Thursday, March 27, 2008

Global warming - a moot point?

Okay, here's my rant of the moment. As a card-carrying member of the left-leaning environmental movement, I believe in global warming. I believe that it is happening. I believe that it will have a profound effect on the way of life of many, if not most, people around the globe. These will often be difficult, if not disastrous, changes. I believe that the practices of human beings over the last couple of hundred years have contributed to global warming. I also believe that the Earth has climate cycles of its own as well, and we are probably in one of those, and so I think global warming has many factors and variables which will be completely impossible to fully parse. I believe that trying to figure out who's to blame, us or the planet, is probably a pointless exercise.

Most likely, whoever's to blame, we are well into the cycle and would spend our time much better trying to figure out what actually is going to happen and how we can best deal with it. You may wonder if this means that I don't care about reducing our carbon emissions. In answer, I think reducing our carbon emissions and our use of oil is probably the most important thing we need to do right now. I just think that global warming is not the most important reason. Our planet is starting to run out of oil, and we need to start using less of it because eventually we will need to learn how to get by without using it at all. It would be well worth our while to try and figure this out now while we still have oil to fall back upon, than to consume the rest of it in great big gulps over the next few decades and then go cold turkey. Barring a miraculous technological development, that would mean catastrophe. And if we cut back now, the oil will be there for us longer.

Counting on a new energy technology coming through in the clutch is very risky, and I personally don't think it's going to happen, at least not on any level that will replace the type of growth our civilization has been capable of the last century because of our exploitation of cheap, abundant oil. I think that within five years we'll be paying three times as much as we are right now for oil. Than in itself would mean huge shock waves for every economy on Earth. And almost all of our potential other energy sources depend heavily on oil for their entire infrastructure, development and construction. We use fertilizers and pesticides derived from petroleum products in order to grow corn for bio-fuels.

We need to use less oil, to learn how to do things without it. This will mean a lowering of our standards of living as we currently understand them. But if we consciously choose to take these things upon us, thoughtfully and with good intentions, we may find silver linings here and there. I'm in the lucky position of living only three miles from where I work. However, until recently I have rarely walked or biked, choosing instead to drive, which takes less than fifteen minutes. But a month ago I started walking regularly. It takes me fifty minutes unless I really hustle. I listen to music or birdwatch or just think about things, and I get a decent piece of exercise. Sometimes I walk part of the way with friends I work with who don't own cars and have enjoyable conversations with them. I feel good when I get home and sleep better in the evening. Biking only takes about five minutes longer than driving, and is also good exercise.

I'm no saint, and I don't expect to walk every day, maybe not most days. But two or three days a week is something, and all in all, more enjoyable than being in my car. I'm glad I live somewhere that this is possible.

Okay, I'll stop now. I apologize for getting up on the soapbox and preaching, but I really think this is something we're all going to have to deal with, sooner than we think. Hopefully not sooner than I think, because I think it's coming soon.

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