Happy Earth Day! London has just ‘suffered’ its warmest April day for eighty years. Meanwhile, the pathways around my house are under several inches of ice pellets that fell in an ice-storm that was described as ‘historic’: a swathe of ice, snow and freezing rain that impacted half of continental North America last weekend. In Calgary residents were getting a month’s worth of snow in a day while runners in the London Marathon are facing a heat wave and the prospect of exhaustion. Their fellow runners in the Boston Marathon freeze in headwinds and ice. In another part of the world, one that is so dear to the hearts of my family and I, the town of Hanalei on the North Shore of Kauai was hit by rainstorm that brought ¾ of a meter of rain in 24 hours. The Hanalei river diverted through the town: roads, cars and even houses were washed away.
Weather events in isolation are not indicative of climate change, but when combined with the data that is emerging about how hot 2017 was, I have a feeling even the most sceptical sceptics must soon admit that correlation is equating to causation.
To add insult to injury, a few days after our (slightly) unseasonal last gasp of winter, news was announced that the Gulf Stream,/North Atlantic Drift or Atlantic Meridonial Overturning Circulation (choose your moniker!) has slowed down in keeping with climate change models. The prospect of such an outcome is not fully known but the modelling suggests colder winters in Europe, and, paradoxically warmer summers there too, but also increased desertification in North America and sea-level rises that will threaten East Coast cities and habitats.
Since the Gulf Stream is not an isolated phenomena, but is part of a global interconnected series of currents that make up the planetary wide water cycle, there is likely to be impact on El Niño and on the other currents, ocean streams and climates in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere too.
I currently live on a continent where the car is king. Where energy titans govern policy in both conservative Trumpland and, to its north, the Liberal Île de Trudeau. Pipelines are built, car fuel standards are reduced, plastics remain unbanned and the earth gets hotter. Even the campaigns to keep remaining fossil fuels in the ground have been lost amidst Stormy Daniels, and Mueller and North Korea and Putin et al. Given the mass extinction event we have engendered across the globe, in all habitats, it begs the question what will remain? A wasteland?
There was an interesting proposition being debated in The Atlantic this week that seems pertinent. Was the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which bears a great similarity to the models for human derived climate change, indicative of a previous industrial society on our planet? Other than the climate records, would any other evidence remain? The article's conclusion is that the PETM was natural in its occurrence, but, the speculation is fascinating. Given our species' ability to both deny that it is part of the natural world, considering itself above animals, while also suggesting that the fate of the world is intrinsically linked to humanity, which of course it is not. The Anthropocene is not the first mass-extinction event, nor is it likely to be the worst, that record will most likely still be held by the so-called Great Dying which led to the age of the Dinosaurs, as their deaths, sixty-five million years ago, led to our current Mammalian age.
Left to its own devices the Earth will crush and obliterate most evidence of humanity until all that is left is the trace of micro-plastic in the oceans and the mass of junk we’ve shot into space. These remnants, rather than some forgotten statue, will be our Ozymandias.
We need a rethink. We need, in the spirit of Hawai’i, to connect with the aloha, the planet’s qi; connect to Gaia herself. Remember our place, both literally and figuratively.
Support keeping the remaining fossil fuels in the ground. Support the victims of both natural and man-made disasters. Question the use of plastic. Support bans of straws and other single use plastic artifacts. Drive less, use public transit more.
Doing something will cost time, money and effort. Doing nothing, as the cliché says, will cost us the earth.