Friday, June 18, 2010

My Final Plea For Your Help


"Die with your boots on. Gonna try? Well stick around. Gonna cry? Just move along. The truth of all predictions is always in your hands."
-Iron Maiden

I just need to convey a point here. And I try not to be known for vulnerability, but I am openly scared for the future. Not just of this country, or our generation, or our society, but for our posterity and our planet and for all living things. I am frightened, and I'm asking for your help. Why?

Because all logic points to the conclusion that we are accelerating quickly down a path that is becoming rockier and steepier and narrower. Unless we find a way to stop and find a better, safer way to travel, I fear the human species will tumble right off the side. This fall will be gradual at first, but it will nonetheless become cataclysmic, and will remain irreversible for generations. And we will doom this planet's life along with us. This could all happen within a 5 to 10 year window at our current pace.

I'm just going to list some recent happenings in the news, then a few facts afterward. There are many more than what has been listed here, but these are just the few that come off the top of my head from paying attention to the news for the past few weeks or so. Then I will lead you to the extremely logical and simple conclusion I've come to, and hopefully you'll have come to the same conclusion by the time you've finished reading this.

Major Environmental Disasters in America Since 4/20/2010

Ice age coming
Ice age coming
Let me hear both sides
Let me hear both sides
Let me hear both
Ice age coming
Ice age coming
Throw them in the fire
Throw them in the fire
Throw them in the

We're not scare mongering
This is really happening
We're not scare mongering
This is really happening
Mobiles quirking
Mobiles chirping
Take the money and run
Take the money and run
Take the money

-Radiohead, Idioteque

Mind you, this is simply MAJOR disasters. Since April 20th. In America. I define "major" as one where human beings are killed or injured or otherwise directly affected. I will not be including things like the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska just two decades ago. Or the massive oil spill in the Persian Gulf during the Iraqi/Saudi conflicts back in Saddam Hussein's heyday. Nor will I discuss the Venezuelan oil rig that sank in the Caribbean this past May. Or any of the ten world's worst oil spills, none of which have happened in the USA. Just major happenings, here in the states, in the past 60 or so days.

April 20, 2010
BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded deep in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people. Estimates by the oil company started at 5,000 barrels a day (around 200,000 gallons of oil per day) and then independent and government scientists analyzed the drilling depth, the amount of oil in the well, and the consequences of a major blowout, and placed that figure around 10,000 to 20,000 barrels a day. Now that figure is between 70,000 and 80,000 barrels a day. It could be higher. But it's already gushed more than four Exxon Valdez-sized spills into the Gulf of Mexico. And that's a very, very conservative estimate.

This will effect undersea plant, fish, bird, turtle and whale species, local economies, tourism, and the country's domestic seafood supply very likely for the rest of our lives. And if, God forbid, a major hurricane hits the Gulf of Mexico, which scientists say is very likely this year, then imagine miles and miles of concrete ribbons of expressway closed down indefinitely because they're covered in oil. Lost homes. Lost cultures. Lost ways of life. For at least a generation. Maybe more.

June 6 2010
A natural gas well leaked toxic gases into water supplies for 16 hours in Pennsylvania, due to a failure in the well's blowout preventer. A plume of polluted water and gas shot 75 feet into the air at the time of the incident, and crews were evacuated until the next day.

June 7, 2010
A natural gas line in Cleburn, Texas ruptured, ending one worker's life and sending seven to the hspital. Nobody could walk through the area for several hours, and the worker's charred remains were found later in the day, a good distance from the site.

Also on this day, in Moundsville, West Virginia, a natural gas line drilling project ran into a pocket of methane, injuring 7 people. A 70-foot pillar of flame shot from the gas line, and the flames were still 40 feet high several hours later.

June 8, 2010
Two men digging clay out of a pit in the Texas panhandle were killed when a natural gas line suddenly exploded. Three other workers bulldozing near the blast were hospitalized.

June 13, 2010
Creeks and nearby water supplies were polluted after a Chevron oil well dumped 33,000 gallons of crude oil near Salt Lake City, Utah. Chevron takes responsibility for this one, and reports are surfacing of oil-soaked wildlife emerging from surrounding waterways.

June 15, 2010
A natural gas pipeline exploded in the Dallas area, taking a man's life and injuring 8 others. Authorities are still trying to figure out what caused the fatal blast.

Rapid Climate Change

"Can you read signs? Can you read stars?
Can you make peace? Can you fight war?
Can you milk cows, even though you drive cars?
Can you survive, against all odds?"

-Damien Marley, "Patience"

At the Bonnaroo music festival this year, in a treeless field an hour South of Nashville, Tennessee, one attendee actually died from the heat. I remember heat indices reaching past 100 on Friday, and climbing steadily on Saturday and Sunday. The brief rain we got Saturday just compounded Sunday's wet, sticky humidity, not to mention exacerbating the prevalent stink of 80,000 unwashed bodies of myself and other hormone-ridden hipsters, rastas, peaceniks and other such scalawags in Manchester.

But that's something we're just going to have to get used to, just like these environmental disasters that keep sticking their ugly heads up in the news each day. Because this year is on track to be the hottest year on record. The facts are bearing out all over the place.

-Did you know that global surface temperature records have been shattered every week since the second week this past January, when compared to the year before?

-Did you know that ocean temperatures are currently at their second-hottest of all-time, other than 1998? And that record temperature anomalies are now being reported on all of the world's majorly-populated continents?

-Did you know that arctic sea ice volume has drastically declined over the last two months, far beyond what would be considered normal in the planet's climate cycles? That temperatures in the arctic are ten degrees fahrenheit warmer today than the norm? And that this past brutal winter and what is predicted to be an historically destructive hurricane season are being directly linked to this arctic meltdown?

-Most importantly, did you know that scientists are estimating that half of the WORLD will suddenly find themselves in a severe water shortage 20 years from now?

This cycle compounds and becomes worse, exacerbated by an overabundance of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere, which lingers above, absorbing sunlight and focusing it on the arctic areas. Before the industrial revolution's onset, the Earth naturally equalized atmospheric CO2. Now, the Earth has far more CO2 than it knows what to deal with. When arctic ice melts, seas grow warmer and ice becomes more isolated. Warmer, saltier water then flows into the arctic from the North Atlantic, which causes more ice to melt. Lather, rinse, repeat.

These greenhouse gases, largely put in the air by humanity's industrialization, consist of carbon dioxide and methane. Both of which humans excrete just by sitting still, which the Earth can normally equalize if kept at manageable levels. But with so much rapid melting of sea ice, methane pockets in the Siberian shelf are starting to seep into the atmosphere. Methane stays in the air for much longer and channels much more heat than regular CO2, and climate scientists warn that this is steadily increasing global temperatures incrementally over the years, to where we are literally starting to see catastrophic effects of climate change take place worldwide before our own eyes.

-Like the Aral Sea drying up to a fraction of what it was just twenty years ago.

-Like glaciers collapsing in Argentina, killing three tourists and their guide.

-Like water supplies in one of the world's most populous countries suddenly drying up because of rapid glacial melt.

-Like how we're already seeing conflicts in the hottest parts of the world not over religious, ethnic of political differences, but because there's not enough food and water to go around.

Like the recent environmental disasters, the effects of climate change are numerous in the media, and I could devote pages to just sharing links and figures and data. But that isn't what I came here to do tonight. I came to ask for your help.

My Final Plea For Your Help

"Come mothers and fathers, throughout the land.
And don't criticize what you can't understand.
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.
Your old road is rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one,
If you can't lend your hand,
For the times, they are a-changin'."

-Bob Dylan, "The Times, They Are A-Changin'"

This is usually the part where I ask you to call your congressmen and senators and urge them to push for strong climate legislation for the sake of our planet. But I'm going to just start small here, and hope you, the readers, will take it upon yourselves to make a collective call to action in government and society. My plea?

Climate change is NOT to be up for debate any longer.

Evolution used to be an issue up for debate. As did the Earth being the center of the universe. Or the Earth's shape. Or the origin of the universe. But eventually, a scientific consensus concluded that the facts were overwhelmingly on their side, and they moved on.

This is the part where the deniers come out of the woodwork and link me to studies put out by the Heritage Insitute, or the Heartland Institute, or some other think tank funded with oil company money scoffing at proven climate science. Or to a petition from the religious right-wing's Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, where 30,000 scientists who DON'T study the climate deny that climate change is man-made, or that it's even happening.

Or maybe the deniers reading this are fuming under their breath, preparing a lengthy response chastising me about ignoring the economic implications of a strong climate bill. Please don't waste your time. Any economic implications of a carbon tax or ban on oil drilling are outweighed by far by the economic implications of 3 billion starving people in Africa and Central/Eastern Asia. Or by every major coastal American city underwater by the midpoint of the 21st century.

It could be that the climate change deniers are about to post links to the "climategate scandal" at the University of East Anglia, where tens of thousands of private emails between climate scientists were illegally hacked and taken out of context by those working in the interests of Big Oil. Where, in reality, the actual conclusions about drastic climate change came to by a consensus of climatologists were never thrown into question, despite so much manufactured outrage and nonsense.

Or maybe it's just the sad cry of the FOX news watchers and Glenn Beck-ites and Rush Limbaugh dittoheads of "B-b-but...AAAAALLLLL GOOOOOOORRRRREEEE!"

I've wasted far too much time repeatedly debunking those petitions, those studies, those faux scandals and those organizations and I'm tired of debate, for once. I'm thirsty not for debate, but for action, and our planet needs us. And I'm moving on. We all must move on.

We must plead for our media to stop pitting scientists vs. non-scientists against one another and framing it as a legitimate debate. The debate is over. Like evolution, climate change is no longer up for debate. It is happening. It is real. Our actions are directly influencing the climate's rapid change. And incidents like the ones above are all indicative that we are very quickly hurtling down an unsustainable path, and that the only thing that can come of it will be a very swift, sharp, painful end for all of us.


"What's the use of a fine house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?"
-Henry David Thoreau

Our generation will either be remembered as the ones who finally swallowed our pride, wised up and organized a collective effort to reverse our planet's inevitable decay before it was too late, or the ones who got lazy, who consumed with reckless abandon, who spat in the faces of the more knowledgeable among us. And if a fraction of humanity does survive the pending crises that will already await us in the not-too-distant future, they will look back on us with scorn, and tell their progeny of how our laziness and apathy caused species to die off en masse, for soil to only become fertile again once our decomposed corpses were taken back into the Earth.

I'm asking for your help. What will you do for the planet? For yourselves? For your grandchildren?

How will you be remembered?

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