Friday, October 25, 2013

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

 Green October #2 by WSK

“Besides an outer light and eye, sight requires an 'inner light,' one whose luminance complements the familiar outer light and transforms raw sensation into meaningful perception.”
Arthur Zajonc
Catching the Light

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fires Today and Tomorrow

Let's just note what is happening.  Today there are three big news stories involving Australia running concurrently:

Australian Firefighters Fight Weather in Worst Bush Fire in 45 Years

Climate Change is Absolutely Linked to [Australian] Fires Says UN Chief

Australian Prime Minister Denies 25 Years of Climate Change Science

That last headline is a little deceptive--the science referred to in the column is linking this wildfire to climate change, but this Prime Minister is a denier, and even in a huge country where the climate is very noticeably changing and bringing havoc of which this fire is only the most recent and violent example, there is a political attempt to set up a commission to investigate climate scientists for fraud.

But you get the idea.  The sensible idea--and the premise of various fictional 'cautionary tales'--is that however strong the opposition and denial is, it falls to pieces in the face of extreme evidence.  Then everybody gets together to address the problem.

It may happen.  But it is not happening now.  Apart from ones I've suggested before, or the ever-proximate political reasons--politicians stirring up scared masses on behalf of the fossil fuel industries that fund them--there are other reasons being offered.

One is proposed by a big story in Time Magazine based on a study that reportedly says that people are just too selfish to sacrifice anything now for the good of the future, even for their own grandchildren.

The study may or may not be valid, and/or actually applicable to the climate crisis.  Frankly I give it a 1 in 3 chance that it is both robust and all that relevant.  But it does suggest that it's more than lack of imagination that's involved--the ability to foresee a problem and to act on it according to how serious it might be, how probable and what the cost of dealing with it is versus the eventual cost of not dealing with it.

The interpretation here is that it's also the imagination of compassion.  The "you'd do the same for me" projected into the future.  It's hard for me to believe that people in the present wouldn't sacrifice for their grandchildren, which seems to go against even some Darwinian view of human nature.  But we've become accustomed to believing the worst about human beings.

But the article moves quickly to suggesting that a winning strategy on the addressing the climate crisis is emphasizing short-term gains.  And there are plenty, especially in clean energy technologies, in new industries and new jobs in old industries (construction for instance.)

It is certainly true that you people are more keenly interested in clean energy when (a) dirty energy prices are going way up, like gasoline for instance, (b) there are jobs and economic benefits visible to all, as in some places where wind farms have recharged a dormant economy.  Still, President Obama tried this for most of his first term.  He promoted clean energy for all these short-term reasons, seldom mentioning climate change.  There were successes.  But perhaps clouded by the political opposition to absolutely everything he is for, it didn't change a lot.

The longer lasting lesson here however is that even though these efforts are motivated by wanting to save the future, to keep as much of this biosphere intact for grandchildren and beyond--everything that is to be done and planned and fought for is to be done in the present.  Not even short-term gain.  Now.  What it does for you and your life right now.

Those who are fighting politically (even in ways that seem pretty dubious to me) to get efforts to stop the causes of the climate crisis, are doing so as a big part of their lives now.  Those who are working especially in cities and counties and states to start dealing with the inevitable effects, are doing so in the present.

When the climate crisis becomes severe--and it seems it will before another half century has passed--then people will have to deal with it as an inevitable part of their present, and how they deal with it will define them, as well as determining the farther future.  Will they react with panic and violence?  Or will they summon courage, resourcefulness, compassion, nobility, even heroism?

Hope for the future is enacted in the present.  Some people are already there.  Others consumed and being dragged down by denial, eaten away by extreme selfishness, cowardice and mania are not in the end leading happy lives.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Hummingbird Chronicles

       Green October #1 by WSK

I have no doubt that 2013 will turn out to be the warmest year on record for the North Coast.  It's nearing the end of October and we're apparently living in San Diego, though the sunny days in the 60s are followed by increasingly colder nights, now in the low 40s.  So it's a pleasant sort of surreal so far.

The hummingbirds seem hungrier, I don't know what that may mean.  Flowers are still blooming but my feeders are emptying as fast as they usually do in January, maybe faster.  I'm pretty sure we have three regulars now, and maybe four.  The larger hummers with the longer beaks I took to be migrants turn out to be residents who are now feeding regularly here.  That suggests there's also a pair of the smaller, rounder ones.  But there are seldom more than two around at a time, though I have seen three at the same time--two competing for the feeder and one flying by.

The past week or two we've also been hosting a number of small white butterflies with a black spot or two on their wings.  Dragonflies follow the hummers when they get near the feeders, while the hummers also have to deal with the webs that industrious spiders weave and re-weave after a wrecking wind.  Spiders pose at the end of web strings in our windows like Halloween decorations.

The hummers provide entertainment as they buzz at each other and then suddenly alight on the clothesline side by side, then spin off and return to feed on opposite sides of the same feeder.  They know me and often come around when I'm outside.  Once recently I was watching one from the kitchen door window, as it maneuvered around an almost but not quite empty feeder.  It clearly wasn't getting all it wanted, so it tried each side, then flew underneath it and tried that, then flew above it and tried the top.  Then it flew directly opposite where I was watching and hovered in place looking at me, as if to demand, how do I work this thing?

Otherwise they have me well trained.  Two feeders well stocked.

Update: So of course the day after I posted this the weather changed abruptly.  After these weeks of unseasonable summer, for the past few days we've gone directly to unseasonable winter.

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you...Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?"

Emily in Our Town by Thornton Wilder