Tuesday, February 26, 2013

An Alphabet for Climate Change

A. Albedo—The proportion of light that is reflected off a planetary surface. If a planet has an increase in a reflective surface—if the oceans expanded—albedo/solar radiation increases.
B. Borehole—Like tree cores that can provide information about the growth conditions for a particular year, similar cores can be bored out of the ice. In polar regions, these boreholes provide an almost geologic record of weather patterns and conditions over the length of time an iceberg or glacier has existed.
C. Cryosphere—The percentage of the world’s water that is stored in ice, snow, and permafrost. When this melts, more water flows into the water cycle, increasing the levels of moisture in storms and raising sea levels.
D. Drought—As weather patterns change, some regions get more rain and other regions get less. When a drought occurs in a traditional agricultural area (say the American Midwest, summer 2012) this is particularly devastating to both local economies and, on a larger scale, food security.
E. Ecosystems—I love the puzzle pieces of ecosystems, of microclimates and the intensely specialized evolution that has created the myriad of ecosystems across the globe. Weather and climate obviously play a huge role in this, so to have what has been more or less constant for thousands of years changing in mere decades wreaks havoc on ecosystems as species X migrates north to escape the growing heat. With an ecosystem, one piece goes and the whole house of cards falls, the web begins to unravel. Evolution, of course, rewards the strong species that can adapt, but what is happening now, few can adapt at this speed.
F. Fossil Fuel Industries—“The Fossil Fuel Industries’ business model is to declare war on all life on Earth,” Naomi Klein. I heard Klein speak at a 350.org event in Boston this fall as part of the ‘Do The Math’ Tour. Essentially, in order to maintain the barest minimum carbon emissions that all international parties have agreed upon as the standard of what is acceptable, 80% of the fossil fuel reserves still left in the world MUST remain in the ground. Naturally, this is not good for Fossil Fuel businesses, but their business is patently not good for any other living being.
G. Glaciers—See Cryosphere, see whatever glaciers you can, while you still can.
H. Human exacerbated—Yes, some change in global climate is natural. But all science points to the reality that changes have dramatically increased as we humans (particularly Industrial, First World folks with cars and computers and dryers and all the rest of modern life) have begun pumping chemical compounds out into the world.
I. Ignorance—I have to believe that much of the misinformation out there, much of the purported “debate” about climate change’s reality comes from ignorance, from people who have not been exposed to the facts. So, those of us with facts and reality, we’ve got to bring the truth to the people, without insulting their ignorance.
J. Justice—See Fossil Fuel Industries, see Ignorance, see Loss, Refugees, Tuvalu, etc. The host of justice issues surrounding who has access to the information and power to stem the literal rising tides of climate change at once break my heart and galvanize my own will to fight what I can, how I can.
K. Kyoto Protocol—“Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities.’” The Kyoto Protocol was created in 1997. The United States of America has not yet ratified the Protocol. (http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php)
L. Loss—Loss of coastline, loss of air quality, loss of food security, of land, of home, of country, of identity. Or, what fossil fuel industries will report on their balance sheets as the Fossil Free Divestment movement gains traction: http://gofossilfree.org/ Divestment worked to help South Africa lose Apartheid, let’s give it a try for Climate Change!
M. Misinformation—See Ignorance, see Fossil Fuel Industries, who often fund “scientific” climate deniers.
N. Natural—See Human Exacerbated. Further points should be made that at no point in time as the world been a static place. Change and uncertainty and dynamism are as marked features of Earth’s life as of our own. However, for even a growing, aging human who battles colds and fevers at times, there is natural change and there is traumatic, unnatural, change. As a planet, we’re very much in the category of the second.
O. Overpopulation— That matter can neither be created nor destroyed is a beautiful reality. The more that 7 billion of us here are using far more of the finite resources than the planet can possibly hope to provide. Particularly those of us who lead developed, industrial, material heavy lives. (I think of this nearly every time I post on a blog, but, see Ignorance, and I know not what else to do from where I am.)
P. Polar regions—See Albedo, Cryosphere, Ecosystems, Glaciers, Loss, etc.
Q. Qatar—At December 2012 meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Doha, Qatar, new amendments to the Kyoto Protocol were proposed. Further actions are pending, but—clutching for silver linings and slivers of hope—I’m glad to see the international community paying increasing attention to the issue.
R. Refugees—When land disappears, when drought and flood cycles make life in a place impossible, where do the people go? And then what of the crowding, the access to food and water and housing? I’ll briefly ignore the deeper issues of loss of place and identity, but as the habitable land shrinks and the population continues to grow, there will be trouble on the most basic levels.
S. Shorelines—Rising. Hurricanes Katrina, Irene, and Sandy have all demonstrated what this may look like. Climate change models seem to indicate that there will be more storms of this force, rather than fewer.
T. Tuvalu—From Ian Fry, Representative for Tuvalu to the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December 2009: “The entire population of Tuvalu lives below two meters above sea level. The highest point above sea level in the entire nation of Tuvalu is only four meters.
Madam President, we are not naive to the circumstances and the political considerations that are before us. It appears that we are waiting for some senators in the US Congress to conclude before we can consider this issue properly. It is an irony of the modern world that the fate of the world is being determined by some senators in the U.S. Congress.
We note that President Obama recently went to Norway to pick up a Nobel Prize, rightly or wrongly. But we can suggest that for him to honor this Nobel Prize, he should address the greatest threat to humanity that we have before us, climate change, and the greatest threat to security, climate change. So I make a strong plea that we give proper consideration to a conclusion at this meeting that leads to two legally binding agreements.
This is not just an issue of Tuvalu. Pacific island countries -- Kiribas, Marshall Islands, Maldives, Haiti, Bahamas, Grenada -- Sao Tome in West Africa and all the LDCs: Bhutan, Laos, Mali, Senegal, Timor-Leste -- and millions of other people around this world are affected enormously by climate change.
This is not just Tuvalu.
Over the last few days I've received calls from all over the world, offering faith and hope that we can come to a meaningful conclusion on this issue. Madame President, this is not a ego trip for me. I have refused to undertake media interviews, because I don't think this is just an issue of an ego trip for me. I am just merely a humble and insignificant employee of the environment department of the government of Tuvalu. As a humble servant of the government of Tuvalu, I have to make a strong plea to you that we consider this matter properly. I don't want to cause embarrassment to you or the government. But I want to have this issue to be considered properly.
I clearly want to have the leaders put before them an option for considering a legally binding treaty to sign on at this meeting. I make this a strong and impassioned plea. We've had our proposal on the table for six months. Six months, it's not the last two days of this meeting. I woke this morning, and I was crying, and that's not easy for a grown man to admit. The fate of my country rests in your hands.” (http://www.treehugger.com)
U. Underestimation—Climatologists are increasingly coming forward to say that they have underestimated the speed of the changing climate, that these changes are happening much faster than anticipated, than modeled for. (http://wwwp.dailyclimate.org)
V. Vulnerable—A system’s vulnerability is dependent on its ability to adapt to change. For systems—ecosystems, food systems, national or international infrastructure, etc.—with more moving parts, there is increased vulnerability as more can become unraveled. On the flip side, the more interconnected a human community, the better it seems to be able to, literally, weather a storm.
W. Weather Patterns—Weather alone does not make climate; a snowy winter one year, a dry summer another year, these alone do not provide evidence for or against climate changes. But, looking at the weather patterns over years and decades, trends can be observed and this evidence shows, clearly, that there is a marked warming trend. (With Science necessarily aware of the dynamic nature of the world, even the language used must not be static.)
X. Xanadu—An impossible and decadent paradise of a built environment. Sound familiar?
Y. Yearly temperature increases—See Weather Patterns, see what day the lilacs bloom, when the snow first falls, when the geese arrive, the leaves turn. The evidence is outside your own window as much as anywhere else.
Z. Zero hour—Now. Yesterday, a decade ago, fifty years ago. But hindsight gets one nowhere, so…zero hour is now. Go forth and rally the base, preach to the choir and inform the ignorant. I’ve only assembled 26 of the thousands of millions of reasons why it matters so, but I hope it is enough to start.
-Bethany Taylor

Friday, February 15, 2013

Another Blog to Save the World!

There is a landscape I love. When I go above treeline in the mountains of New Hampshire, I fall in love.  I find this place to be beyond beauty—its hold on me is magnetic and unshakeable. The swoops and chasms of the mountainsides, carved and shaped by thousands of days in the sun and wind and snow give me a sense of time, of my own impermanence. The ridgelines and peaks remind me of a lover, sleeping in the pre-dawn light. I gently trace the silhouettes of these mountains in photographs, trying to touch my touchstones from a distance. In the early summer, the subtle brilliance of the alpine flowers, blooming out of shear tenacity, look like bright stars and laughter among the grays and browns of the rocks. I first learned the stars themselves from these mountains and the night sky of even unfamiliar lands always leads me back here. I trust most easily the people I know from these mountains; I take on faith that they share something with the deepest parts of myself. Each person is, of course, different and their relationship with these mountains unique, but perhaps only as unique as different stars in the same constellation.

When I hear of countries disappearing under rising seas and melting ice, of people displaced from their landscapes, I imagine what the loss of my landscape would do to my soul. From that vantage point, it is not difficult for me to claw and tear towards anything that will slow the climate’s change.
What you hold dear is both catalyst and refuge. What we love, we must protect, says Sandra Steingraber. Crucial here, I find, the reminder to love, that connections and hope and happiness and joy are not, will not, must not be crushed at any cost.

I cannot tell you that everything will be fine. I do not believe in lies and I do not doubt that things are going to be, in some ways, horrific. I will tell you this—you are going to be fine. You will go out into the world. You will find the things you cannot live without, the realities that you are for, the pieces that you will hold most dearly, and you will not let them go lightly. 
Bethany Taylor
White Mountains, New Hampshire