Thursday, 10 December 2009

Climate change and the implication of beliefs in determining the future

"The unknown is what it is. And to be frightened of it is what sends everybody scurrying around chasing dreams, illusions, wars, peace, love, hate, all that. Unknown is what it is. Accept that it's unknown and it's plain sailing."

This quote, which appeared in the local paper, is attributed to John Lennon, and I must say I agree with him. The more I thought about it, the more I could see that it could be usefully applied in a number of directions: to events in the future as well as to much of what has occurred in the past; it could also be applied with equal validity to that hotly debated topic, The Truth. Fortunately such matters are not determined either by fortune tellers or public opinion, they are what they are: microbes existed before the microscope, the Earth was round before it was found to be so, life either exists on other planets - or it doesn't.

This is not to say that we can't usefully develop or hold opinions or varying points of view, but these are separate from the subjects of our conjecture.

Climate change is occurring whether we like it or not and whether we believe it or not. Those who don't believe it don't want to. They want to continue to live to, or aspire to live to, the same standard of living as is already touted as materially desirable. Unfortunately this just isn't possible. As a species we've been living well beyond our means for a considerable period of time, and with the continuing expansion of humankind on the planet this has simply got to stop. Either we do it voluntarily or we self destruct and take out innumerable other species with us.

All this came to mind last evening when the television newsreader announced that the majority of Americans don't believe climate change is happening. Are you kidding? These people clearly don't live on any of the low lying islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans which even now are beginning to succumb to rising ocean levels. This encroachment is not random or reversible, and these islands are not just resorts which people visit for holidays; they are the ancestral homes of racial groups, each with their own language and culture, who know nothing else. Those who are in a position to plan are preparing for the necessary exodus of these people before their islands are submerged. This is not a distant future - it's soon. These people will not be the only ones affected, but their plight is very obvious and the rest of us need to take heed. Ultimately, we're all in the same canoe.

Here is where beliefs do influence reality and make forecasting not only possible but helpful, and the unknown becomes a little less so. If we can see that a continuing course of action, such as environmental abuse, is going to endanger our existence and we alter our lifestyles and expectations accordingly, we may avert the severity of climate disaster, whereas if we continue to ignore these very obvious signals, we know that we and our descendants will certainly suffer severe damage to the only home we have - the planet we live on. Wake up, people: be prepared to be happy with less.

With this in mind here is my own adaptation of John Lennon's statement:
"The unknown is what it is. Do not be afraid. Rather, reflect on what you do know and hold dear, and honour it accordingly. In this way, what you know will guide you as you navigate what is as yet unknown and then it's plain sailing."
I wish you all good fortune. And encourage you to do what you can to make your own...

USEFUL LINKS FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Global warming explained - two articles from the BBC website:

Some areas already seriously affected:
Kiribati islands - rising tides - drowning from the inside - YouTube clip from Discovery channel

Indian Delta - Sunderaban - islands disappearing - YouTube clip from documentary
This delta covers roughly 25% of India's territory, refer:



President Nasheed of the Maldives addresses the Climate Vulnerable Forum

Maldives - Vice president speaks to David Frost on "Frost over the World" - YouTube clip

Rising Waters - documentary website - not a well designed website unfortunately.
Here is information about the same documentary - from the films agent or producer, Bullfrog films.

European efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions:
Samso Island, Denmark - YouTube link from Australian documentary

Seeing this interview restored a little of my faith in the attitude of Americans. 
Robert Kennedy Jnr, talks to John Campbell about climate change and the state of the news media in the USA.  He says Americans need to watch the BBC news to find out what's going on in the world.  I would add SBS of Australia and Aljazeera both of which provide much more comprehensive and informative news coverage than we get here in New Zealand.

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