Calhoun’s Cannons, The Bay News, Tolosa Press, SLO, CA for May 22, 08
Three Five Oh
If it were three six oh, it would be a complete circle. The last would be first, the first last, Alpha and Omega, the end as beginning, the beginning coming to an end.
The 350 in question is 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That’s the number that NASA’s chief climatologist, James Hansen, believes is the maximum amount of CO2 in the atmosphere “if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted. . .” Three five oh and we have a chance to continue living in a familiar world. More than that and the world itself takes over and finishes the job. Permanently.
The amount of CO2 is now 385ppm and rapidly climbing.
As Bill McKibben notes in his May 11 Los Angeles Times Opinion Piece, “We’re the ones who kicked the warming off; now the planet is starting to take over the job. Melt all that Artic ice, for instance, and suddenly the ice white shield that reflected 80% of the incoming solar radiation back into space has turned to blue water that absorbs 80% of the sun’s heat.” Add to that a warming permafrost giving up massive quantities of methane, vast swaths of dying forest decomposing and releasing even more carbon dioxide, warming seas unable to absorb any CO2, and you begin an unstoppable cascade that slides out of human control and into the end-game: A planet not suited for “civilization.”
Concludes, McKibben, “And we have, at best, a few years to short-circuit [this] – to reverse course. . . . If we did everything right . . . we could see carbon emissions start to fall fairly rapidly . . . Before the century was out, we might even be on track back to 350. We might stop just short of some of those tipping points, like the Road Runner screeching to a halt at the very edge of the cliff.”
Adds “scientist and economist Rajendra Pachauri, who accepted the Nobel Prize on behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, . . . ‘If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.’”
And as such, surely it is past time for a national/international Alternative Energy Manhattan Project. If Victory Gardens sprouted in backyards all over the country during World War II, why can’t Victory Solar Panels sprout on rooftops throughout the America? Rescind all the subsidies and hidden supports for carbon-burning energy, let the market determine their “real” price and see how quickly cheaper alternative forms appear. Right now, America lags behind so many other countries, which is a disgrace given our ingenuity and resources.
But here’s what our President is doing: Nothing. And here’s what our Congress, in thrall to oil and coal is doing: Next to nothing. And here’s what our military/industrial/corporate/legislative complex is doing: Nothing but Business as Usual, since Profit Now trumps no future at all. And here’s what the American people are doing: Watching “American Idol.” And here’s what some of our Presidential candidates are doing: Pandering for a summer gas tax “holiday,” thereby encouraging people to drive more, burn more gasoline, and put more carbon in the atmosphere, thereby worsening the deadly process.
And what of our eagle-eyed public watchdogs in the Corporate Media? Are they hot on the trail of the biggest story the world has ever seen – the end of civilization as we know it, the destruction of the planet as we know it, a Brave Terrible New World dangerously teetering into being, a world just a few years away from tumbling into an unstoppable ecological Armageddon? Nope. Here’s the important breaking news story of our time: Which Presidential candidate isn’t wearing a little flag lapel pin?
As a sign of national insanity, it doesn’t get clearer than that. Or sadder.
Three Five Oh. Two Oh Twelve. Two Oh Fifteen. While there are many solutions, there are only two clear choices: Act now to reverse direction, or deny, delay and dither. One gives us a future; the other ends it. Perfect circle. Three six oh.