magazine this weekend tackles the urgent problem of climate change. On offer, an item on how mosquito-born diseases including zika are set to worsen; how the island city state of Singapore is coping with sea level rise; a cautionary look at geo-engineering measures; sea level rise and America's east coast.

Then there's a piece from John Mooallem, "Our Climate Future Is Actually Our Climate Present," in which the author asks "How do we live that the world we knew is going and, in some cases, already gone?"

The future we’ve been warned about is beginning to saturate the present. We tend to imagine climate change as a destroyer. But it also traffics in disruption, disarray: increasingly frequent and more powerful storms and droughts; heightened flooding; expanded ranges of pests turning forests into fuel for wildfires; stretches of inhospitable heat. So many facets of our existence — agriculture, transportation, cities and the architecture they spawned — were designed to suit specific environments. Now they are being slowly transplanted into different, more volatile ones, without ever actually moving.

Some communities will face new problems and varieties of weather; in others, existing ones will intensify. Already-vulnerable societies — the poor, the poorly governed — may be stressed to grim breaking points. Consider the mass starvation in South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia, where a total of nearly a million and a half children are predicted to die this year — and that climate change is projected to worsen the kind of droughts that caused it. Consider, too, a 2015 Department of Defense report, which framed climate change as a geopolitical “threat multiplier” that will “threaten domestic stability in a number of countries,” and cited a study showing how a five-year drought in Syria contributed to the outbreak of the current conflict there. Nonetheless, denial is coming back in fashion among the most powerful. We have a president who dismisses climate change as a hoax, and a budget director who belittles government programs to study and adapt to our new reality as a “waste of your money.”

We seem able to normalize catastrophes as we absorb them, a phenomenon that points to what Peter Kahn, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, calls “environmental generational amnesia.” Each generation, Kahn argues, can recognize only the ecological changes its members witness during their lifetimes. ...In Houston, Kahn found that two-thirds of the children he interviewed understood that air and water pollution were environmental issues. But only one-third believed their neighborhood was polluted. “People are born into this life,” Kahn told me, “and they think it’s normal.”

On the most fundamental level, Kahn argues, we are already adapting to climate change through a kind of tacit acquiescence, the way people in a city like Beijing accept that simply breathing the air outside can make them sick. “People are aware — they’re coughing and wheezing,” he told me, “but they’re not staging political revolutions.” Neither are we. And, Kahn went on, we risk imprisoning ourselves, through gradual adaptation, into a condition of “unfulfilled flourishing.” A wolf becomes a dog, genetically; it wants to fetch tennis balls and sleep at the foot of your bed. But imagine a dog that isn’t yet a dog, that still wants to be a wolf.

Does "environmental generational amnesia" explain how, in a world where climate change casualties will soon mount at rates of a million or millions a year, our own prime minister remains so bitumen-friendly. Justin doesn't care, not enough anyway. Certainly not enough to keep his promises, the solemn pledges that carried him to power. He looks around and sees the Canadian public asleep and he knows he can do as he likes while we're napping. And when your eyes do open, he'll shoot you that winning smile and offer to pose with you for a selfie.

Trudeau can sit there with his thumb up your ass but events are overtaking him and us. There's also been a wave of recent articles scraping away our indifference to expose what's really happening, what we're causing in places conveniently out of sight, out of mind.

Michael Klare writes of climate change as genocide. Meanwhile a study commissioned by the German Foreign Office finds that climate change will fuel the next wave of terrorism.

In the drought-ravaged region around Lake Chad in central Africa, food and water shortages, near-economic collapse, and weak governments are providing a ripe recruiting ground for Islamist fundamentalist group Boko Haram.

“In north-eastern Nigeria, the region closest to Lake Chad and where Boko Haram is strongest, 71.5% of the population live in poverty and more than 50% are malnourished … This kind of economic deprivation provides an ideal breeding ground for recruitment by Boko Haram.”

The Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change has warned the impact of global warming will drive massive refugee movements of an “unimaginable scale”, and that climate represents “the greatest security threat of the 21st century”.

Really, doesn't it make you wonder, when there is so much change happening, much of it out of control, how our government can dare to conduct itself as though it sees none of the danger, none of the suffering and death, directly attributable in no small part by fossil energy? I've heard what they said going back to 2015, even earlier. They understand what's happening. They know what's going to happen. 


The NYT paywall is in effect but you can also set your browser to "incognito."


Toby said...

The rich and powerful do know that global warming/weirding is happening (the Pentagon told them) and yes they care about it . . . for themselves. We like to imagine that the rich and powerful would/should/could make ameliorating changes that would save us all like abandoning fossil fuels and switching to renewables. On the other hand, they may know (or think they know) that the Lovelock scenario is going to happen and that the world population is headed drastically down. Are they going to tell us that? No, they are going to save themselves and abandon the rest of us.

Underground silos anyone? Communities enclosed in climate controlled bubbles? Genetic engineering turning humans into Homo Effluvium?

The Mound of Sound said...

Soylent Green, Toby.

Anonymous said...

Toby said...
The rich and powerful do know that global warming/weirding is happening

The rich and powerful can't just dump everything they once thought beyond reproach.
They have to subtly change direction so as not to spark fear into the market!

Change is happening, although the headlines do not reflect it.

That oil companies are leaving tar sands or that the UK is weaning off coal, add that Portugal and others are using solar in ever more efficient ways does not meet the MSM ( advertisers) wishes will not stop change.

Trump, Trudeau or may will not change this direction neither will any other move to the political right .
The new political right wing , as we know it, is racist driven and money driven but new age economics will destroy them.


Anonymous said...

Anyong.....11:05. You forgot to mention China. They also have solar all over the place...been there, saw it. They have cut back on their coal use so as to cause Australia consternation at having lost all that money. Trump with his lying will of course, cause the people who support him to believe such trite. Go China Go!

Unknown said...

Hiya Toby!

From time to time, since the days of Gopher on GEnie, I've searched a term I only saw briefly as I flipped through a copy of (had to be one of these) Playboy, Penthouse or Omni @ a newsstand in Williston ND back in the Summer of 1978. Might have been National Lampoon, but I don't recall them having the graphics capability of the other three.
This phrase stuck in my head as has the image of a mutated humanoid with distended index fingers, withered legs, swollen testicles, giant eyes, skull & chest cavity - all adaptations to toxins, dimming solar radiation & pollution.
The phrase "Homo Effluvium" was the caption below the image with a short commentary as to the reasoning behind imagining such a creature in our future.

Sir, WHERE did YOU see/hear the term used? I'd love to chase it down to the source magazine and buy the back issue - I've found songs, old friends & electronic parts the same way online, just searching when I remember to.

Yours is the sole reference I've found online (the words together, as a phrase) outta like a 100 or so searches across systems and networks since like 1990. Even used that library article-archive thing both in the hardcover & microfiche.
I really had high hopes when the Seattle Public Library first allowed open access to existing databases on the early 'Net.

Never found the magazine...