Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Appeal of Denying Climate Change

Our Earth

An article (“Burning Down the House;” August 15, 2019), by Alan Wiseman, in The New York Review of Books, repeats and reaffirms the bad news that all climate change believers (including me) already know and agree as true:
Climate scientists’ worst-case scenarios back in 2007, the first year the Northwest Passage became navigable without an icebreaker (today, you can book a cruise through it), have all been overtaken by the unforeseen acceleration of events. No one imagined that twelve years later the United Nations would report that we have just twelve years left to avert global catastrophe, which would involve cutting fossil-fuel use nearly by half. Since 2007, the UN now says, we’ve done everything wrong. New coal plants built since the 2015 Paris climate agreement have already doubled the equivalent coal-energy output of Russia and Japan, and 260 more are underway.
Climate deniers or skeptics, however, are unlikely to be convinced or persuaded one whit by this article or any other published, whether today or in the last 20 years, when the evidence started to become increasingly overwhelming—to the point that one would have to close his or her eyes to any and all scientific evidence to believe otherwise and carry on as nothing is wrong.

I am not really surprised that many can do this, because the evidence does not project a pretty picture of what we humans have done to the planet, particularly in the last 200 years of our fossil-fuel economy, coinciding with the Industrial Revolution. Our collective records of stewardship is quite frankly dismal. I am not pointing any fingers at any particular individuals, although the fossil fuel industry and its advocates are not looking good. It would be smarter if they dedicated more resources to the green energy revolution, and thus be a part of the solution.

But short-term thinking and greed predominates, with expected results, most not good for us. If we continue as we have been, our planet will eventually become uninhabitable. Money, and its acquisition and accumulation, will be an exercise in futility, which seems counter-intuitive now. You can’t eat money, which is certainly true with Canada’s plastic-based bills, which itself feeds the fossil-fuel economy. The beginning of the end might start in 2030, it might start in 2040, or it might start later. It is only a matter of time. Given the age of the Earth, a few decades is not much time in the grand scheme of things.

Yet, there is a kind of necessity to denying the evidence; and I can understand its appeal, which includes not making any changes to one’s way of life and not worrying about any dreadful consequences. I get it; there is already so much to worry about. Everyday stuff like paying the bills, which always pile up. Why add to the pile? Why make unnecessary changes, when we have been through so many disruptive changes? Yet, as much as I understand this, much of it, I also think that such an approach is neither prudent nor wise. Sure, it is appealing and beguiling.

After all, this is one of those arguments that if we avoid the catastrophe ahead that deniers will say, “you see; it was all a hoax and we were right all along.” Yet, if the events transpire as believers say they will, which includes the great majority of the world's scientists, well, it won't really matter, because we won't be around to say that we were right all along. Or if somehow some of us manage to survive, it will not really be much of a victory.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Life After the Bombing of Hiroshima

Second World War


Hiroshima Ruins (October 1945), two months after an atomic bomb was dropped on it. This is a view from the top of the Red Cross Hospital looking northwest. Most of the land is bleak and desolate, and yet some wooden houses are still standing, as well as some infrastructure and trees, a reminder of the life that existed before. 
Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons


It was on August 6th, 1945, early in the morning around 8:15 a.m. when the U.S. dropped the world’s first atomic bomb—the first nuclear weapon—on Japan, a country which it was at war. The residents of Hiroshima were its first victims. An estimated 150,000 died or were wounded as a result; this is a conservative estimate; other atomic scientists say it might be as high as 240,000 dead and wounded.

The U.S. would drop another atomic bomb on Nagasaki three days later, with another estimated 75,000 deaths or wounded; or as high as 149,00 dead and wounded. Accurate numbers are not possible to ascertain, but these give a good idea of the results of atomic warfare. These are the only two cases when atomic weapons were used, and I can confidently say that all sane humans hope it is also the last.

The first was Hiroshima, a name that will always be synonymous with the first atomic bomb and what it did to a nation and its people. The stories have been written down and published, as they ought to be. Not to be forgotten. Not to be minimized. Not to be misunderstood.

Towards that effort, there is a fine piece of reportage by John Hersey [1914–1993], published in The New Yorker on August 31, 1946, a year after. It looks at the lives of six survivors. It looks at the human cost of war, which bears repeating. The article was then turned into a slim 160-page book of 31,000 words. If any book will change your mind about war, it is Hiroshima  (1946).

Get your hands on it and read it. You will not be the same person. You will be a better person for it, I think. Or at the very least I presume to hope, because this (knowing and understanding our shared humanity) seems the better way, the way of sustaining and nourishing life for all on the planet that we all humans share. War is the antithesis of life; one day of war is one day too much.