Global Warming, Part Two

29 Apr

From www.mcgeepost.com .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

Given the current population, there is really no way to go back to a simpler lifestyle or a local economy. The only way to feed the world we have now is to cultivate giant corporate farms and food processing facilities. The only way for the population to stay on the move is for giant factories to build more cars, trucks, and other vehicles with internal combustion engines.

To provide the normal facilities of life for the current global population, oil and gas and steel and aluminum and copper and bananas and other daily commodities require large facilities. Building factories and warehouses and generation plants and highways and airplanes must be done on a massive scale.

The only way to wrap and package things with minimum weight to distribute to the massive population around the world and from stores to consumers is to use plastic containers, wraps and bags. Giant oil ships and container ships can’t be built or managed locally. And so on.

It’s rather much the same for social issues. With more people crowded together there will be more crime and more need for government which reaches to the local levels. Reducing crime to the levels of the 1920’s and 1930’s is pure fantasy, when you consider that the world population was only two billion back then and people didn’t have to bump into each other nearly as much as they do now.

I know there are a lot of people out there who sincerely and honestly want to eliminate mega-factories and overbuilding and billionaires, and deeply desire to make the world a simpler and greener place. This is a dream which is extremely conservative in nature, and it’s natural for people to want to go back to the way things used to be before we were inundated with the massive structures of modern society which are needed to provide for the whole of the seven billion inhabitants of earth.

The “New Earth” we live in is simply unable to provide for those dreams of simplicity. We are now a crowded planet, and we must have structures designed to provide for the crowd. Turning away from the reality of the crowd is a retreat from reality. It is an attempt, like that of the Amish communities, to claim a world which no longer exists, except in extremely restricted areas which must be maintained with an almost religious fervor against the outside crowd.

The real way forward is to join the crowd which makes up the “New Earth.” Accept the inevitable and seek ways of living with that which we cannot change. It’s likely there are a lot of solutions out there which are just waiting for discovery, ways to live with the new conditions which actually exist on our planet.

Let me advance one speculative idea, as a way of demonstrating the possibility of solutions which are actually in line with the problems. I don’t claim to have answers, yet I am good at speculating.

Most climate scientists say that we could have a world-wide rise in sea level of as much as three feet (1m) over the next fifty years. This means that any areas where there are cities or other houses or buildings which will be underwater in the event of a three-foot rise in sea level must be identified right now.

Officials must declare a complete moratorium on new buildings or settlements in the affected areas. There is no need to worry too much about existing structures, since in fifty years most of them will be near the end of their life cycles. Then new building and settlements could be encouraged on nearby areas which are on land located above the fifty-year estimated three-foot new high water mark. These would be extensions of the current cities, only on higher ground.

For example, the recent activities of Typhoon Ondoy in Manila and of Hurricane Sandy in New York City have shown that these cities among others are vulnerable to even small increases in the mean water level brought about by global warming. So in New York I speculate about stopping new construction in the five boroughs. Extend New York City by way of new construction on the higher ground on the other side of the Hudson River. People could commute for the next fifty years from the old city to the new city and back by means of overhead trams into Manhattan and the other present boroughs.

Actually, I rather like the idea of using overhead trams to replace the subway system in New York City, or any other city. It was not until Hurricane Sandy that we began to see the huge vulnerability of the underground systems of the Big Apple. As sea levels rise, the vulnerability will only increase.

Going airborne with trams suspended from tall towers may sound science fiction right now, yet it could be best way to get around in any city by the sea anywhere on the “New Earth,” or even on any city anywhere. Subways are really twentieth-century technology, much too difficult to dig and always needing huge air exchange systems to make it possible for the massive number of riders to be able to breathe.

Meanwhile, you probably have ideas of your own which are better than mine, so let your imagination run free and look for ways for all of us to live together in peace on the “New Earth.”

Both my daughter Michelle Kathryn McGee, www.healinggeneration.com, and Bengt Skarstam‏ of Malmo, Sweden, www.reshape.se, take issue with my analysis by pointing out that correlation is not the same as evidence. To them I say that I am a commentator, not a scientist. There is a correlation between population and global warming. I’ve offered some scant evidence, yet probably not enough. The absolute need to feed, clothe and house the new five billion souls on the planet is evidence, as are the facts I’ve stated up to now. I firmly believe in all the positions I’m taking on my blog, yet I may not have all the details. I welcome any new information, and I give my thanks to my daughter and to Bengt Skarstam for weighing in with significant points.

Finally, poetic language can often convey the emotions associated with new conditions such as the absolute qualities of the emerging destiny of the “New Earth.” I offer you this quote from the 2008 historical thriller novel Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith:

“The railroad tracks opened out into a clearing – sprawled before them was a vast assembly plant, tall chimneys, interconnected warehouselike buildings suddenly appearing in the middle of a wilderness. It was as though a god had sat on the Ural Mountains, smashed his fist down on the landscape before him, sending trees flying, and demanded that this newly created space be filled with chimneys and steel presses. This was the first glimpse of their new home.”

I invited Dr. Bengt Skarstam of Malmo, Sweden, to make formal comments as a part of my discussion of the “New Earth.” He has a PhD in Solid State Physics, a long corporate career, and is now Senior Adviser and Facilitator, Reshape AB, www.reshape.se . He’s also the father of two children; is married to Ann-Marie, a mother of one child; “and is a fan of life, understanding, Formula 1, and interactions between people.”

Thank you for the very profound perspective you have articulated on global warming, Dr. Skarstam, and for your unique celebration of the earth we actually have, as opposed to the usual wishful thinking of wanting a different world than the one we now have. Here’s what he has to say:

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“I agree with your description of the consequences of a warmer globe and my point is that we need not so much focus on the ‘human element’ since I am convinced that a more pluralistic approach will guarantee a better solution to the fluctuation in the states of our globe. According to system theory we might do things worse since we have focus only on the human factor so we might solve the wrong problem….? Compare reducing pollution from cars instead of finding new ways of designing engines (fuel cells?).

“If we spent the money we are now spending on wind and solar power, on finding more efficient energy storage ‘media’ (better batteries or some new source of storage) we would be better off. Currently wind and solar power need continuous back up sources of traditional electrical generation OR a highly developed battery storage capacity, to support a continuous flow of power even when the sun is down or the wind is not blowing.

“This need for constant backup is the great weakness inherent in the now popular ‘new energy sources.’ The wind and solar supporters are engaging in short term “popular action,” and solving the wrong problem. If we as individuals took a ‘stakeholder’ and long term perspective on what we are doing, we could be very much better off!

“I ask a question to people who say that they cannot take a long term perspective: do you have children? Your children and grandchildren are a long term project which will last for the rest of your life!!!!

“The greenhouse effect is a natural good thing. It’s not a ‘side effect.’ It’s a basic expression of the vastness of the new human life on our planet. Before the greenhouse effect we were non-existing. The fluctuations were measured in the time scale of hundreds to thousands of generations, and over these time scales we had no consistent way of describing such phenomena. Since science has evolved, technology is refined and our mindsets are thereby changed.

“Changing mindsets: what would happen if every car manufacturer had to take the used car back and dismantle the car and be heavily taxed for the difference between cars produced and used cars received: do you think that a car would be designed as it is today?

“My final point is about personal responsibility: this is the most crucial concept that individuals, politicians, business leaders and parents can start applying (consider the stakeholders involved and the time span of your actions), and acting from this perspective can change the world

“My definition of personal responsibility: ‘An individual’s open, wise and ethical engagement with the world for the sustainable good of all.’ – from Hopkins and Skarstam (2012).

“I have also attached some lines from the novel CANNERY ROW by John Steinbeck, a conversation between ‘Doc’ and ‘Richard Frost’ which points to the severity of our challenges:”

“It has always seemed strange to me,” said Doc. “The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”

“Who wants to be good if he has to be hungry too?” said Richard Frost.

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So, in order to fully comprehend the “New Earth” we must look on the natural increase in population to seven billion souls as being a good thing for humanity. Further, we must look on the increase in greenhouse gases and global warming, whether due to mankind or to other natural phenomena, as an acceptable thing. Accept that the increase in global population is a natural phenomenon, and that this population increase is exactly the same as any other natural process.

This is part two in a four-part series.

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