To the Editor - Copenhagen Must Count

It’s not often that our scientists predict for us a future of indebtedness. Our accountants, our economists, our politicians – for better or worse – often take stabs at foreseeing the future condition of our national and individual checkbooks. As of late, a voice well-rehearsed in fear has beckoned the masses to stare in horror at the empty pouch suspended from our purse strings. Someone’s left a message on our billfold’s shriveled shell, a single graffitied lyric that has America singing “recession” again and again, even in her sleep. The unemployment rate seems to out climb any competing figure, though the populations of tent cities and the number of uninsured American children give it a run for its money. And so millions rightly meet their days hands clenched around their last greenbacks, the swinging shadow of their lynched money-purse reminding them of a need for frivolity. And so when the climate scientist stands to describe a future in which financial debt will mean very little for our kids, a future in which the resources we now hoard with the best of our conservative faculties will stop their slow dribble from the spicket of milk and honey, we meet his call for action with doubt, rejection, and resentment. Even with all things considered, it’s a peculiar response, in my mind, because in the act of writing this piece I’ve entrusted scientists with everything from the alarm that woke me up, the microwave that heated my meal, the car that brought me to work and the streetlights I drove through, the computer I used to type, the glasses that let me see it all, and the electronic forum I speak in. But see, those are all things that comfort me, that serve me and affirm my importance. We like science that makes us comfortable and we seem to consider science that discomforts us as debatably not science at all. Yet climate scientists hail from the same educational edifice that produces the astrophysicists designing our CD-ROMs, the biochemists desperately attempting to pump out H1N1 vaccines as quickly as we pump them into ourselves, the hydrologists shepherding water supplies which dictate the functionality of our society, and the bariatric specialists who try as best they can to mitigate our addiction to inactivity and food. I don’t want it to be as simple as entitlement, as self-centrism, as the ludicrous idea that anything Americans are doing at any given time is exactly what Americans should be defending at any given time, but it seems that’s the reason holding its hand highest, wiggling for me to see it. The same community of thinkers that so often upgrade our ability to lounge more intensely, the collective mind that we’ve dubbed the champion of discovery in our society, is now telling us in unprecedented orchestration that the future they see approaching is one in which the luxuries we currently enjoy may become laughable pipedreams of a utopia-passed. The black void of a bank account which American’s have come to loathe will pass as petty concern the day it feels like we’re at war with our weather systems. To choose a path similar in attitude and action to the one we tread now – that is, the one that makes climate science a matter of belief or political allegiance – is to fly from the barn roof of your childhood because you believe in the strength of your papier-mâché wings and the weakness of gravity itself. Wind farms and solar panels, electric cars and cars powered by hydrogen, a sprint toward emission reduction, a prioritization of grid efficiency, waste and water rations and recycling, forestry regulation, demographic cognizance, the end of coal and the beginning of the end of fossil fuel: these constitute a piece of a world in which humans can safely extract, capture, and use energy, and a world in which the resource rich do not keep the wealthy in their pocket or the poor underfoot. But this, too, is a future that costs money. More rightly described, it’s a future where we finally max out the credit we’ve been leaning on since our industrialization and our debts are called in. So, if we choose, we make our payments in innovation and adaptation, in progress that takes us out of and away from a society whose pulse reflects the price of gas. Yet, here’s where this discussion puzzles me most. Specifically on the topics of debt and cost am I left behind. I am twenty-two. When 2050 arrives, a year marked by a growing collection of grim asterisks in the climate change forecast, my generation will long have shouldered whatever debts our parents and grandparents gleaned for us. Those are the debts bleeding from the woodwork now: the yet undefined scars of a mortgage crisis, an Iran with one hardline hand enriching uranium and the other groping in the vats of moderation, the living legend of two if not three (Brazil) emerging economic world powers, the result of two American wars, and the health of a global ecosystem stressed to its breaking point by one very powerful, very naïve species. Where few things are certain, one action remains a necessity and its result a definitive improvement for the world. The United States of America finds in its hands an excess of ability, a shred of political will, and a crisis as its motivational pill to liberate itself from its energy dependence. Because our power is no longer harvested abroad our national security no longer has to counter the force of an American-bankrolled terror network; our poor no longer need to receive petroleum gifts from the likes of Chavez*; our diplomats no longer have to hold their tongues in front of oil lords when questions concerning genocide are pressing. But the arresting cry that sounds from within our own country, the conviction that restrains us from the rubicon of that future, is one that declares this moment too expensive to truly engage. Investing in such a future will pass disproportionate debt unto our children, it says, and so we should drill more. Or become better friends with people who already drill more. Or take it from them. The reality of our situation might simply prescribe a future without satisfactory options; our decades of irresponsibility, and the continued flagrance of our consumption, may have simply condemned part of our desired lifestyle to (at least) temporary death. To the parents now shouldering today’s burdens, there likely isn’t a scenario which protects your children from the debts of American culture. But what cannot happen is the continued imagining of a future made sufficiently debt free because of the oil we drill now and the climate change soon to be proven myth. This future cannot be realized and will shackle the leaders of 2050 to a burden – financial, social, and global in nature – whose magnitude humanity, for the first time, may not endure.Two hours ago I sat down to type. Per the estimates of Conservation International – the environmental organization used for consulting by the likes of Starbucks Coffee, McDonald’s, Nike and others – six species have gone extinct since I commenced my key-punching, a rate one thousand times that estimated to be a natural rate of extinction for Earth, a rate only matched by the five other eras of profound extinction in Earth’s history, a rate not seen since the last of those five, 65 million years ago. The world of plants and animals, often brushed to the side to keep tree huggers and the ranks of PITA distracted, is slipping through our hands. This is the moneyless debt scientists are attempting to calculate, the liability which accumulates outside the saving graces of any market structure and promises to strand us without the organisms that provide us such indispensables as medicine and food. We must not betray ourselves with cheap anecdotes forged in fealty to political alignments; we can choose to believe in our politicians and our gods and ourselves, but our subjugation to the vagaries of our climate, like our unwilling concession to the pull of our planet’s gravity, will be forced on us whether or not we welcome it with votes or titles like “belief”. Copenhagen Must Count. * CITGO Stops US Oil Gifts in Sign Chavez Feels Pain

No comments:

Post a Comment