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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Heat Wave

Anyone who has dropped a teaspoon into a cup of hot liquid knows that heat tends to run away, through the path of least resistance. My mother will occasionally put three or four spoons into a cup, just to cool it more quickly. Take the spoons and heat them to red-hot and then dip them in the same tea and rather than cooling it, they will in fact impart some of their heat into the tea. Hot invades, and dissipates to cold whenever it has the chance and cannot be stopped without serious insulation, it usually does so fairly quickly. Without the Sun to warm us, the earth would turn to a cold icy stone in a matter of days. The life that has sprung up over millennea has acted as a great storage battery, shielding us from the Sun, fixing some of the energy that flows from it into more inert and harmless forms. The fossil fuels have taken many hundreds of thousands of years to harness the excess warmth from our star, integrating it into the crust of the earth and sequestering it in harmless forms that have remained in storage since before the dawn of humankind.

Virtually all life depends on the cyclical nature of the sunrises and sunsets. The relative heat of the day is alternately offset by the cooler dark hours during which many organisms rest, recoup and prepare for the next flood of photons, heat and radiation brought to us courtesy of el Sol.We have a serious problem now that we have tipped the balance of nature so far off center. Feedback loops have been refashioned, local conditions have been perturbed to such an extent and "normal" has been pushed so far as to be considered by many to be "new". We now have billions of BTUs being expended just to keep the lights on in most major cities. All night long, we waste energy, heating up the night so that when the Sun comes over the horizon, it is already as warm as it would normally get by ten in the morning. This is akin to putting a hot spoon in your tea and hoping for it to cool your drink. We often get whole cities to turn on the air conditioning in preparation for tomorrow's hot weather or to turn the furnace on just because the weatherman says that tomorrow will be the coldest night of the year so far. The air conditioners must be fed electrons and the way we most often try to do that is through coal burning. Many billions of BTUs are expended just to keep our cool, adding another hot spoon to the collective tea which we will eventually have to drink.

We drive to cooling centers with the car's AC on and burn even more kilocalories. Tonight there will be hundreds of thousands of BTUs shot up into the air. Spectacular as it will be, this mindless war glorification will put even more heat and fire into the air. Hundreds of thousands of folks will ooh and ahh at the explosions yet most will also be sweltering under the hottest night skies of the summer. We humans have it easier than most of the creatures that we share the planet with. We can insulate our homes, add an air conditioner, pay higher energy bills, or hop in the car and drive to the lake, a waterpark, ice cream store or the local mall and enjoy the cool fruits of our technology. The birds and bees are not so lucky. This summer I have seen countless birds panting like dogs. I have seen dozens of rabbits disoriented by the heat and drought. I have watched peas and beans as well as other normally hardy plants shrivel in the face of the extended hot periods, given little if any relief from the heat after the Sun goes down. I have carried water to trees, to plants, to other organisms, but even with the extra care and effort, it feels like I am losing the battle. I had reason to turn over soil for both the garden and for tree planting in the last few weeks and found nothing but dry powder as far as two feet below the surface. The bit of rain from time to time cannot even penetrate past the first inch or two of soil. It is just too dry.

It has been hard to keep my spirits up the last few days. As far back as the Seventies, environmental activists have been telling us about the harmful aspects of "modern" life. I labeled all of my mother's aerosol cans with ecological warnings as far back as 1974. Even as far back as 1969 I saw the far reaching negative results of human interaction with the biosphere. How many ways do we have to say the same thing before we are heard? How long will we allow the monied interests to hide behind rhetoric designed to cover their asses while keeping us enslaved to old way thinking? Technocrats always promise that the next big step "forward" will yield a utopian society in which all of our needs will be met without the persnickety intrusion of having to work for a living. in fact, as we "develop" modern cities across the planet, it requires juggling more and more resources and in final analysis, we all seem to be working harder than ever just to keep our heads above water. The learning curve that we must master to find a path top sustainability requires un-learning many of the myths which have been shoved down our throats by the prevailing ruling classes. They have never been benevolent. They never wanted to serve anyone and they do not have our best interest in mind. We cannot continue to allow the richest and most powerful to believe that they are too big to fail. Collectively, we have to take time to re-think the context within which each lie is told. The lies of omission need to be pointed out at every opportunity and the truth, though scary must be told.

The generation gap that got so much attention in the Sixties and Seventies was created by the older generation expecting the young ones to accept the continued rape of the planet and the wanton destruction of both nature and human lives that allowed corporations to run off with the lion's share of the economic treasure while despoiling the planet that the youth would eventually inherit. Things have really never changed. The only difference is that the old hippies are now the elders. They have traded in their blue jeans and tie dyed shirts for business suits, 401Ks and the biggest posers have re-created themselves as investment bankers and corporate shills. The burning off of 26 square miles of forest in Colorado is tragic, but not unexpected. Continued drought and extreme weather have been proven facts, resulting from human caused climate change. asking the public to deny this truth is tantamount to treason. It is proving to be a longer and hotter Summer than we have ever experienced and I, for one, am pissed. quick, let's get all the world leaders to fly to a remote part of the planet and agree to disagree as to what we should do about the threat to humanity that is posed by the continued warming of the planet. better yet, let's not do a thing about it! Really, our leaders have let us down once too often. The only thing that would make less sense is to pray to God for an end to the vicious cycle.

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