Thursday, April 22, 2010

We are part of the Earth: let's start acting like it

We would do well to remember that we are part of this Earth. Sadly We in the west are heirs to a spiritual and ethical tradition that encourages us to think of ourselves as fundamentally separate from the Earth and nature. We think of ourselves as beings injected into the earth from some "beyond." It is not true.

Even more disturbing: Corporate Capitalism encourages us to reduce the Earth to a set of commodities the value of which is entirely reducible to economic worth. This is a travesty of our real relationship to this world that we are part of.

We are earth grown. We are part and parcel of our surroundings. The world is not "out there" its surrounds us and fills us and IS us.

There are a vast number of ways in which we are harming and even destroying our environment. We are quite good at spoiling the earth. The most pressing issue, however, is Global Warming. As there are still some skeptics out there. I will quickly explain why the ENTIRE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY (with VERY rare exceptions) has concluded that human-originated global warming is a fact and dangerous one.

The science behind global warming is actually very simple. Carbon Dioxide traps sun rays in the atmosphere which is how the planet warms itself. This is a natural process. It follows that the more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere the hotter the planet will be. As a clarification, when the planet gets hotter as a whole it does NOT mean that every place on the planet will be warmer. Weather and temperature are complex and massive systems. To increase the warmth of the planet as a whole will result in a wide variety of changing conditions in various places; some places getting more rain, some less, some getting hotter, some colder. Let's please get our facts straight on this.

It is empirically obvious that we are dumping vast amounts of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. Given the basic facts of planetary warming, it automatically follows that we are increasing Global Warming. But this would never be enough to satisfy a scientist. Science works by testing theories. You test a theory by making predictions. This means that if a certain theory is true, certain observable phenomena will be present. If those Phenomena are not present, we have good reason to doubt the theory.


Here are the basic facts via National Geographic:

Here's the lowdown on why it's happening, what's causing it, and how it might
change the planet.Is It Happening?Yes. Earth is already showing many signs of
worldwide climate change.• Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees
Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) around the world since 1880, much of this in
recent decades, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.• The
rate of warming is increasing. The 20th century's last two decades were the
hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia, according
to a number of climate studies. And the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that 11 of the past 12 years are among the
dozen warmest since 1850.• The Arctic is feeling the effects the most. Average
temperatures in Alaska, western Canada, and eastern Russia have risen at twice
the global average, according to the multinational Arctic Climate Impact
Assessment report compiled between 2000 and 2004.• Arctic ice is rapidly
disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free
summer by 2040
or earlier. Polar
bears and indigenous cultures
are already suffering from the sea-ice loss.•
Glaciers and mountain snows are rapidly melting—for example, Montana's
Glacier National Park
now has only 27 glaciers, versus 150 in 1910. In the
Northern Hemisphere, thaws also come a week earlier in spring and freezes begin
a week later.• Coral reefs, which are highly sensitive to small changes in water
temperature, suffered the worst
bleaching—or die-off in response to stress—ever recorded in 1998
, with some
areas seeing bleach rates of 70 percent. Experts expect these sorts of events to
increase in frequency and intensity in the next 50 years as sea temperatures
rise.• An upsurge in the amount of extreme weather events, such as wildfires, heat
, and strong
tropical storms
, is also attributed in part to climate change by some
experts.Are Humans Causing It?• "Very likely," the IPCC said in a February
2007 report
. The report, based on the work of some 2,500 scientists in more
than 130 countries, concluded that humans have caused all or most of the current
planetary warming. Human-caused global warming is often called anthropogenic
climate change.• Industrialization, deforestation, and pollution have greatly
increased atmospheric concentrations of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane,
and nitrous oxide, all greenhouse gases that help trap heat near Earth's
surface. (See an interactive feature on how
global warming works
.) • Humans are pouring carbon dioxide into the
atmosphere much faster than plants
and oceans can absorb it
. • These gases persist in the atmosphere for years,
meaning that even if such emissions were eliminated today, it would not
immediately stop global warming
.• Some experts point out that natural cycles
in Earth's orbit can alter the planet's exposure to sunlight, which may explain
the current trend. Earth has indeed experienced warming and cooling cycles
roughly every hundred thousand years due to these orbital shifts, but such
changes have occurred over the span of several centuries. Today's changes have
taken place over the past hundred years or less. • Other recent research has
suggested that the effects of variations
in the sun's output
are "negligible" as a factor in warming, but other, more
complicated solar mechanisms could possibly play a role.

So there you have it. The basic science is pretty flawless. This is a perfect example of a verified Scientific theory. And it is not even very hard to grasp. And yes the Consequences are nightmarish. The effects of Global Warming include:
What's Going to Happen?A follow-up report
by the IPCC released in April 2007
warned that global warming could lead
large-scale food and water shortages and have catastrophic effects on
Sea level could rise between 7 and 23 inches (18 to 59
centimeters) by century's
end, the IPCC's February 2007 report projects.
Rises of just 4 inches (10
centimeters) could flood many South Seas islands
and swamp large parts of
Southeast Asia.• Some hundred million people live
within 3 feet (1 meter) of
mean sea level, and much of the world's
population is concentrated in vulnerable
coastal cities. In the U.S., Louisiana
and Florida are especially at risk
.• Glaciers around the world could
causing sea levels to rise while creating water shortages in regions
on runoff for fresh water.• Strong hurricanes, droughts, heat
waves, wildfires,
and other natural disasters may become commonplace in many
parts of the world.
The growth of deserts may also cause food shortages in
many places.• More
than a million species face extinction
from disappearing habitat,
ecosystems, and acidifying oceans.• The ocean's circulation system,
known as the
ocean conveyor belt, could be permanently altered, causing a
mini-ice age in Western Europe
and other rapid changes.• At some point
the future, warming could become uncontrollable by creating a so-called positive
feedback effect
. Rising temperatures could release additional greenhouse
gases by unlocking methane in permafrost and undersea deposits, freeing
trapped in sea ice, and causing increased evaporation of water
The time has come to cease arguing about human-generated Global Warming. The skeptics have no case and are either willingly blind, grossly misinformed, are simply being dishonest.

The Earth should mean something to us. We should love and cherish the planet which is our only home and the numerous living beings who inhabit it with us. Enough nonsense. No more debate. Global Warming is real and we are causing it.

This Earth Day, let us commit to fighting it.

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