RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

writing for godot

Climate Change, Fishin', Anxiety

Written by Edward Boudreau   
Wednesday, 27 February 2013 21:08

Well, now. There’s facts and then there’s facts. There’s the IPCC facts based on optimistic science. And there’s facts as we know them. Empirical facts. Angst lurks on each horn of this dilemma.

For instance: I have never hooked a really big fish on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My mother’s side of the family has a fishin’ and huntin’ cabin in Watersmeet, on Lindsley Lake adjacent to Fishhawk Lake. Thems is prime walleye, pike, and muskie waters. Or so I’ve been told over too many years fishing there. (That’s muskellunge, or esox masquinongy, for you college bouys an’ gulls.) For any and all ailments, folks on the UP have one remedy: fresh walleye (stizostedion vitreum). If you do not use those words at least five times per day, then you’re an outsider. These doughty people call themselves U-PERS -- you-pers -- to distinguish themselves from “city folk.” Alas, my Mom’s side of the family calls me ‘city boy’, a source of real stress.

Turns out that my Mom’s family has fished and hunted the Watersmeet area for some 80 years. In a photo dating back to the early 1930’s, I saw what may have been the last moose shot in that part of the UP in my grandfather’s canoe. (A moose carcass in a canoe! Amateur: he should have used the bateaux.) We don’t have moose now. But no matter: We still have many deer, otter, eagles, fish hawks (osprey; pandion haliaetus), as well as fox, ducks, geese and my beloved loons, plus wolves and coyotes and bobcats are making a comeback. I saw one bobcat (lynx rufus) 17 years ago. There have even been reports of cougar sightings. Sadly, the state trapped out all the bears due to too many human-bear encounters. We used to feed the bears. I remember rolling up my windows when a big black bear came to inspect my car, the ice cream I dropped for him just a few feet off the driver-side door. He put his paws on the roof, looked in at me, snuffed about. My Mom remembers bear visiting the screen door of the cabin during breakfast when she was a child.

But I digress. The issue is climate change. I used to believe in it.

Glaciers in retreat around the world. Arctic ice fast disappearing. Antarctic ice shelves falling into the sea, or melting from below due to warmer ocean waters. The snows of Kilimanjaro are fast weathering away due to heat. Ozone holes each year. Increasing levels of pollutants, and – the canary in the mine for Earth – rising sea levels. Dead zones in the seas larger than some American states. Carbon dioxide, at 396+ parts per million, is at the highest level in 800,000 years (NOAA) or two million years (National Geographic) or 16 million years (UCLA). And methane – 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – is now at 1799 parts per billion in the atmosphere, two-and-one-half times its levels prior to the Industrial Revolution. Greenland ice melt, at 200 gigatons of fresh water per year, is already changing ocean currents in the Atlantic, thus threatening coastal cities in the U.S. from Norfolk to Boston with inundation. Check the Web for actual film footage or simulations based on real-time monitoring of the ozone holes over the Arctic and Antarctic, and how they wax and wane, as well as real-time Arctic ice loss. Scary, scary stuff. It stressed me out to soul-crushing darkness incarnate. That and napalmed babies.

No matter! The captains of industry, finance, and politics will come to our rescue through the efficacious, always efficient markets -- especially, the bond market. Just look at how effectively they’ve addressed climate change. As with the UP bear problem, when Mother Nature is inconvenient, just trap her out. Problem solved.

I’ve read the science of global warming for over 20 years, ever since an epiphany or insight or intuition stuck me on the road to Jerusalem as I drove there to visit friends in 1989 after a swim off the beaches of Herzillya. I was soaked with seawater from the Mediterranean. It was a Saul to Paul conversion experience: time, saltwater, rock, hemoglobin, blood, sunlight, thus all life -- including human life -- emerged from the chemical soup on this, our one and only planet. So I began reading voluminously, perhaps a bit desperately. For decades I was high on eukaryotes, prokaryotes, the carbon cycle, rock weathering, the increasing amount of poison we emit into the atmosphere and seas each year. I learned about the role of pelagic dimethyl sulfide in cloud formation at the equator, thus in global precipitation. Ilya Prigogine, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 1977, became my mortal then posthumous god. He demonstrated that, once the symmetries of complex “dissipative” systems in dynamic equilibrium are fractured, the systems will collapse, with unpredictable results. Earth is one such system. Jees – that’s stress! That’s anxiety beyond science deniers’ minds or imaginations.

No problem. The business and political elites will solve the issue once they stop talking about it, debating it, denying it. For instance, when the coming environmental meltdowns wake even the science deniers from their religious or ideological or economic stupors. Perhaps in 20-30 years. That’s nothing in terms of geologic time. By then, Mother Nature will be in open revolt against her heedless human progeny, who just will not stop fouling their nest. Mother Nature is far smarter, more powerful, nimbler than are we, her puny offspring. And she always wins her wars. Like bears wandering back to Watersmeet. Like death.

Progress in mitigating rising temperatures and sea level currently is held back by the U.S. government, other developed or developing nations, as well as by vested interests that contribute to election funds. Such as captains of business or industry who are just fine with the negative externalities, the pollution, their companies produce. They are, of course, fiddling as Rome burns. Their grandchildren will curse them as deserts expand, temperatures rise, seawater or storms or deserts overwhelm cities and cropland.

No matter! I read the science of global warming, of climate change. It’s here. We can see it. I also know that I’ve never caught a really large pike, muskie, or walleye in Watersmeet. Sure, sure: I’ve seen the trophies on the walls at my mother’s cabin, at the famous resort called Bent’s Camp her uncle established in 1896, at the local bars, the gun and bait shops. The photos in local papers of young kids who caught fish bigger than they were once drove me wild, drove me mad. Major stress there.

So I simply stopped believing in climate change, global warming. It’s a gift, really, this willful suspension of belief. I learned it from braindeaders in the U.S. government – James Inhofe, Barack Obama – who deny or ignore the science, the urgency. After decades catching only small fry to 23 inches, I’ve still not caught a really big Watersmeet fish -- despite all evidence to the contrary that they do, in fact, exist. Stress max.

Heck, I vividly recall the evening I hauled my boat ashore after a long day of fishing. My brother tapped me on the arm, said, “Look!” I followed his finger to see a bald eagle flying low over the water from Fishhawk into Lindsley Lake, a huge fish in its talons. I watched through binoculars as it struggled to gain air. We actually heard the thunder of it wings as it flew to a perch in a tree, where that bird at my fish. Talk about anxiety.

But today I believe that was staged, a conspiracy of local fishing guides, maybe the government, too. Just as I believed, when I was a child, the sun came up each morning just for me. As a child, I believed priests and poets, believed politicians, believed people are inherently good, believed rock stars are cool -- and that I would catch monster Watersmeet fish. From I Corinthians 13: When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

QED: Climate change and global warming are childish things, fantasies like huge Watersmeet fish. I simply put them away, deny and ignore them. Now I must have complete faith in markets, politicians, business folk to solve the problem. They’ve done such an excellent job to date. I feel so much better. No anxiety at all.

word count: 1,413

Ned Boudreau is a native of Skaneateles in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York State. He currently lives in Shanghai, China, where he teaches teaches economics, English, philosophy, and dreams of four seasons, of deep snow come winter.
by Ned Boudreau your social media marketing partner
Email This Page


THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.