July 02, 2009

"We're Screwed"

I really shouldn’t talk to Bret. We see things so eye to eye, so we tend to reinforce each other’s delusions. Plus, we both have twisted and irreverent senses of humor so we tend to descend into harsh cultural criticism. No matter how we keep it mocking and light, we’re both aware that when we say “Yeah, we’re screwed,” we really do mean it. Cynicism wins out.

But it’s nice. It’s good to have that kind of positive reinforcement, to find someone out there who thinks the same things I do, things we wouldn’t even admit to most people. I recognize what I get out of these conversations though – an ego boost, a little high. We get on a roll and we can just keep going, mutually reinforcing each other.

Today we discussed architecture on campus and its dismal bastardized status. We decided we should start a company together which hires out as consultants to tell clients exactly what kind of bullshit their fancy architecture firm is trying to put over on them so as to prevent debacles like these in the future.

“You mean I just get to criticize people and I don’t actually have to do architecture?” Bret asked. “Well, hell, I can do that all day!”

We talked about politics and agreed there is no real, fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats. We shook our heads over the ridiculous obstructionism caused by partisan politics in states like California and New York which can’t get their budgets passed. Say what you will about Nebraska, and how conservative it is, at least our state government works. On a fundamental level, it works, and compared to other states it is small. I am always amazed when I visit other states just how much government they have.

We both admitted to a secret and completely age-ist wish to ban people over a certain age from voting because all they are doing is setting us up for a horrible future which they aren’t going to be around for. Our generation is going to have it the worst, because we can see the storm coming and we’re frantically screaming to change course, but all the people in the back of the boat aren’t listening. And we’ll remember just how good the “good old days” were. It isn’t the same for our grandparents, who grew up in the Depression, made it through the war, and raised their children in a time of ever-expanding affluence.

“We were poor,” Grandma Del told me, “but we didn’t know we were poor. We didn’t know the difference.”

That will be the next generation, the one born into a world in which the myth of social security has already failed, the climate has shifted, deserts have expanded, oil has run out, resource wars have become common places, and every major coastal city has an intricate (and expensive) system of dikes and levies. But us, we’ll know the difference, and we’ll know just how we got there.

The optimist in me still holds out hope that it won’t be all that bad; that surely we’re smart enough to figure it out before then, but the realist just shrugs and agrees “We’re screwed.”

Our parents, those millions of Baby Boomers, tell us we’re spoiled and ungrateful. They’re right. We are spoiled and if we aren’t appropriately grateful, maybe it’s because we know what cost it’s going to have down the road, economically, environmentally, and socially, and we know we’re going to have to pay it, not them. And it’s so easy for us to see (higher CO2 = higher temperatures) that we become frustrated and intolerant, which only exacerbates the problem. We need to find a new, more productive approach, a better way to speak to one another.

“These people,” Bret complained “they just think that growth is the answer. Rising population equals rising consumption and that we’ll always come up with new ways to produce more stuff. But they don’t understand that resources are limited and we’re gonna hit a wall. We’re all stuck on this same ball of mud floating in space and that’s all we’ve got: one ball of mud.”

So we shake out heads at the shitty hand life has dealt us and get our bitching and moaning out of the way so we can go back into the world and try, yet again, to do something worthwhile with our lives. And I feel like an overinflated balloon which has finally had a little bit of the air let out. At least someone out there can see some of the things I see (and hope I’m seeing wrong), but that just reinforces the “we’re screwed” belief.

Yeah, I really shouldn’t talk to Bret.


john said...

Let's turn the argument on its head. What scientific observation would it take for you to stop believing in human-caused global warming? What if the global temperature dropped for ten years? What if that darned arctic icecap never melted in twenty years? If there is no observation that would dissuade you from belief in human-caused global warming, then it is not a scientific belief.
For me, I will believe in human-caused global warming if there is a summer with no Arctic sea ice, or if there is a one-year rise in sea level of 10mm (currently the rise is about 2mm). The theory of human-caused global warming is such an extraordinary one that it requires extraordinary proof.
It seems that co2 is just a bit-player in Earth's weather. It is a "trace gas." There is just not that much of it around. Currently, the atmosphere is about 0.04% co2. If you made a pie chart of the atmosphere, it would not even be a line. Man's co2 emissions are only about 5% of the total each year. 95% is due to natural sources. Finally, it is therefore no surprise that the contribution that co2 has toward total greenhouse effect for all gases is really small (about 5%). Water vapor is the main gas for greenhouse effect (about 90%). So, it is looks like humans are responsible for 5% of 5% of the greenhouse effect. That is 0.25% of the greenhouse effect. There is no way that that teeny tiny change could raise the temperature of the whole planet by even one degree. It is like saying that people that wear black t-shirts are causing the planet to heat up. Sure, in theory the more black t-shirts that are worn, the hotter the planet gets. But in reality, the effect is really small.
So, no worries. The planet is gonna be just fine.

Monica said...

The consensus is that there will be no summer arctic sea ice within then years, so I'll be happy to remind you of this then. The arrogance it requires to believe that we can't harm our planet is astonishing. And I'm sorry, John, but I don't believe a damned one of those statistics. Take the atmospheric CO2 concentrations from the Vostok ice cores and the global temperature readings for the last several hundred thousand years. Put them in Excel and make a chart - you'll see a direct correlation. You don't need the scientists; anyone can do this at home and the data doesn't lie. (Pick a different ice core from a different team and you'll get the same results.) To say that the effect of atmospheric CO2 is negligible is criminally ignorant. Then consider that the CO2 in those ice cores has NEVER EVER been above 350 ppm and the cores got back close to a million years. We are now at 380 ppm (check out the readings from the Manua Loa observatories in Hawaii). The ONLY significant source of addition CO2 in the last two-hundred and fifty years is human emissions. (Not volcanoes, cows, forest fires or any other "natural" source.)

Climate change IS happening. I can SEE it. Think back to your childhood. What was winter like? What is it like now? Climate change IS being caused by people. If I was home on my big computer, I would send you the Excel files proving that we are responsible for BILLIONS of metric tons of CO2 emissions every year. You think that has no effect?

But just for argument sake, what would it take for me to NOT believe in climate change? CO2 concentrations of 400 ppm and a mean global temperature drop over a five year average. The regrowth of the +90% of the earth's glaciers that are shrinking. An increase in summer sea ice mass (not area) over a five year average. And how about the consensus of 80% of the world's scientific community saying "Sorry, we were wrong." Yup, that would do it.

So do me a favor, John, stop trying to change my mind and I'll stop going on am impassioned, useless, half-crazy rant every time you deny something just because you don't want it to be true. Deal?

john said...

Sorry Monica and blog readers. I was feeling contrary and combative.

Monica said...

LOL. Oh, John, in case you haven't noticed, I can handle contrary and combative. Hell, if anyone should apologize for that, it should be me, but I'm not going to. We can just agree to disagree and leave it at that. Let the scientists duke it out.

Northmoon said...

Leaving aside climate change, what about peak oil? We are completely dependant on oil especially for food. It isn't a renewable resource, and we're on the downward slope now to a point where it will soon be used up. The huge population growth over the last hundred years or so is all because of cheap oil. What happens when it's gone and farms have all been turned into subdivisions?

Constant growth is not possible.

Sean said...

I pretty much agree with everything you said but
"Our generation is going to have it the worst, because we can see the storm coming and we’re frantically screaming to change course, but all the people in the back of the boat aren’t listening."

The same thing was said by my generation and some are trying to change course by buying less gas guzzling SUV's. I think an important question comes from this though “what are we doing on an individual level to change course?”. We cannot buy ourselves into greenness with that new fuel saving SUV. We cannot point the finger at corporate America and say they are to blame and continue to buy junk from China. We cannot say we need to change course and then continue to live the over bloated American dream. Overconsumption is the hidden defilement stemming from the ego and greed. The generation of now and those to come will have to redefine that dream to something more sustainable. I agree with you saying that the older generations (not meaning to generalize here) just don’t quite get it but that means more of it falls on us.

I’ll keep being a tattooed vegan freak that drives a hybrid or bikes it when possible and buys locally grown organic food and of course sitting every morning and night. That’s all I know how to do at this time.

You really sound like you need to meditate some.

Monica said...

You're right. I do need to meditate some. :-)