Noam Chomsky’s assessment of the debate surrounding Global Warming is perhaps the most lucid I’ve heard.
This week I finished Eaarth by Bill McKibben, a book on climate change which I highly recommend. The writing is clear and skillful; the facts presented are in-depth and vital; the knowledge imparted is challenging to our current sense of normalcy.
The book ends on a high note. Our resourcefulness can prevail. As we learn to defend this environment which sustains every one of us, we can also rebuild the close-knit interdependency of our local communities, and arguably lead lives that are simpler, happier, more deeply satisfying.
When I consider our planet, I am still fascinated by science gleaned in grade school. Our planet is different from any other in that it possesses the rare conditions necessary to maintain vast quantities of liquid water, and therefore to support a diversity of life.
Cosmically speaking, frozen water is fairly commonplace; while liquid water is extraordinary. “Liquid water is essential for the kind of delicate chemistry that makes life possible. [It] is a universal solvent, a mediator of life’s chemical reactions, and it has a structure unlike that of any other liquid.”
So here I find myself on Earth, experiencing the mystery of life owing to a planet that is neither too hot, nor too cold, but just right. I enjoy this hospitable planet along with a seemingly infinite variety of other life forms. The incredible natural beauty and staggering variety are part of Earth’s magnificence.
New information is introduced. By new, I mean within the last fifty years. Billions of years after these life-conducive conditions take hold on Earth, we humans, peering down from atop the food chain, discover our frightening ability to alter the temperature of the planet through our behaviors. Check out this minute-long film circa the 1950’s on global warming.
Consequently, we now find ourselves in the process of permanently altering our environment on Earth, and life as we know it.
Life will continue, but differently than before. How different will be the Earth we leave our children depends a great deal on the decisions we make and the priorities we set today.
One morning this week, I finished reading Eaarth. That evening, I invited my husband Brian to read to me. Anything he liked. By lovely coincidence he chose this poem by Wislawa Szymborska. It’s not about climate change. It’s just about being here. Still I was struck by the recurring theme of “Earth.” Take a deep breath. Look at the pretty photos. Enjoy a poem.
I can’t speak for elsewhere,
but here on Earth we’ve got a fair supply of everything.
Here we manufacture chairs and sorrows,
scissors, tenderness, transistors, violins,
teacups, dams, and quips.
There may be more of everything elsewhere,
but for reasons left unspecified they lack paintings,
picture tubes, pierogies, handkerchiefs for tears.
Here we have countless places with vicinities.
You may take a liking to some,
give them pet names,
protect them from harm.
There may be comparable places elsewhere,
but no one thinks they’re beautiful.
Like nowhere else, or almost nowhere,
you’re given your own torso here,
equipped with the accessories required
for adding your children to the rest.
Not to mention arms, legs, and astounded head.
Ignorance works overtime here,
something is always being counted, compared, measured,
from which roots and conclusions are then drawn.
I know, I know what you’re thinking.
Nothing here can last,
since from and to time immemorial the elements hold sway.
But see, even the elements grow weary
and sometimes take extended breaks
before starting up again.
And I know what you’re thinking next.
Wars, wars, wars.
But there are pauses in between them too.
Attention!–people are evil.
At ease–people are good.
At attention wastelands are created.
At ease houses are constructed in the sweat of brows,
and quickly inhabited.
Life on Earth is quite a bargain.
Dreams, for one, don’t charge admission.
Illusions are costly only when lost.
The body has its own installment plan.
And as an extra, added feature,
you spin on the planets’ carousel for free,
and with it you hitch a ride on the intergalactic blizzard,
with times so dizzying
that nothing here on Earth can even tremble.
Just take a closer look:
the table stands exactly where it stood,
the piece of paper still lies where it was spread,
through the open window comes a breath of air,
the walls reveal no terrifying cracks
through which nowhere might extinguish you.
While writing this blog I learned that Ms. Zymborska died last month, at the age of 88. Rest in peace, Nobel laureate of Poland. Many thanks for your work here.