disaster in flavor country
This is your face on global warming. Any questions?
Democracy Now's tireless host Amy Goodman featured a longish interview with the equally intrepid Andrew Revkin of the New York Times yesterday morning following the big news that the Supreme Court had ruled the EPA may in fact regulate emissions of greenhouse gases.
Towards the end of the convo, Amy asked Revkin - one of the most influential voices on the issue - if the tsunami that recently struck the Solomon Islands was at all related to global warming. Revkin answered correctly that this wasn't the case:
Not to global warming at all, although it is related to -- again, the harsh reality is poor people are more vulnerable to extremes, coastal or climatic, than rich people.
Now, it's entirely possible Amy asked the question as a kind of prompt, laying it out there so Revkin could set the record straight, as it were. But this wasn't the first time I've heard Amy put storm activity and global warming into the same frame (sorry, no links - you'll just have to trust me on this. Mostly, it's been in the headlines at the beginning of the show, if that's any help). Indeed, Al Gore's faced similar criticisms, something Revkin mentioned in the course of the interview as well:
I’ve written about the film a few times and about this effort by Al Gore and others to really, you know, get under people's skin and propel them and, to some extent, scare them into action. Frankly, in some stories that I’ve done, I talk to a lot of people who question that tactic as being the thing that will do the magic trick of making our country change its habits related to fossil fuels and look with a longer term at how we weigh risks.
There’s some danger in trying to portray this huge slowly developing planetary-scale problem as a planetary emergency, that people will tune out if nature, in all of its wonderful variability, sort of throws a few cold years at us, which is entirely possible. In fact, it’s impossible for that not to happen. Nature doesn’t work in smooth ways.
This is the problem with global warming - it's a "slow creep" catastrophe: the temperature spikes, melting glaciers, and altered seasons we see now are the result of emissions 50 years old. The planet is a big system, more complicated than we can imagine, and even now, it takes a while for our impact to be felt through all those layers of complexity. Lax efforts on the part of the Bush Administration now will mean shitty results decades down the line. So, it got me thinking, even Amy Goodman - a hyper-smart journo - still isn't quite getting it.
I'm beginning to think more and more the planet-as-body-frame (see my posts here and here on that) would work best:
"The earth is like your body, and global warming is like cancer in that body. That cough? That weird shit you spit up in the morning? That awful wheeze you get after climbing a flight of stairs? Like Category 5 storms or massive tsunamis, you can't point to those things and say, yes, that's cancer. You have cancer. But they do show you're on your way, they indicate that something's wrong.
Cancer doesn't happen after that first cigarette, or right after millionth. There is no limit you hit. But if you continue to smoke, and you will get cancer. The same goes for greenhouse gas emissions - continue to pollute, and the planet will get deathly ill."
A lot of commentators and editorialists and other professional assholes are also now at denial stage 1c - "I believe in global warming, but I can't believe that we cause it blah blah blah." I think the planet-as-body frame also makes space for that conversation to happen as well:
"We know with some degree of accuracy what happens to your body when tobacco and other chemicals in cigarettes break down in your body. Well, the same thing happens with greenhouse gases and the way they break down in the atmosphere - there are physical reactions that occur in both cases, and even if it takes a long time to see them, they still happen."
It works for Wilson in his book, The Creation. What do you think?