Wednesday, April 09, 2008

How Dare We Be Optimistic?

We've all been complaining a lot lately (not unjustifiably) about this past winter's seemingly interminable succession of snow, rain, ice, snow, ice storms ... not to mention how it just dragged on and on ...

We've observed in the nearly 10 years we've gardened at this house, that our winters have gotten increasingly erratic and just downright weird. We'd get one really harsh, cold and snowy winter that killed perennials, then one with hardly any snow and the premature appearance of spring bulbs. And, last year, in December I was worrying that the daffodils would be trying to come up ... Last March we also had a precocious early spring warming that set everything in motion, then three weeks of sub-freezing, downright cold conditions. That's what zapped a great deal of last year's tulips, daffodils, fritillarias and other bulbs. And, as one who spent his formative years in Iowa (before my prodigal son phase), winters just aren't what I remember being the norm as I was growing up.

How anyone can deny the growing climate crisis we're experiencing is beyond this simple gardener's comprehension. The climate is changing, and by all indications, we're only seeing the initial effects on the local level at this point, probably because that is only what we know most intimately. As Al Gore demonstrated so dramatically in An Inconvenient Truth, the global effects are already ominously apparent. And
alarming recent reports about break away parts of the Antarctic ice shelf (one the size of Manhattan!) only serve to bolster scientists' and Gore's arguments. A couple of years ago, when I was researching something for the blog, I found this link to the Arbor Day Foundation's animation of Hardiness Zone Changes since 1990 to 2006. It bears witness to what we've seen personally, here in our little corner of the world. Folks, this is real. It's happening now, and it will affect not only us, but those who come after us ... as if we didn't have enough trumped up reasons for war and conquest already, can catastrophic weather changes make it even worse? I fear the educated answer must be yes.


How Dare We Be Optimistic?

This is the titular theme of Al Gore's recent presentation to the TED (Technology Entertainment Design) Foundation in March, 2008. As he showed in An Inconvenient Truth, Al is no mere prophet of doom, he's also an apostle of optimism who believes in the innate goodness of humans to recognize a problem and to seek its solution. Yes, he is sounding the alarm bells to try to wake people up, and though the task ahead of us is daunting, he offers a multitude of small ways to bring about positive change on a personal level. Whether it be changing all light bulbs to compact fluorescents (have you done that yet? You should ... you'll save money!) to adopting more carbon neutral practices in our daily lives, recent Nobel Prize winner Al Gore remains on the forefront of this crucial issue. You need to listen to him tell it like it is ... it's alternately alarming and inspiring, passionate and informative.

We're all going to have to change the way we think and live our everyday lives, no matter what . Whether we choose the optimistic path and work to effect positive changes to alleviate the problem or that of passive participant, it's ultimately up to us. I'm not as sure as Al is that we're up to the task, but I'm hopeful that were on the cusp of a sea change of political and generational change in our thinking.

Note on the video linked above: this talk lasts about 25-30 minutes, with a brief Q/A exchange at the end.


dada said...

what l found interesting in that clip is the "political" aspect. l doubt, given the long standing polling from that 78% of the respondents recognize the problem, that awareness is the problem, and additionally a poll fromwpo that found:

"An overwhelming majority of Americans support the United States agreeing to limit greenhouse gas emissions in concert with other members of the G-8 Summit. The new PIPA-Knowledge Networks poll asked, if, at the G-8 Summit, “the leaders of these other countries are willing to act to limit the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, President Bush should or should not be willing to act to limit such gases in the United States?” Eighty-six percent said that he should. Eighty-one percent of Republicans supported this as well as 89 percent of Democrats.

Virtually all respondents—94 percent—said the United States should limit its greenhouse gases at least as much as the other developed countries do on average. Nearly half—44 percent—think the United States should do more than average…"

what is the problem is a lack of political will and leadership to fund, and subsequently find, the solutions. none of the current candidates for president have shown a desire to do that, imnsho. without belaboring the point, they all have the expected platitudes and buzz words in their campaign position papers but both continue to support the burning of fossil fuels and ethanol, and both have supported "clean coal", with obama going so far as to cosponsor a bill to provide incentives for liquified coal technology.

as for ethanol and it's prominent position in the last "energy bill"…supported by nearly all the demoRATs …that's another boondoggle, and was nothing more than a three card monte game to enrich the corporate farmers and the energy producers at the expense of those who can least afford it...hence the drastic rise in the costs of basic commodities: wheat, corn, etc., combined with the effects of climate change on crop yields and do the math.

until the politicians follow the peoples lead things are not going to change. we had a window of opportunity back in the 70's, and carter pleaded with people to change…what we got was more of the same greed and hubris. hind sight being what it is, and 30 years of mismanagement down the pike and we're still having these discussions.

long story short ivg: optimism is not on the menu, at least not here. l've been doing my best personally and professionally for over 30 years, and have come to the conclusion that it's going to have to get a hell of a lot worse before it changes, let alone, gets better.

as my long time sig at another web site says: the revolution will not be televised.

draw your own conclusions as to where that leads.

apologies for the length.


Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Thanks for the additional linkage, dada ... as if I needed more convincing! Like you, I watched my teenage environmental idealism get crushed over the ensuing years, so in a sense you're right, so maybe optimism is not on the menu.

We could surrender and just curl up in the fetal ball (tempting), but if Al can get through to at least some who begin to change their thinking, maybe it can indeed go viral ...

As for us, we do our best to cover our small part of the world by doing the small things we can ... CFEs in the entire house, composting as much as we can and of course religious recycling. Maybe one could consider that just "feel good tactics," but we hope it has at least some small impact.

Al's political rant was righteous I thought, and I can't recall when I last heard a politician (well, maybe Kucinich) talking about getting people to raise their consciousness!

Yeah, Obama is not perfect (and you know was not my first choice), but given the alternatives, I'm more willing to give him the chance than the CryptoCorporate Fascista in the pantsuit. I just hope this year doesn't turn out to be the nightmare scenario we've been fearing .... Let's fast forward to the flip side and get it over! (Even if that means I age myself one more year, lol.)