Heat & the Fire Next Door, Colltalers
The heat is on. But that has little to do with current high temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere. Unlike those, climate change, and related global warming, is man made, a concept only reinforced by disturbing recent news. In fact, heat is the least of your concerns.
For the Olympics-unchallenged, who keep count of everything, mankind’s already low score in the fight to reverse climate change has just sunk lower: melting permafrost has triggered a deadly anthrax outbreak in Siberia, and exposed U.S.’s radioactive waste in Greenland.
The (bad) news adds up to an already alarming trend caused by the Arctic’s diminishing ice cap, reported last year: the exposure of ancient pools of methane, a heat-trapping gas that, when released into the atmosphere, packs more heat than fuel fossil-produced carbon dioxide.
Mankind’s count is down because, despite major steps to counter the effects of climate change, reducing emissions and phasing out coal and oil-based energy, for instance, taken by governments around the world, they have been systematically undermined by well known players.
First, there’s a global campaign to minimize those steps, fueled by a rising, right-wing nationalist sentiment, that threatens to turn back the clock. Behind it, energy industry-sponsored politicians have worked non-stop to enforce just such an agenda.
Then, there’s a still staggering economic and social gap between the industrialized world and developing nations, already plagued by an unfair wealth distribution system, and a corporate-driven globalization that has all but cheapen labor and sabotaged environmental efforts.
Lastly, everything takes time. While global temperatures have been breaking every record – 2015 was the warmest year in history, and last May, the warmest month ever – efforts to counter
the trend may take years to produce any traceable result, let alone reversing the effects. And that even if those with an invested interest in the matter, which means, all of us, were 100% behind them, which we are not.
Time to invoke the familiar, if not completely convincing, premise of the hypothetical alien. Facing such overwhelming evidence, the choice would be clear to such an enlightened creature: do something and survive, or nothing and perish. Not humans, though, apparently.
Despite all arguments to the contrary, we are not logical creatures after all. Rationality informs our world but it’s incapable to explain it. We build material works of wonder, and commit despicable acts of cruelty, only to duck any responsibility and credit it all to invisible beings.
Comparing weather and climate, and many still don’t see a clear distinction between the two, while we’ve developed sophisticated and effective ways to avoid the devastating impact of the former, we’re just learning what actually contributes the most for the latter.
Speaking of heat and cold, we’ve created incredible machines to lessen their extreme effects. Having that down, making them less damaging to the environment would be easier. Not if you’re human, though. That final mile is proving to be the one we may not even make it.
Few knew that the 1950s U.S. ‘research facility,’ in Camp Century, Greenland, was in fact part of another deranged Cold War project: to build an underground network of nuclear launch sites, less than 1,000 miles from the Arctic. When it was clear that it wouldn’t work, it was closed down and buried, along with records of its existence. Now, melting ice is about to expose its lethal by-product: nuclear waste.
With so much post-WWII confidence on the power of the atomic bomb to settle conflicts, one wonders how many more of these unhinged projects remain vulnerable to climate change and even sicker minds wishing to harm the world.
The anthrax outbreak in Russia had little to do with terrorism, but like in Greenland, everything with the ways we’ve built our civilization: high temperatures caused the melting tundra to uncover what’s believed to be vectors of deadly 18th and 19th-century infections.
It has killed one boy, so far, and sickened over 70 people since Friday, some of which remain under observation. The outbreak has also killed over 2,000 reindeer, but there’s no proven culprit, and reports are sketchy about what’s been done to prevent an epidemic.
Although researchers have long pointed to just that kind of situation as one of the nastiest effects of climate change, specially in remote regions, anthrax raises some extra red flags for its association (in its lab-synthesized version) with chemical warfare and terrorism.
No one needs to be an olympian number cruncher to realize what this all adds up to. By now, even deniers admit that the freak weather patterns, and raging wildfires and flooding, being reported ever more consistently all over the world, are signs of change.
The world has shrunk, and we’re not talking about your cat pictures being liked by readers in Kuala Lumpur or Porto Alegre. Receding lands, overtaken by rising sea levels, may send an even bigger wave of refugees into overwhelmed ports, just as pollution from wildfires may turn arable land into deserts. Your cat, in fact, may be a good sight to sore eyes, but people will need much more than that to survive.
One final word about the Northern ‘scorcher’ heat wave, which threatens to end civilization as we know it, according to the weatherman and people we pass by in the street: no, it won’t. Unless, of course, you either work outdoors and/or is under 2 or over 80.
That said, to those born in warmer zip codes, it’s amusing to hear all this complaining about a random fact of nature, which usually lasts two weeks, yearly, and not nearly enough of a bleep, when the thermometer dips and gets stuck into subzero temperatures the rest of the time.
Something to do with bias, from the lucky few who actually enjoy the heat. When it comes to climate, though, choices can’t be biased; those yet to be born will certainly need to do more than complaining. We should leave them a fighting chance too. Have a cooler week. WC