Monday, August 09, 2010

The Most Unpopular Post in Blog History

Nobody wants to hear bad news, and the worse it is, the more we don't want to hear it--except we do, we need to. Right now there is a lot of bad news the news media is not bothering with, for various reasons: the flooding in Pakistan that affects at least 13 million people, and the heat in Russia that Jeff Masters now estimates has killed at least 15,000 people. Here is one of the few stories to document some of the impact of these and other climate-related disasters.

Then there are the less apparent but equally ominious signs of the Climate Crisis future: in addition to this sudden hit on the Russian wheat crop, rice crops in Asia are generally declining.

All of this bears on a likely aspect of the future that nobody--and I mean nobody-- wants to talk about, including those in the forefront on the Climate Crisis and in the environmental establishment generally. For example, the new books I've praised by Bill McKibben and David W. Orr make veiled references to it, but never say it out loud.

What nobody wants to talk about is that climate emergencies are going to kill a lot of people, and that in both measurable events and over the long run, that could mean millions and even billions of people.

That's partly implicit in the fact that the planet cannot possibly sustain its current population, let alone the population projected for the next several decades, with the standard of living that the West enjoys and huge growing economies like China and India are fast approaching. There are those like engineer and innovative inventor of renewable energy-related technologies Saul Griffith ( profiled by David Owen in the May 17, 2010 New Yorker magazine) who have done the math and can't come up with any combination of known energy sources and even near-term technologies that can fuel societies at this level of consumption.

We kind of know something like this is implied. It's even there in disaster movies in which the focus is on the small group that is saved, ignoring that millions have died off-camera, in addition to the thousands in those exciting disaster scenes. The concept of die-off is out there, but nobody really wants to talk about it.

I think it has to be acknowledged. It's the elephant in the room, and it's not pink. Allowing it to remain invisible doesn't help realistic planning as a society, or helpful attitudes individually. To acknowledge that life is going to change, and that there are going to be a lot of victims, is a more realistic way to get to the fact that some people are likely to survive, that even in times of terrible change, life will go on.

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