Friday, July 30, 2010

Little By Little

What has been most telling, for me, in assessing the dangers of global warming, has been the piling up of its effects: glaciers melting more quickly than expected, the continuing upward trend of temperatures, and now a 40% drop in phytoplankton.

Any one of those effects, and many smaller ones, could be from other causes. The Gulf of Mexico has long been a dumping ground, and we are now realizing how badly we've been overfishing the oceans.

It's been more than a century since the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere started marching upwards, more than a century since scientists started warning that too much of it would make the earth warmer. And our response, all of us on earth, has been to burn more fossil fuel to make more carbon dioxide for the atmosphere. We've looked at our immediate economic needs and desires and let the rest go.

One of the theories of the American founding fathers was that people, left to themselves, are likely to be shortsighted and that therefore the government should be constructed so that those who were deliberating the larger problems could give them their best thought and come up with the best answers. But a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and a lot of money toward the immediate economic desires of a very small number of people.

So we've had the lies about how unregulated business and finance would make things better for everyone. Okay, thirty years of that, and we have stagnant wages and a disintegrating middle class, along with a 1930s-size financial disaster. That small number of people is doing fine, thank you, and they're still at the lies, which have captured the people in the Tea Parties.

I'm glad that E. J. Dionne finally seems to be willing to call out the lies and the media that are all too willing to propagate them. I'm also glad that one congressman is calling out the BS.

But global warming isn't on the radar screen. It took us a long time to get to where we are, and it will take a long time to undo the damage. We need to start now, but we're still avoiding it.

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