Thursday, November 01, 2012

"The War Is With Ourselves"

Back from an enjoyable trip which took us through the Arkansas Ozarks, now in Fall colour. Apart from posting a handful of photographs below, I'll devote this post to what is an immensely more important issue. (Illustration: Cartoon by Mandor, 2010)

Climate change has been dismissed as more or less irrelevant by politicians in the USA for far too long. The Kyoto Treaty, drawn up in Japan in 1997 aimed to commit industrialised nations to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide, by around 5.2% below their 1990 levels over the next decade. The agreement needed to be ratified by countries who were responsible for at least 55% of the world's carbon emissions in 1990 to come into force. President George W Bush, in March 2001 announced that the United States would never sign it. That was when my hackles, from their then location in England, were raised against The Powers That Be in this country.

When I first arrived in the USA at the end of 2004, global warming was looked on as something of a joke here. I despaired; but then I was around to see the enormous difference Al Gore single-handedly brought about. When "An Inconvenient Truth" arrived in cinemas in Oklahoma, it was shown only in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. We travelled to Oklahoma City to see it. The number of people in the theatre could have been counted on two hands, but, as the movie ended that sparse audience rose to their feet as one, applauded, and uplifted my hopes. But they have since proved to have been forlorn hopes. The US administration has been dragging its feet ever since, right up to this 2012 presidential election cycle when neither of the two main candidates has deigned to discuss the issue in debate or campaign speech.
"The struggle to save the global environment is in one way much more difficult than the struggle to vanquish Hitler, for this time the war is with ourselves. We are the enemy, just as we have only ourselves as allies. In a war such as this, then, what is victory and how will we recognize it?" (Al Gore)
From Hurricane Sandy as Greek Tragedy by Mark Hertsgaard, at Common Dreams:
Sandy is short for Cassandra, the Greek mythological figure who epitomizes tragedy. The gods gave Cassandra the gift of prophecy; depending on which version of the story one prefers, she could either see or smell the future. But with this gift also came a curse: Cassandra’s warnings about future disasters were fated to be ignored. That is the essence of this tragedy: to know that a given course of action will lead to disaster but to pursue it nevertheless.

And so it has been with America’s response to climate change. For more than twenty years, scientists and others have been warning that global warming, if left unaddressed, would bring a catastrophic increase in extreme weather—summers like that of 2012, when the United States endured the hottest July on record and the worst drought in fifty years, mega-storms like the one now punishing the East Coast.
My logical pain-in-the-arse Aquarian mind tells me: "What's the use of worrying? Without the right people in charge of the USA, nothing will change on a large enough scale to make a difference, and in any case, it is now likely to be too late to make enough of a difference anyway." Yet the other side of me still sees the benefit of The Powers that Be at least trying to do something - to be pro-active instead of re-active, to treat climate change with the seriousness it deserves; to put the resources being currently wasted in military force around the world and on immoral drone attacks into a determined fight against this real and very, very obvious global danger.

We may not yet have quite reached the stage of being uncertain about the morrow, but those who come after will have that to face, if we don't insist on something being done by our US government, and all world governments - and soon.

A few pics from our trip, from my own camera. I've left them smallish but clicking on them should bring up a big version. We drove on highways and dirt roads - amazed at the miles and miles of dense forest, probably areas where no human feet have trod (maybe some Native American feet, long ago). We visited Van Buren, Fort Smith, Fayetteville and some smaller towns. This north-western area of Arkansas is beautiful, the people are really "laid back", and just as friendly as Okies.


♥ Sonny ♥ said...

thank you for the lovely photos.

so happy you enjoyed your trip.

mike said...

I do the best I can to eliminate things in my life that I don't agree with or affect my conscience. I have my own agendas that I'm always hopeful will become more global and maybe legislated.

I don't shop at Walmart-China and I try to buy local or made in the USA. I've reduced my carbon footprint. I recycle items. I don't use disposables when possible.

I decided three years ago to sell my car and become free of the auto-gasoline-global warming quagmire. I bought a bicycle and transitioned from car to bike within a year and now I'm completely bicycle or on foot. I can take a city bus or taxi, if I have to get to the other side of town, but haven't had the need so far. I am aware that it requires fuel to transport the items to the stores I frequent. Manufacturing a vehicle uses a huge amount of energy. Replacement tires and batteries...toxic and energy hogs.

Most people have a great disdain for second-hand cigarette smoke... well, I have a disdain for second-hand exhaust! Something that is missed by the typical, non-smoking, vehicle owner.

The largest sources of man-made greenhouse gasses are coal for electricity and petro for transportation, followed by livestock belching-farts and excrement.

Of course, I use electricity (or I couldn't read your blog!), but my greatest use is for heating and cooling. I turned-off the AC last year to see if I could survive...too now I keep the setting at 80. I live in the South and we can have chilly winters, but I usually do not use heating, as I dress warmer. I use my oven during cold spells for baking (I rarely bake anything in the summer). I rarely eat meat.

Endless ways to reduce an individual's carbon footprint, such as growing your own produce, use animal waste for fertilizer, compost waste, buying local, minimize or eliminate driving, minimize meat consumption, minimize electricity use, recycle, etc. Plant fruit trees and assess your plot of earth to eliminate grass mowing and watering by planting native plant species.

Each gallon of gasoline emits 20 pounds of carbon dioxide. Think of the CO2 decrease if every vehicle owner used one less gallon of gas a week!

Wisewebwoman said...

I love sending you on road trips as I always feel enriched on your return.

I love what Mike has to say.

But I seriously feel it is the end of days and I hope it doesn't hurt too much.

We are as pestilential fleas on the Gaia and she is about to shake us all off.


Twilight said...

Sonny ~ You're very welcome - yes we did enjoy it all. :-)

Twilight said...

mike ~~ If all in the USA had lived as you do,for the past 20 or 30 years things might be quite different now.

I do feel guilty, at times, because we take our road trips, use AC and heat, albeit reasonably conservatively. However, I feel I do have mitigating circumstances.

For 60+ years of my life, in the UK, I hardly used a car at all. I don't drive. I travelled by public transport all the time. We did have a small car, used for short journeys only, when buses and trains were not available. We had no air conditioning there - few people did then - didn't need it. Heat was supplied by gas-fired central heating in most places I lived - or supplemented by small electric

I've never much liked to eat meat, so though I'm not vegetarian, I seldom eat much meat.

I believe my carbon footprint for 60+ years was tiny, infinitesimal in fact, compared with the average person in the USA.

Here, there is no other way for us to travel the 3 or 4 miles into town to buy food, visit doctor, dentist etc. other than by our car. We limit our trips by buying in bulk when possible. There's no public transport whatsoever in this town. A long distance bus service used to pass through - Husband used it for long journeys, as we would have done together, no doubt - but the service ceased some years ago.

We're now too old for thinking of riding bikes - though we were both keen bike-riders in our youth.

So, all in all for one reason or another - I am fairly unrepentant about our trips, about use of AC and heat etc. - in these extreme temperatures it's necessary to have it just stay alive!

All that said, Mike, I do truly admire your efforts to reduce your "footprint", and in different circumstances I might well have tried to emulate them.

Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~~ Thanks - I feel enriched too. :-)

I admire Mike's way of life, I really do. but as I've responded, though I feel guilty at times, I believe I have mitigating circumstances. If public transport - long distance trains and buses were available we'd manage our trips differently....that'd be a start!

We do seem to be in a downward spiral now, all things considered. I don't know whether it's "The End" coming up, or just more hard lessons to governments, from which lessons will eventually be learned.....even if too late for most of us.

anyjazz said...

We have met the enemy and he is us. - Walt Kelly, 1971

We've known this was coming for a long time.

mike (again) said...

I didn't mean to make you feel badly, Twilight! It sounds to me like you've already done green-house-gas penance from your earlier days. Writing your post about these gases and bringing the subject to others' awareness is huge.

I'm in a unique situation, which may not work for all, particularly my urban location. I guess my point is that there is ALWAYS something that one can do to mitigate. Just turning off that extra light bulb, switching to compact fluorescent bulbs, writing a letter to your congress person, whatever it may be...just do it.

Unfortunately, cost to the consumer is a big driver of these gas emissions. When the price of gasoline increases, actual driving decreases. The price I paid for electricity rose dramatically from 2006 (0.13/kWh) to 2009 (0.20/kWh) and I quickly down-sized my, it's back to 0.13/kWh) and I feel like it's a bargain!

Another of the dark sides to American out-sourcing manufacturing to China (and other countries) is the tremendous air, earth, and water pollution that is plaguing China. The USA was the primary producer of green house gases until a few years ago, now China is the leader.

mike (again) said...

And on another note, don't forget that the GOP wants to reduce EPA oversight and regulation of air, earth, and water emissions, particularly for electricity production, mining, petroleum refining, and manufacturing! Here in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry has been fighting the EPA oversight for years and it has cost the citizens of TX large sums of money. A vote for Romney will probably be a vote for minimizing EPA regulations.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~~ Yes, Walt Kelly was indeed far-sighted!

Put another way, "we're fools to ourselves"

Twilight said...

mike ~~ Thanks. :-)
Life was so very different in the UK. It was much easier there to be environmentally friendly, to keep "a small footprint", without really realising one was doing so.

I remember, in the offices where I worked for 24 years (civil service), we had notices in every room reminding people to turn off lights and equipment when not needed. I've carried on the discipline for the rest of my life, at home. I have a thing about turning off lights! It's a simple thing, but one that could help, both in homes and businesses (and store windows and signs) if universally practiced.

As you point out, it IS easier for some people in the USA to be economical with gas and electricity. Governments, national and local could have been helping more, too, in difficult areas, by providing or mandating some form of public transport.

Railways were one the life-blood of westward expansion in the US, now they are unused except for freight - which is not a bad thing, of course, it keeps much freight off the roads. But new tracks and passenger trains could have been re-developed years ago to ease at least some long-distance journeying away from gas-using vehicles on roads.

Gas was ridiculously cheap for a long time here, compared to petrol prices in the UK and elsewhere. That enabled easy use of cars, several per family in many cases, and taught people what have now come to be understood to be rather bad habits.

Progress has gone too far, too fast for the good of the planet. Humans have the brain power to invent incredible stuff, and the urge to keep bettering themselves. I suppose what has happened was always inevitable, bearing in mind our human makeup, drawn from our position in the solar system.

We are what we are, perhaps (holding breath) perhaps, just in time, the better part of our nature and our brain power will crank up a notch, enough to find a way to save us.

Twilight said...

mike ~~ Re Rick Perry, GOP, EPA etc. Yes, true!

People in OK will vote for Romney, of course. Jim Inhofe (Senator) has persuaded Okies that global warming is a hoax.
They probably didn't need much persuading.

My votes downticket will go to Dems, but I intend leaving the presidential line blank, in protest that there is no choice other than Republican or Democrat on the ballot in OK.
Write-ins not allowed either.

Had this been a "swing" state I'd have voted for Obama/Biden, but there's as much chance of Oklahoma being a swing state as of me walking a tightrope across the Grand Canyon.

Chomp said...

Nice photos, isn’t it

Twilight said...

Chomp ~~ Thanks - it was very easy, there, to find nice content!

Chomp said...

Ha ha ha that is true Twilight...