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2007 12 13
Global Warning

Almost none believed Noah back in biblical times. Nor does everyone today believe we face the end of the natural world as we’ve known it. Globe and Mail reader Patrick Rioux, for instance, believes he knows better:
The sooner some western government stops kneeling to the environmentalist thugs, the better. With a backbone and a reason-based case, the whole green swindle would be exposed and derailed.
When challenged by Paul Thompson –- “I'll probably regret asking this Mr. Rioux, but please enlighten us as to the nature of this 'green swindle'” -– Rioux replied:
Paul: The nature of the green swindle is to attribute all and any natural events (selectively chosen) to human causes, and use that as justification to regulate any (selectively chosen) human activity. The thinning Arctic ice, for example is breathlessly reported, while the thickening Antarctic ice passes without mention. Thinning Arctic ice=rising temperatures=more CO2=human activity; therefore expand state powers and use legislative gun to corral evil humans towards environmentally correct behaviour, and stifle any who dare disagree.
What? Antarctic ice thickening? West Antarctic ice thickening? East Antarctica puts on weight? Snowballs ringing hell’s bell. What’ll it be next? How polar bears are thriving?

No doubt there’s plenty green swindling going on. But. However. Despite all the swindling, low character humans of every colouration –- including “green” –- we nevertheless do face the end of the natural world as we’ve known it. We really do.

What makes me so sure? How do I, personally, know this? Near indisputably, as a matter of fact. By rather painful physical evidence.

Used to go month-long canoe tripping some 30 years back. Always got seriously sunburned first few days out. And words fail describing how it felt when mosquitoes stuck their itty-bitty bitey faces in my sunburn. The unrelievably screaming itchy heat of it.

Went canoeing for three days two decades later. Maybe 10 years ago. Didn’t get the sunburn I’d expected and felt entitled to. Entitled to by virtue having been legitimately evolved here. Right here on Earth. Nope. What I got was these suppurating blisters. These oozing blisters which, on bursting, leaked an orange-juicy liquid mixture halfway between interstitial fluid and blood.

It was like having membership among the naturally evolved revoked. Like turning Morlock absent any time machine. Like getting cast among un-dead creatures cowering from natural sunlight in some cheap horror flick. Even the mosquitoes thought so. Rejected having anything to do with what was leaking from me. Avoided all spots I’d cracked open like the pustulent plague.

Those 20 years intervening to de-nature bare flesh do not, by any stretching conceivable, qualify as evolutionary time. So don’t go trying and telling me, Mr. Rioux, that human intervention hasn’t been causing the end of the natural world as we’ve known it. Don’t even try. You know better. Everyone been around 20 years knows better. How even sunlight isn't what it used to be.

That’s why, when an acquaintance urged me to sign onto an emergency petition trying to save the crucial climate change talks in Bali by telling the US, Canada and Japan to stop blocking the agreement, I replied:
I'll do better than that and write a quick article on it this morning. Including the link. Thanks for spamming me about (just) this :-)
Thought I’d better find out some little bits before getting down to writing this article, though. Which is why I didn’t manage writing -– as promised -– yesterday. Got confused to distraction by commentary at the Globe’s headlining how “Rich, poor countries at odds over Bali climate deal”.

Never mind “green swindling”. That herring’s green and red all over. It was other comments fully halting my tracks.

For one instance, Matt Mann wrote:
… The Government of Canada has it right! For the sake of our children we do not sign a road map that takes us 45 years down the road without 3 of the biggest polluters having agreed to any binding targets…
For another, Mike McFae wrote,
… [I]t makes no sense to piss on a forest fire by espousing that little countries like Canada ( forget that per capita scam ) sacrifice our workers and industry and let the real polluters off the hook. I've been in Chinese cities for weeks on end without being able to see the sun despite the fact there were no clouds in the sky. That's the real world and it has to be dealt with…
And David Gibson wrote:
… [W]e are peeing into the wind as long as we accept that the big dogs can do what they want without control. It is arguable, perhaps, that there should be DIFFERENT limits for developing countries for a while, but to have fixed limits for us and not for them, it won't happen and won't work. BTW, Chinese pollution clouds the size of BC are frequently detected and tested by scientists in North America. Canada's position is lose/lose: either agree to hobble ourselves competitively against our main trading partner and give the half-dozen biggest polluters a get-out-of-jail-free card, or be an international villain by holding out for those big dogs to agree to play ball. IMO, if the big dogs don't play, it won't matter WHAT we do. IMO, the domestic 'environmentalists' people who are calling for Canada to sign, are socialists first, environmentalists second. The planet can't tell Chinese smog from Rochester smog.
So. As with Noah and that ridiculous ark of his. The heat may be on. The sky may be falling. The oceans may come flooding. Regardless. Us humans will keep disputing “targets” and clashing cultures like there’s no tomorrow. Exactly like there’s no tomorrow.

Must repeat. Nothing remotely “green” gets inspired by our petty politics. There shall be no rescue by governments. No rescue by regulation, legislation or completely inadequate accords like from Kyoto or Bali. Regardless how warped, our governments can reflect nothing but our selves –- our terminally sightless convenient self-involvements. We’ll get nothing better from governance than we deserve. Nor can we expect corporate bailouts. Corporations can do nothing economic but cater our consumptions. Nothing but supply our demand for more stuffing. It is by our internal and eternal bickering that many of us starve while the whole earth is made waste. It is by our internal and eternal self-involved bickering we are each, every and single one of us implicated. By our hysterical, stuffing-induced collective seizure. That’s why there can be no hope for greener pastures which does not arise from personal and cultural grass-roots. From first and foremost principles.

It is not as if, but for greenhouse gases or nuclear catastrophe, everything would be all right. It’s not like that at all. We don’t need greenhouse gases. We don’t require nuclear catastrophe. We don’t depend on all our mercurial contaminants to utterly waste the natural. We’ve been overkilling and extincting in spectacular style ever since swinging that damned club of Moon-Watcher’s. Nuclear catastrophe? All we need is sticks and stones. Literally. Where are the Sabretooth Cats? The American lions? The Short-faced bears, standing near twice tall as Grizzlies? Where are the tremendous Longhorned bison and the Mastodon those fabulous carnivores hunted? Where the magnificent vegetation which this continent’s tremendous herbivores browsed?

Where indeed. Absolutely nowhere. Extinct. We require no nuclear catastrophes. We did just great genociding with sticks and stones ten thousand years back. What’s absurd is how now “nature lovers” discover Chernobyl. How, after the worst nuclear catastrophe, nature came back to blooming life. Not because the catastrophe failed devastating. Just because the catastrophe proved sufficiently devastating to frighten away most human intrusion. Just because absenting ordinary humanity everyday for a couple decades restored the natural like nothing else ever could. That’s how implicated each, every and single one of us are.

This is not, by any means, to say we ought internationally give up on targets and protocols. By no means. But far more important than committing to targets is for governments and corporations to commit to actions -- and to take the actions committed to. And most important by far is this: we absolutely must stop waiting on governments and corporations. We must each of us commit and begin to act right now. For only when we cease voting and demanding ever greater spoilage will governments and corporations commit accordingly.

We can’t rely on following leadership games any more. Time’s come for personal commitment. For us each, personally, to re-start negotiating with the natural. Everywhere the natural so eagerly greets us half-way. Especially in our cities. For only by doing so can we get some better sense not just how and what in the natural world we devastate –- but how and where in the natural world we may better stand. Only by doing so, by personally blazing the precedence, will our political and corporate worlds follow. We must prove ourselves and to the world that humans are people too. Each of us. Personally. Time’s come for personal commitment -– to do or die.

[Peter Fruchter teaches in the Division of Humanities at York University.]

[Polar bear image by Alex Quistberg and used via Creative Commons license.]
[email this story] Posted by Peter Fruchter on 12/13 at 04:13 PM

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