When I first saw Al Gore’s documentary, “An inconvenient truth”, it resonated with me. In spite of the title, which felt pretty tame/lame, the message was dire.
Of course it probably could have made more of an impact if someone else – let’s face it, almost anyone else – had been presenting the information. Samuel Jackson comes to mind…”the mfin’ planet is in a mfin’ death spiral” !!
But the content, the science, the reality of the crisis certainly hit home. Not just for me, obviously, but millions of people.
I have a pretty mathematical mind. What struck me was the exponential element to what is happening. I remember as a kid reading a Scrooge McDuck comic which illustrated the concept beautifully. As I recall, it revolved around Donald’s nephews agreeing to work for their (Scumsucking Corporate Asshole Greedhead) uncle for a penny…if he would agree to double their salary every day. Without realizing the exponential forces at work, he agreed – 1 cent becomes 2, 2 becomes 4, 4 becomes 8…it takes 8 days to get up over $1. but 4 days later it is over $20. 3 days later it is over $100. You get the picture. On a graph it looks kind of like a hockey stick.
This was the image that caught my attention in An Inconvenient Truth. The concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere – and similarly global temperatures are not just gradually, linearly rising. They are rising exponentially. In fact, looking at almost every graphic representation of key climactic markers – from ocean warming to loss of sea ice to rate of glacier melt and species extinction – you will see this characteristic exponentiality.
I’m sure that the scientists like James Hansen – who had been warning about this for decades – were thrilled that at last their message was out there in the headlines. Now for sure the whole world would wake up and start dealing with the most critical issue of our time.
Of course, officially, governments had been responding to scientists’ concerns for years. The Kyoto Protocol was signed on to by virtually every country in the world in 1997 (after a convoluted process started more than 5 years earlier) and went into effect a mere 8 years later – the year before Gore’s doc. It must be pointed out that the US never ratified it and Canada backed out in 2012, but technically it is in its second phase and still in effect.
See, this is the problem. The science is as clear as it can be, the politicians show concern – even if it unfolds in slow motion – the world wakes up when they see it on a big screen (there are even worldwide protests coordinated around the world), and yet more pipelines are still being built, tar sands still pumping out the sludge and the idiot in chief of the US wants to bring back coal, erase the EPA and withdraw from the Paris Accord.
We as global citizens are ultimately to blame for this. Sure, Exxon and their SCAG friends have done their best to delay and obfuscate and deny – fostering doubts and deceit – but we are the ones complacently going along for the ride. We haven’t held governments and corporations accountable and we have bought in to or ignored the global neoliberalism that insists on growth of economies at the expense of the environment.
Media has its share of the blame – not surprising when most is owned by the very same SCAG usual suspects. Still, this should be biggest story on the planet – front page every day. If the devastation forecast by experts, scientists – even the pentagon – were attributed to an approaching asteroid you can bet there would be universal cooperation to attempt to avoid or minimize the damage and there would be a countdown clock every night on the evening news.
As part of the largest single mass march for climate awareness , demanding action to deal with this threat, it was frustrating to see it flash like a blip on the news and then on to something fresh like it was coverage of a kennel show!
It was about that time that I realized (like I said I am inherently optimistic) that we can not expect anything to change. Not the SCAG, not the media, not the politicians. Not even most of our fellow citizens.
And that exponential degradation has now passed the point where – even if all the above actors were to suddenly have an epiphany and actually DO something about this accelerating catastrophe I now believe it to be too late.
If you are interested in why I believe this and what the implications are stay tuned.