A Broken Relationship: No Other Place to Go

Stormy weather: it's not too late to reconcile
Stormy weather: it's not too late to reconcile

“We can’t go on like this.”

Seems we’re listening in on a failing relationship drawing to a close unless things change. It doesn’t sound good for the long term, does it?. A break-up seems imminent after this final warning. There will perhaps be one last chance for reconciliation and healing. Or else.

The conversation here is not between John and  Jane, but between Planet Earth and mankind. At this year’s Society of Environmental Journalist conference in Madison, WI, experts channeling the planet aired her warnings from a list of grievances that threaten the relationship between man and those systems that have sustained him until now, the matters in contention by the planet: drought and desertification; dead zones in her acidified oceans; loss of habitat and species extinction; deforestation, soil depletion, overfishing, and more bipedal consumavores than she’s ever had to support.

But the most immediate and vexing complaint between Earth and us is the exhaust of our civilization building in the air between us now for more than a century. It is a problem for which the blame is ours, and she is right. We must confront this issue of CO2 and climate disruption, not turn our eyes away, not stare at the floor and pretend we don’t know, not find other reasons besides us to explain the sick-building syndrome we’ve caused in our common space, the atmosphere.

Global warming is a “threat multiplier” that exacerbates many of the other soured relationships between us and the planet, increasing the risk of social chaos, failed food systems including the world’s oceans, and the threat of water, food and soil wars and massive out-migration across sovereign borders to find food, water and shelter.

We can’t go on like this.

But we can change, and if we will, we can go on. We know what we need to do to make things right, and we can start on this long list of grievances by making sure that our children’s grandchildren at least have no more unpredictable temperatures and rainfall and sea level conditions than we do in our times.

We can have harmony in our relationship, a homeostatic, give-and-take within limits–a cooperative, globally sustainable relationship–IF we don’t slam the door behind us at Copenhagen in December.

Address the hard issues of carbon in the atmosphere so that we can survive to focus on the many other problems at issue between us. We’re not going to kiss and make up on all that overnight, but we do need to resolve this one thing first.

Think 350 and our future together. If we don’t do this, and do it now, we might as well just pick up our things. And slide the key under the door.

For Blog Action Day 2009 #BAD09 Blog Action Day on Climate Change

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. But its much more than carbon, we have no way of measuring increased water vapor increased in the atmosphere, or comparing it to the past (from increased pavement, warmer temperatures, etc), and we are ignoring the huge amounts of methoane pouring into the atmosphere as the tundra melts. Just two of the other greenhouse gases that the media pays no attention to.

    Surely we must all get involved from personal behaviour changes to political pressure. Not too late, but we are getting there.


  2. I don’t think media is ignoring methane, but it is CO2 forcing methane release from permafrost, etc, not the other way around. There’s plenty of info out there on methane–especially from our meat creatures.

    Water of course is constant in absolute amount contained within the land, oceans or atmosphere, but not in distribution, and varies again as temps go up or down.

    That cities need revamping to reflect rather than absorb radiant energy is a certainty, and light roofs or “green” vegetated roofs will be the norm some day. And one does wonder where the climate tipping point is–behind us already, or ahead of us.

  3. My point is, and I have really studied this, is that we have really underestimated the impacts of methane that will be released from the artic tundra. It is much greater than anticipated. You are 100% correct that CO2 was the pushing force behind methane release from the arctic, but methane may become a very significant contributer to the overall equation.

    RE: methane produced by farm animals, the science being used is suspect. Given our continent was once roamed by scores of millions of buffalo (and other continents had their own large “biomass” of mammals) it may be a wash with current populations of farm animals. My opionion about this is that some groups are piling on the global warming issue. I don’t blame them I just find them distracting.