Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Climate Change--Now You See It, Now You Don't

Though our machines are pouring a steadily rising amount of greenhouse gases up into our very thin atmosphere--a 50% rise in overall concentration since the industrial revolution--the earth's response to that radical change can seem sporadic and quirky. There will be a day here and there that feels outside our concept of the normal: a rain that's unusually intense, or a winter day when the air feels strangely cooked and stale. But those days quickly give way to another stretch of quasi-normal, and so we continue with the lifestyle we view as normal, which invariably includes being served by machines that continue stuffing the atmosphere with still more greenhouse gases. We are aware of climate change as a problem, yet can still go for long stretches hoping or pretending it is not. 

The same plays out in a newspaper like the NY Times. Yesterday there was a dramatic contrast between the climate and business sections. In a business article, countries wishing to free themselves of Russian oil desperately look for other sources, with no hint that their economy's demand for oil is anything other than logical and normal. Car commercials embedded in the article lure you to buy bigger, more powerful vehicles that consume still more fuel.

Then, one click away, an article in the climate section of the paper describes areas of the world that are becoming uninhabitable due to overheating.

As the consequences of fossil fuel combustion become ever more profound and incontrovertible, the marketplace's glamorization of that fuel consumption becomes ever more incongruous and irresponsible. If the marketplace were a character, it would be a brilliant, bold but blind man-child, forever pushing the boundaries, doing whatever it can get away with, brilliant in its deliverance of material bounty, stubbornly oblivious to future consequence. Government is forced into the parental role because the marketplace by nature is blind to the future and will never grow up. 

This is a time when the business section of a newspaper, and to some extent even those of us who feel a deep sense of foreboding, can still huddle in pockets of normality and cling to what has always passed in our lifetimes for normal.

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