Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Global Warming

and the effective ignorance of "real" ecoligical issues.

I am not a card carrying member of Sierra Club, Greenpeace or any other environmental organization. That's an important admission to make as I am not entertaining a sudden about face from subjective realism to some nascent form of environmentalism. That said, I am no stranger to environmental concern. From the sixth grade (after reading the excellent yet apocalyptic and largely inaccurate Natures End) on I appreciated the effect that mankind can and does have on the fragile ecosystems he relies upon for his very existence.

So what's my beef with the Global Warming (er, sorry, Global Climatic Change) community?

Well, I'll set aside the political facet for now and concentrate instead on what Curtis Gale Weeks refers to as Static. By his definition (heh, or the definition that agrees most with this post):

Static results from a profusion of voices, of forces, and creates confusion.

This is not an attempt to draw 5GW into the sphere of environmentalism (though the argument could be made...) rather to point to a very real phenomena that has come about in the last five or so years.

Environmentalism used to be a massive, multi-faceted grass roots battle that incurred both the wrath of industrialists and the benevolence of the common American who, perhaps, watched his river run black with industrial pollution or breathed uneasy in a smog ladened city. Small, activist based initiatives sought and often won litigation, state based laws (such as act VT's 250) sought a balance between economic and popular development and ecological purity.

And then along came Global Warming. A theory begat a political movement begat an institution begat a geo-social "fact." Suddenly the media was talking not of deforestation or over fishing but of the apocalyptic "certainty" that if we don't change our ways the world as we know it will drown as sea levels rise, be rent forth as hurricanes dance, be famished and suffocate as deserts grow. Teachers spoke of carbon footprints, newscasts ran "how you can do your part to mitigate Global Warming," major automakers responded by building hybrid or non-conventional fueled vehicles, massive global rock concerts were conceived, and Oscars were won!

Far away, in the back of the crowd and rendered speechless, some ecological travesties sat ignored, a hollow shell of their previous selves. Shunned from the celebrity and politically charged limelight they sat and stewed. For they were not the aftereffect of commercial benefit or political mobility. Nor were they the savant of theory nor histographic nor computational "fact." They were a stark reality based not on theory or computer models but direct observation. Here's a few of them:

  • -It's estimated that over half of the wetlands in the continental United States have been lost since the 18th century; and wetlands elsewhere have fared no better. With the destruction of wetlands has come destruction of biodiversity, both in the wetland areas themselves and downstream. For instance, nitrogen fertilizer runoff from farms has overwhelmed the capacity of some wetlands to filter pollutants, creating "dead zones" in areas such as the Gulf of Mexico, where algae blooms fueled by this and other nutrients have run riot and displaced a once thrivingly diverse ocean ecology.
  • -According to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate, over 70% of the world’s fish species are either fully exploited or depleted. The dramatic increase of destructive fishing techniques worldwide destroys marine mammals and entire ecosystems. FAO reports that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing worldwide appears to be increasing as fishermen seek to avoid stricter rules in many places in response to shrinking catches and declining fish stocks.
  • -We are losing Earth's greatest biological treasures just as we are beginning to appreciate their true value. Rainforests once covered 14% of the earth's land surface; now they cover a mere 6% and experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years.One and one-half acres of rainforest are lost every second with tragic consequences for both developing and industrial countries. Rainforests are being destroyed because the value of rainforest land is perceived as only the value of its timber by short-sighted governments[...]

And here we are, twenty years after my environmental awakening and the principle of conservation has been "legitimized" by both political hubris and social hysteria not in light of the very real examples I provide above but through celebrity and sensationalism.

Sad but true. The essence of environmentalism has been eclipsed by the sensationalism of "Global Warming."


Anonymous said...

Good post. But I don't believe that the two are mutually exclusive. Climate change is the sum of a range of environmental catastrophes, including destruction of wetlands and forests. The problem, as you correctly identify, is that in focusing on 'climate change' we ignore the other serious problems. Or worse, that we come up with 'solutions' to climate change, like biofuels, with the aim of allowing people to keep driving monstrous SUVs, which devastate more forests and wetlands.

Jay@Soob said...

It's funny strat, I just read something the other day that associated bio-fuels with extreme air pollution. I'll have to dig around and see if I can find it again.