Monday, October 31, 2011
Earth's Fever Sends Thailand Floating
Where did those people go? What were they doing now? What was not said could be seen along the edges of towns. Families living in corrugated metal sheds, often times without running water or electricity, whose children would surround us and beg us to buy their postcards, or other handicrafts for a dollar or more. A hand to mouth existence vulnerable to the vicissitudes of Wall Street in currency manipulation, collapse of the economy and it's affects on tourism, lack of social and health infrastructure, and the ever present danger of environmental catastrophe.
These people didn't have health insurance, home insurance, an retirement investments, or savings in a bank. If disaster struck and took their meager house away, they had no way to replace it. is. I should say “when” instead of “if”. And the “when” that I anticipated in 2009 is “now” in 2011. There are record floods in Thailand. The 4% increased moisture in the air due to global warming is coming down in record monsoon rains. People who are used to annual floods are being driven from their homes by extreme inundation. Their very existence being threated by the failure of local and global crops.
Four percent may not seem like an insignificant increase, but let me ask you to consider your temperature. In order to keep you functioning at your best, your body regulates it's self to be approximately 98.6F. If your body's temperature increased 4% from it's normal 98.6F to 102F you would be very sick indeed.
Our planet is just as sick. Every natural area is under duress from mankind's indiscriminate use of resources. Every area of our world is becoming a desert. Oceans are losing their life due to excessive fishing, fossil fuel fertilizers, and carbon dioxide acidification. Forests, wetlands and prairies are disappearing under ax and plow, roof and pavement. The remaining soil is eroding. The plant and animal diversity is rapidly decreasing. The birds have no place to nest or food to feed their young. What flies through the air are man made machines leaving behind trails of destruction. Each trail of death linked to our wanton use of fossil fuels; carbon dioxide belched out at increasing rates as we rush about our feverish ways trying to get more.
The earth is sick of too much carbon dioxide. Our planet's atmosphere needs to be regulated to have no more than 350ppm of carbon. But as of September 2011, our atmosphere has 389ppm of carbon. That is 39 parts per million more than it should be for the well being of the earth. 39ppm is an 11% increase over what it should be. Just think, if your body temperature increased 11% to 109F, you'd be dead! The earth has a dangerous fever that is killing people. It's killing people with extreme weather events. In a place that has adapted to live with floods, recent extreme flooding has killed more than 370 people. As famine hits the vulnerable Thai people, many more will die a long excruciating death.
When I came home from my trip to South East Asia and drove my car to the grocery store filled with food shipped in from thousands of miles away, I remembered the faces of the children living on the edges of life -children who had no hope of a future if I continued to use fossil fuels. When set food on my table for my children to eat, I thought of the mothers who would not be able quench their children's cries for food, their crops having been washed away. Could that someday be me? Is my part of the world imperious to extreme weather events? Will the price of food become so high that I cannot afford to feed my children? What hope is there for the future if we continue to force the fever higher with our continuous use of fossil fuels?
As I read about the plight of those in Thailand, I am haunted by the images of vulnerability I saw in 2009, haunted by the fact that I contribute to the fever that is killing our world. The ghost of Jacob Marley that warns me to change my ways and I cannot send away by sending money to some relief organization to help in time of crisis. The tears of the Thai cry out whenever I chose some fossil fueled entertainment. Should my pleasure come at the cost of another's survival? I choke on my 'let them eat cake' attitude and pedal my bicycle, I buy organic, I look for local.
Yet, I'm like Frodo, bound up the web of oil unable to break free. Every purchase is stained with the blood of oil. I cannot get out of bed in the morning without incurring the burning of fossil fuels. My very existence depends upon the thing that destroys me. In the midst of Mordor I need a Samwise community that will cut through the threads that bind me; a community that cannot be seduced by the power that oil offers. One whose economic life is not prey to oil's poison. Together we will bear the powerful ring of oil oligarchy's control to it's destruction, so that it's watchful eye will no longer penetrate the halls of government and threaten the very survival of those who live on earth. Our mission faces impossible odds and yet there is no other choice for hope. We must persist.
We must chose to put one foot in front of the other. We must chose to forgo the easy shire life for the rocky hills of sustainability. We must venture into new territory where our only guide is the gaunt Gollum figure of our past -primitive, hunting, gathering, with the deformed desire of 'Precious'- and form a new life of contentment, forgiveness, and generosity. And when at last our desire for more is returned to the forge from whence it came, the powers that be will shatter, earth's fever will break, and a new day will dawn.