The Visible Invisible

“Whether you are breaking prairie sod in the nineteenth century or raising a family and scrambling to make ends meet in the twenty-first, it is hard to get worked up over abstract possibilities.  There is too much that needs doing, right here, right now.  Even knowing the odds, people still live in earthquake zones, hurricane alleys, and the unprotected floodplains of mighty rivers…Generally speaking, it is hard for any of us to get seriously concerned about what mighthappen until it doeshappen.  That’s why the politics of climate change are so difficult.  The measurements and observation that convince scientists about the warming of the Earth are invisible to the rest of us.” William deBuys, A Great Aridness

As I write this hurricane (or maybe a tropical storm) Barry is inundating Louisiana and the lower Mississippi delta with rain and wind.  It is too early to do the final dollar tally, but likely it will be in the billions.  Governors and Mayors cry to the federal government to declare a disaster which will no doubt be declared.  Just like the cry from California as a result of unprecedented fires, and from officials from the upper Midwest experiencing major floods.  Where will the money come from?  We’ll borrow it from China, increasing our national debt.  And Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling soon, or we won’t be able to borrow.  In the meantime, insurance rates will go up.

Survivors in Southern Louisiana say it’s time to stop studying the problem, just start building more levies. As if that would hold back the rising sea.  Who has the guts to say: “You’re doomed.  Get the hell out.  Go to higher ground.”?  Who has the guts to say to Miami, New York City and New Orleans that you are in a losing battle?  No one. Certainly not our Denier in Chief who says climate change is a hoax, and who is rolling back regulations on carbon emissions.

I read recently that if we radically change our agricultural practices to keep more carbon in the ground, and if we plant a quantum of new trees it would maybe suck up enough carbon that we wouldn’t have to worry about climate change.  Why am I skeptical?  Because, as deBuys says, the problem is invisible to the rest of us unless it hits our doorstep. And when it does, our reaction will be to blame the Army Corps of Engineers or chalk it up the will of God. I doubt we’ll look in the mirror. I doubt that we’ll make the invisible visible.




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