Tuesday, November 26, 2013

On Climate Change...

We got ourselves pretty much buried in snow the last couple of days, something we haven't seen in these parts to such an extent in a couple of years. The drought, it appears, has broken, at least for now.

Clearing the snow hasn't been that much of a problem, thankfully. So much snow is a treat for the eye, too. Blinding sometimes, but... nice.

The drought was terrible, though I'm told other recent ones have been worse. Hard to imagine, but there you are. The dust storms that arose last spring and summer for all the world resembled the Dust Bowl era, and folks were saying they hadn't seen anything like it in these parts since the Fifties, but it wasn't as bad back then as it was last spring and summer. The drought in the Thirties, though, lasted 17 years, they say, and it produced a mini Dust Bowl in this area that rivaled anything in Oklahoma and Texas. I've seen pictures. It was bad.
Dust to dust
The population understandably declined , in some localities to practically nothing, and the abandoned buildings, townsites, and farms and ranches still dot the area. They constitute some of the ruins I occasionally write about.

Populations didn't start recovering until the 1960's, but some of the towns that were abandoned during drought years are simply gone, not even ruins remain.

Folks who live around here have been dealing with climate issues for generations. Climate Change holds little fear among those who have stuck it out through repeated drought. Climate change could actually lead to better conditions here than in the recent past. Who knows, but the Estancia Basin (eight page pdf) may revert to the lake it once was. Of course we can't possibly have an Ice Age during an episode of Global Warming -- can we? No, no! Not possible. The only option is increasing desertification. Everyone knows that!

Well, we don't, though. Not really. The consequences of the current episode of climate change and global warming have been repeatedly modeled with varying results. Increasing desertification seems most likely in this area -- as if it could be much drier than it has been recently -- but because of the mountainous area all around, even in a severe drought, there is some runoff from the mountains which collects in the Basin, so there is always water available if you dig deep enough and conserve what you find.

The dust comes from farming practices that are ill advised where there is so little rainfall even in non-drought years. These practices were due less to ignorance and more from the quest for money. If they grew enough crops, they thought they'd get rich. Didn't work out, though, when the rains didn't come. The farmers adapted or tried to adapt their plowing practices to limit dust storms, but sometimes, like this past spring and summer before the monsoons kicked in, they got their timing off just enough to enable the winds to pick up dust from newly plowed fields and cause enormous clouds of dust to envelop the valley in blinding storms that had not been seen since the 1950's. The first time I experienced it, I could hardly believe it was really happening. Old timers were familiar enough with the phenomenon to take cover and take it in stride.

Live and learn.

Recently, the question of whether we have reached to Climate Change "tipping point" has been subject to a little more debate than usual. I've been convinced for some time that we're actually well past the tipping point, and that from now on the best thing we can do is mitigate the consequences rather than mitigate a Looming Climate Change Point we've already passed.

The way I tend think about the appropriate response to climate change is to think "preparedness". Maybe it's a consequence of growing up during the era of back yard fallout shelters, I dunno. But just as "we" couldn't do much but try to survive as best we could once the nukes started falling, so I think it is the case that we are beyond the point of dealing with Climate Change except by getting through it one way or another.

There was a post over at dKos yesterday (maybe still there) that asserted we haven't yet passed that ever-elusive tipping point, there's still time, and was essentially saying "buy all these new products and become a vegan, NOW NOW NOW, and you will do your part to thwart the looming climate catastrophe and thereby save the world!"

Now wait. Rampant consumerism (among other things) is what got us into this unholy mess in the first place. Do people really believe that buying more stuff, and stuffing your belly with more (but different) stuff is really going to ward off the Climate Apocalypse? Really? So if everyone becomes vegan and drives Priuses and puts up solar panels and uses LED lighting exclusively RIGHT NOW, the world will be saved?

Who knew?

There's nothing wrong with mitigation, but the best way forward on an individual/household level, it seem to me, to mitigate the situation is to not to buy things in so far as possible, to make a go of it with less, not more or new material goods, to re-purpose, recycle, reuse, and only -- only -- buy things when there's no other choice. That's a much tougher standard to maintain when everything we hear and know tells us that when you're afraid of something, be it Climate Change or the Perfidious Terrorists or what have you, you should go out and buy something, whether it's an electric car or solar panels or a brand new drone to kill brown folks with.

Fear sells, I know. It's been a primary marketing tool since long before my time. And I don't have any objection to buying mitigation products or becoming a vegan if it makes sense to do so, but it's not, in my view, going to stop or reverse Climate Change, not in the short term, not in your lifetime. Do it because it makes sense to do it and at that point other options are not likely or possible, not because you're going to Save the World. More than likely, you won't.

What can make a difference over the long term is a significant lifestyle change that reduces consumption, not expands it. People lived lightly on the earth for endless generations and most of us can do so again. But trying to maintain a consumerist lifestyle -- while saving the world -- is a fool's game. It won't work.

What's been happening since the economic catastrophe of the mid - 2000's (seems so long ago, now, doesn't it?) is that millions upon millions upon millions of Americans have been forced into a pretty significant lifestyle changes, forced into poverty, year by year, which has the effect of reducing their consumption and changing their diet sometimes toward vegetarianism if not veganism, regardless of what they want or think they need. Forced impoverishment has been going on relentlessly as a matter of government and private sector policy, with no recourse for most people. There is no way out for  the Rabble. Buying things to mitigate climate change is not on their "to do" list, surprisingly enough. Not that they could do it if it were and they wanted to.

This is one way Our Rulers have chosen to enforce mitigation on the Rabble, by reducing consumption through impoverishment. It won't stop or reverse Climate Change, but I imagine in their minds, it slows it enough to allow those in a position to do so to extend their own consumption levels.

Their salvation, if it is to be, is by other means. Their primary goal is to control the supply of fresh water. That is key to everything else. Next, they find high and dry places for their compounds, with strong and sturdy gates and deep, secure bunkers where they can ride out practically anything Nature has to offer. They do not fear what may come. Instead, they relish it.

This is, I think, the actual plan for dealing with Climate Change -- let the Rabble slowly or suddenly perish, through impoverishment, catastrophe, or whatever may come their way. The Rabble are no longer necessary in their multitudes for the comfort and convenience of the High and the Mighty in any case. This policy -- which is very much in evidence -- means that the environmental strain that has led to such high levels of atmospheric carbon is reduced, bit by bit. The strain is reduced, not the carbon, not for generations or millenia to come. But that's not necessarily a bad thing to those who can make the most of it. Previous warm epochs were lush and filled with dinosaurs, weren't they? Well, what's to say this new warm epoch won't be similar?

The only question this time is who will be the acme predators, eh?

Except... the best laid plans and all that tend to turn out differently than anyone expected, don't they?

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