When I was a young woman living in the UK the biggest worry that we had was the threat of nuclear war, the H-bomb, the neutron bomb (that one kills people without damage to infrastructure, nice hey) and cold war paranoia. We lived quite easily with those threats – they were regularly brought to our attention by the publication of the ‘nuclear clock’ which told us how close we were to disaster by measuring the temperature of the political debate and showing a time of two, five or ten minutes to midnight.
At least everyone was aware of the imminent danger and we all had a pretty good idea of what nuclear disaster looked like, the military and the politicians knew the kind of hell they could unleash at the touch of a button and perhaps that made them careful. Some of us argued without much success for test bans and nuclear disarmament.
Now we live with an even more dire threat, namely the probability that we will unwittingly destroy our future through ignorance, inattention, procrastination and greed. For about thirty years we have ignored the warnings that science has provided, we have allowed the corporate world of mining magnates, cheap commodities, globalisation, economic rationalism and a consumer culture to determine our future and right now that future is looking pretty dicey.
Global warming is the ‘real and present danger’ we are facing. But half the population has no idea what that means. A bomb that can devastate a city the size of Sydney is one thing, it is horrific but it can be grasped and comprehended. On the other hand raising the average temperature of the world by three or four degrees sounds pretty harmless. Yet science and comprehensive modelling have shown that the consequences will be catastrophic.
Already the sea ice that once covered the arctic for most of the year is melting at an unprecedented rate and the arctic ocean is predicted to be ice free in summer within the next few years. At some point this seemingly benign change will actually unleash stores of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere and that will then raise the temperature yet further, exacerbating the already unstable weather patterns. Unstable weather patterns mean more droughts in some places, more floods elsewhere, heat waves and unpredictable crazy patches of icy cold weather. Not good for food production or for a stable family life.
I don’t really expect anyone to read this page but I need to write it. Only a concerted effort by many many people will change our trajectory and we all should do what we can do even if that is only reducing our own carbon footprint, reducing our consumption and helping to build resilient local communities.
For a rather more comprehensive look at the climate problem see David Spratt’s blog at http://www.climatecodered.org/ or google James Hansen….