Hiding from climate changes doesn’t make them go away

Posted July 18th, 2011 in Blog, Featured 3 Comments »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

In fact, hiding from them only puts off the day of reckoning when the impacts will be far worse than if we had been like grown-ups and faced reality.

I mean, the entire state of Texas has been declared a natural disaster area from drought and wildfires – the entire God-blessed state!

From a news story out of the U.K.:

In all 213 counties in Texas have lost at least 30 per cent of their crops or pasture, while a record 236 counties have an outdoor burn ban in place as the drought continues.

Check out the photos to see the state’s new look. I guess this will be a harder sell for tourists and real estate developers.

Just how bad is the drought spreading across the entire U.S. south? Here’s an article that put tremors of fear down my spine, an article in yesterday’s NY Times Sunday Review, by Alex Prud’homme, Drought – A Creeping Disaster.

One of its main points – this is probably not drought, but permanent aridification, a permanent drying out of the south.

 When I asked Richard Seagar, who analyzed historical records and climate model projections for the Southwest for the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, if a perpetual drought was possible there, he replied: “You can’t really call it a drought because that implies a temporary change. The models show a progressive aridification. You don’t say, ‘The Sahara is in drought.’ It’s a desert. If the models are right, then the Southwest will face a permanent drying out.”

And, as he notes, we continue to use water at unsustainable rates, and still believe that we can feed urbanization (and suburbanization) by moving water from rural areas into cities. This is all helping to bring about the end of human habitats in some of the fast-growing population areas in the country. Possible cities that could become ‘ghost cities’ include Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.

Okay, yes, just sit with that for a few moments.

The cost of denial, inertia, corporate control of the media, weak politicians, erosion of democracy, attacks on federal regulatory authority, and pure individualism and selfishness (“I can live wherever I want and water should always come out of my taps!”) is mounting.  How do we want to live in the face of that? What response is required of us? What does building resilient, sustainable communities mean in this context? Do we have near enough urgency about thinking our way through what a new economy will look like and how to create it even as the old brings us closer to disaster upon disaster?

These are questions that need to get out of our heads, of books and magazines and online publications, and into our families, churches, neighborhoods, municipalities, farmers’ associations, and more. We need to start acting as if these changes are actually occurring.

One last fact to add, if you wonder what this will cost us. Here is just one measure, an article in Time:

 …what about the year-in, year-out price tag of our increasingly volatile weather? It’s a whole lot harder to calculate the cost of a chronic condition like that — or at least it was. Now a study by the National Center for Atmospheric Researchestimates that the bottom-line cost of all the meteorological craziness is a staggering $485 billion per year in the U.S. alone, as much as 3.4% of the country’s GDP.

You know, and this is just the beginning…



Tags: , , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. hombredelatierra

    The following Nature (journal) blog article discusses the drought in the Horn of Africa. Rapid heating of the Indian Ocean should increase drought frequency (severity?) in the Horn. More frequent drought means the land will support less people. Populations will either die back to sustainable levels under the new climate regime or they will become environmental refugees – fleeing to (where??)..


    These observations, be it noted, “contradict” earlier IPCC projections for more, not less, rain in the region. However, as one commentor correctly pointed out:

    “IPCC does not make projections, it just summarises the best science available. If IPCC conclusions are contradicted, it means the science has moved on.”

    Precipitations are harder to quantify in computer models – General Circulation Models (GCMs) – than temperatures so, indeed, caution is necessary in making extrapolations into the future. Nevertheless the trends in East Africa are becoming evident. The inter-drought cycle length is becoming shorter..

    In Kenya, interethnic conflict has arisen in recent times due to nomadic herders driving their parched herds onto farmland in their search for water. Will this disquieting trend continue? Such questions and uncertainties reveal that climate science is an evolving science with myriad unanswered questions..

  2. GT

    Prefigured in the “Dustbowl” of the prairies of North America.

  3. Artimus K

    Margaret – read your letter in the Times. I believe you manifest what you cogitate on. When you find joy and abundance, these things will populate your world. Fear, depression and sadness equally reflect your world.

    I do sympathize with you regarding tree cutting. We do not like to lose a beautiful shade tree. But all things must pass eventually and we can be grateful for the time we have had. I hope you find solace in your work and do not overly internalize the woes of the world. Buddhists teach us to see this a just one of many passing lives to be lived with joy and love until the next one arrives.

    Have a wonderful day!