Climate Change Struggles and Understanding

by Ethan Weiner 12.20.18

 

 

 
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Picture Resources: 

https://www.cnn.com/2017/12/07/us/ventura-fire-california/index.html

Abstract


    I am writing on Prompt 4 (“Revelations and the New Order: At What Costs, and How to Find the Balance”) focusing on the topic of climate change. Note: Upon creating this presentation is where I think I am going to change and fix up my initial draft. So first I’m going to start off with discussing time and its role inemphasising the increasingly fast pace in human progression and run full circle with what characterizes a human and back to climate change. 

    Time: Throughout history humans have proven to be excellent beings. Upon meeting with those who are also writing on this prompt, is when I took to heart how amazing it is that we, on a 24-hour scale have only statistically lived on Earth for 2 minutes since the Big Bang. We learn to adapt to our surroundings and make do with what we have. We are the creators of tomorrow; meaning WE MAKE OUR FUTURE. We have proven through TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT that these statements are true. From the creation of fire and discovery of the elements to the industrial revolution, formation of a governing body, and today...we are human. But the real question is, “What does this mean for our planet and how will our actions affect us in the long run?”
    
    Us:
Like I said we are great but, as I lead into this presentation, the question stands, are we really that great? In terms of our nature and our past, which greatly explains who we are, we tend to be selfish. Its true that there is such a thing as survival of the fittest. We have continued to fight for our own survival, which is why we have progressed at such a fast rate. We are not only a bit selfish in our own interest of survival, but this survival instinct has shed a light to illuminate our apathetic tendencies and timidness to change. Referring back to our readings on renewal and familiarity in daily routines and lost cultures, we can connect past periods of colonialism with survival instincts to show why their have been struggles in the past with change and why it tends to be an issue today, especially with concerns like that of population growth and use of vital resources. Human interaction, in fact, is shown to be an extreme struggle in today’s political atmosphere because of these factors and what characterizes us as beings on Earth.


        Note: Circular flow diagram is my representation of struggle. Familiar, daily routines represent the black arrows and the teal arrows represent any interruptions in one’s daily routine. Positive and negative signs represent the good and bad that can exist in both and when they blend there tends to be a struggle. These struggles can include climate change.

    Climate Change (Why it is serious and what can be done): We, as a nation, can come together to fight the issue we have instigated. Climate change is huge. Not only is there an increase in the temperature outside, but air quality is weakening (with the many greenhouse gasses emitted and forests taken out), vector-borne diseases are spread (like the West Nile and Zika viruses emitted through insects and arachnids who’s habitat range will increase with temperature change), and, as seen in the many instances of natural disaster, including that of the latest fires in California and hurricanes around the world, extreme weather is imminent. Politically we must come together and reflect on the past and compare it to the present. Use what we have learned not only about the environment but ourselves as people. To be more informed and active members of society, to respect our habitat and those around us who have already been affected by global warming is all we can really do. As we move forward into the future and think about our decisions and how our voice is our greatest strength, we can fight for sustainability and resource management.

 

Climate Change Struggles and Understanding

“We’re Americans. We don’t plan, we do!” This interjection, made by General Custer, the fictional character in the movie Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, caught my attention as I laid in my living room with the topic of climate change on my mind. Although a provocative and extremely motivational quote that is quite true, it is sad. As humans, we have made extreme progress in the blink of an eye. In saying this, in the amount of time that Earth has been “around,” humans have existed for only 2 seconds since the Big Bang. This being said, on a theoretical 24-hour scale, humans/we are quite remarkable. However, this extremely fast paced progression comes with great costs and lack of time given to think about our decisions and their effects. With so much time but little knowledge on the exactness of time, decisions are made without asking oneself, “What does our future hold, and how will my decisions today affect the outcome of others’ decisions tomorrow?” To think that “Every year, the United States generates approximately 230 million tons of ‘trash’--about 4.6 pounds per person per day” (Learner) and that our Great Barrier Reef, “The largest living organism on Earth” (Scribol), is soon to be dead. With the current state of our world – weather patterns, fires, political disruption, the Paris Accords – it takes thoughtful people to look up and see the true horror of our own doing and even greater people to do something about it. In “engaging with the ideas of catastrophic change” (Marino), I feel that technological advancement and the rapid increase in human progress creates the imminent possibility of apocalyptic change. From political partisanship to the build-up of apathy among people, there is a movement towards climate change, which will ultimately force many to decolonize or resort to the old ways to survive.

Acknowledging the current state of the world today, climate change is here and has been for years. The current fires in California, death of the Great Barrier Reef, melting of ice caps, fluctuating, abnormal weather patterns, and so much more are all results of continued actions and progress made by humans, where these decisions are less likely to be the outcome of long, thoughtful reflection of the past, present, and future. Reflection is necessary in decision making in order to decrease the chances of recurring mistakes and future unrest. Within many television shows and movies that emphasize post-apocalyptic societies, almost all are a result of climate change and political unrest due to exhaustion of resources and tremendous advancements, technologically and intellectually. For example, Tom Hardy’s Mad Max: Fury Road is a perfect instance of exhausted resources, wherein oil, a highly used resource in even today’s time, is lacking and therefore creates war among society. With war, chaos erupts leading people to live off the land and the last of the few resources to survive. Further, within The Avengers series (trying to avoid spoilers for the reader), technological advancement and the topic of resource management and exploitation is one of great concern. With the unpopular movement towards reducing human populations (similar to that of pregnancy caps and regulations) and looking towards extreme solutions for management and the betterment of society and its environment, televised stories such as the ones explained here illustrate real concerns of our present and future lives. Time and time again, examples like these, although hard to believe, are representative of society’s future, worst case scenario, due to our misguided way of living today.

Today, California is overcoming the deadliest, most destructive fire it has ever seen. This fire has laid waste to thousands of acres of land, forcing hundreds of thousands to leave their homes in despair and taking the lives of many. In its wake, pollution levels have risen tremendously putting “Northern California, San Francisco, Stockton, and Sacramento as the world’s three ‘most polluted cities’ on 11/16/18” (CNN). Sadly, the result of this fire is PG&E’s power lines. However, they are not the sole culprit and neither is their technology for any other PG&E related fires. Another illustration of our ill planning abilities that further supports the fictional General Custer’s statement. Over the past couple years, summers have felt hotter and winters increasingly later. Yes, the Coastal Mountain Ranges are the main culprit to California’s continued dry spell, yet they have existed for thousands of years. Continued droughts have created a fuel load too expensive to reduce, increasing the chances of disastrous fires, like the latest Camp Fire. These droughts are caused by continued actions of humans, from agricultural and industrial practices, in increased carbon and methane emissions and various other greenhouse gasses, our technological achievements in performing and scaling such actions is incredible, yet those who continue to perform these actions are apathetic to the costs their actions are having. Instead of learning from our mistakes and furthering our concern for tragic disasters that occur, we continue to move on with our lives because that is what humans/we do. For example, many people, including me, continue on with our lives after tragic disaster wherein events such as these begin to be just talk. With the seasons changing, holidays near, and other stresses of life to worry about, it is hard to break one’s routine for the sake of others, society, the environment, and yourself, because change is difficult and apathy is easy. To do nothing is easy and to not even think about it is easier, which is why any form of action is so greatly celebrated in our own culture.

Apathy is an interesting concept. We all know that, come time elections, voter apathy is frequent among all Americans. This lack of caring, or idea that your actions do not matter in the big scope of things, because you are just one among hundreds of thousands of others, is despairing. Where does apathy come from and why is it such an issue? Within The Unplugging by Yvette Nolan, a loss of technology is highlighted in a society where few know how to survive without it. Nolan illustrates the effect technology had on the people of this world, wherein one may acknowledge that this society is a good representation of the world we live in. If there were to be an immediate loss of ability to use any sort of technology, as it occurs in this novel, we would also be forced to reflect on the past and seek for those who hold knowledge to the old ways like Elena and Bern (Nolan). It shows how many people today care more for their tech than they do for their environment, wherein, as illustrated in the novel, only few know how to survive without technical knowledge. Here technology is shown to create an apathetic society, who care less for their surroundings and know only a life of automation and the thought that it is a problem solver and, hence, will resolve all complication without our help. Further, illustrated within Marisol by Jose Rivera, the apocalyptic like events that are illustrated emphasize one’s selfishness and apathetic behavior. Marisol Perez is put on a level of understanding, through catastrophe, where she is forced to live on the streets and resort to the old ways to survive. Here she acknowledges that she is not alone and others struggle just as much as her or more. This time of struggle, illustrated by Rivera, represents the political and societal misfortunes of even today’s society, where many are too selfish to acknowledge others misfortunes and human error. As a result of technology and the way our political system works, people believe that such matters of importance will work out and be solved not understanding the full consequences of thinking this way. It is truly sad that, until catastrophe occurs, do people truly understand the importance of being aware and active in today’s political and societal arena. Like Marisol Perez and the tech savvy society within The Unplugging, a sense of apathy is lost during catastrophic change but persists short after, because it routinely runs within the everyday lives of any human. As a people, we are a bit selfish in our own interest of survival, but our relaxed, genuine selves shed a light to illuminate our apathetic tendencies and timidness to change. Considering that, the natural instinct of human beings is to survive and always has been. Selfishness tends to be a human attribute only to be broken by pure attentiveness to your environment, including those closest to you.

In putting the importance of others and the environment within your train of thought, politically this should be easy. However, in today's political structure there is a true separation of ideas (a.k.a. a partisanship), where it has taken too long for decisions to be made and policies to be enacted. In one specific example is the United State’s decision not to sign with the terms of the Paris Agreement. This accord, or treaty, is presented to all nations within the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and issues an agreement to do something about the release of greenhouse gasses in all areas of concern. Why is it so detrimental to not agree with the Agreement’s terms one may ask? According to scientists today and a multitude of environmental studies, by the year 2030 the effects of climate change will be irreversible (Ebbs). As explained above, climate change has already had its toll on millions and will continue to be a tremendous issue not only on the environment but directly. With the many negative effects of climate change, there is further the issue of worsened air quality around the world with the weakening of our stratosphere and greenhouse gasses emitted. With the support of the Obama administration and transition of political power to the Trump administration, issues like these need to be handled and taken more seriously today. Aside from the political importance of the economic structure of our world there will be no economic stability a few years from now when the effects of global warming will have had their fun and will further lead Earth and humanity into a downward spiral of complete chaos. Yes, some opposed to this idea that there is such a thing as climate change is valid in the sense that they think in the past. Those opposed argue that natural disaster and varying, unnatural weather patterns have existed before, but instead of looking at the future and how we manage our way of living today, there is a pure focus and tunnel-like view that reasons with finality instead of causation. But was it climate change that killed off the dinosaurs and ended the age of ice? There were not technological and industrial advancements as far back as those arguments date. With our greater more academically inclined populations, progressiveness is a main concern today than it ever was before and, politically, this introduces new problems each and every day.

The government's inability to make decisions on the premise of what’s best for the environment and those governed is no easy task, despite the idea being so. In the past few years, for example, the government's take on subsidies, especially in the corn business, has had major positive results, especially in developing countries, but has persisted and therefore, is creating more issues than those initial benefits. Not only are continued subsidies making it easier for the farming community to continue growing in order to make profit, but these subsidies are creating a negative environment. Farmers overuse fertilizers and pesticides, not only bad for consumption, but crops are becoming resistant and soil degradation is imminent due to the ability for farmers to overuse the soil given, making dry conditions, where subsidized seeds may travel to others properties, only to create issues with the government and spread resistant crops. This forces farmers to use much of our water supply, more than they need if they were to produce without the government supported subsidies. The soil degradation, extreme water usage, and resistant crops are not the only political mishaps created by partisanship within our political system. Subsidies further take away consumer support of smaller, unsubsidized farmers, who use less of our water resources. These practices are seen in many cases, from the many unregulated food sources of America that produce extreme amounts of methane, to the factories who continue to pollute our waterways in run-off and emit much of their pollutants into the air because of their ability to pay-off or trade the amount of pollutants they can produce to make a profit is, and will be, catastrophic in the near future. From technological advancement, in fracking for oil, mass food production, automobiles, etcetera, to decisions made by people everyday, concerning people's use of plastics and disposal of garbage, climate change today is only a warning of what is to come if we do not enforce change.

The government has not only worked with subsidies in the agricultural business but have tried incentives elsewhere. In the past, climate change concerns have been on the agenda of the government’s branches. For example, incentives have been made in recycling where you can make money and feel righteous in ‘saving’ the environment. Further, in buying HOV’s (high-occupancy vehicles) and hybrids not only are there tax breaks but use of carpool lanes is a huge incentive. However, soon the incentives stop working and/or the government forgets the purpose of said incentives. The recycling centers become more difficult to get to and, for example, in California the HOV cars are now not eligible for the use of carpool lanes come 2019. So why would people be interested in reducing their carbon footprint when apathy is in the air and the question stands, “What’s in it for me?” Familiarity does not run smoothly when confronted with change that does not come with clear incentives.

In Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, the routine of life is emphasized and illustrated as something extremely hard to break intentionally. Renewal and the importance of culture is shown through the characters of this novel, just as they are in the Mexica-Maya Quiche belief systems. Through both of these peoples, the Nigerian natives of the novel and the Mayans, colonization is illustrated wherein, similarly the effects of colonialism were of great disruption and catastrophe on the parts of the natives. Specifically, in Achebe’s works, one can acknowledge that the natives’ inability to change and accept cultural differences led to their destruction. Sadly, in many historical instances, including the case of the Mayans and natives of other areas within the New World, colonization forced many to change their ways, wherein there was a loss of culture. Within these cases, we have learned that any breaks of continuity and well-known routines are hard to accept as humans, especially without explicit motives, and therefore give reason to our current status as a society today. In speaking of politics and the hardships that come with partisanship, one statement made by Elena in The Unplugging resides with me. She states, “Our community did not leave us behind. It is still there, building walls and gathering up guns to point at whoever they don’t want inside the walls” (Course Reader 313). Sadly, this reminds me of today’s world and the thoughts that travel throughout. And this ties into the topic of climate change how? As emphasized, change is difficult and when it comes to the decision to accept or reject it, one can choose to ignore, fight back, or adapt, and it tends to come down to the latter two in the most recent of times. This can be seen not only in managing society’s and enforcing rules, which is seldom a neutral subject matter, but in asking the masses to change their ways for the betterment of the environment and society overall.

When asked to change for the sake of the environment and good of others, there are only a select few who decide that change is good, but historically speaking, like the Mayans and characters within Achebe’s works, multiple factors play in the role of one’s inability to change. From apathy to political ideals, one may feel comfortable with who they are and how they act now. However, when looking at those economies that solely rely on their agricultural sectors and those who live off the land to survive, when puting climate change in the face of those most affected by it, globally this will not just be an issue for those where climate change could be the end all be all for their way of living but for all that benefit from such things. For example, places like Panama, fishing districts around the world, agricultural sectors throughout the United States, and beyond will all be affected and the greatest barrier of all is the thought of one’s financial and economic stability. If the economy is in great swing, financially there will be benefits but not if changes are to be made as time passes by.

It is extremely difficult to sway the minds of others and influence them to agree or disagree, hence why there is a political system made up of two major parties today (at least in the USA). It is truly a matter of continued struggle on those most affected by catastrophic change where routines and ideals may be changed. As seen, sadly, by those affected by droughts across the world, continued warfare, fires like the many in California, continued gun violence, immigration laws, and the list goes on. All of those who struggle fight for something and do want change. When faced with catastrophe, a post-apocalyptic sense is influenced where people are willing to change for the betterment of their New World.

Being that climate change is presently affecting the lives of many people around the world and will intensify at an increasing rate, it is only a matter of time before extreme, catastrophic change is knocking on the doors of all instead of a select few. Here will either be a time begging for change that may serve little assistance in making any difference, because of the way we have treated the resources Earth provides, or will be the absolute end. In both scenarios, just like the movies, political and social war, a fight for resources to survive, will result in mass catastrophe and apocalyptic events. Due to the perplexing characteristics of human beings and the ways in which we think, it is truly difficult to decipher how we will react in the coming years. As stated, everything comes to an end and it is only a matter of time that we decide to make a difference in order to support a better life for those that come tomorrow and the years that we have left now. In highlighting this issue, it is not to call out anyone because we are all one in the same, it is more to shed a light on what is and could be the cause of past, present, and future struggles in people’s daily routines and lives where many have been forced to start new. The purpose is rather to bring an awareness to our culture and a new sense to reason where we can be more open and less afraid to think of what is to come and hopefully, one day, to evoke change – to create just as we have done from the beginning, starting one million years ago with the spark of a flame – to survive.

 

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. W. Ross MacDonald School Resource Services Library, 2018.

Annenberg Learner, www.learner.org/exhibits/garbage/solidwaste.html.

Azad, Arman. “California Now Has World's 'Most Polluted Cities' Due to Wildfires.” CNN, Cable News Network, 17 Nov. 2018.

Clay, Jason. “Are Agricultural Subsidies Causing More Harm than Good?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 8 Aug. 2013

Ebbs, Stephanie. “Scientists: Time Running Short before Climate Change Effects Are 'Irreversible'.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 8 Oct. 2018, abcnews.go.com/International/united-nations-report-details-looming-climate-crisis/story?id=58354235.

Hardy, Tom. “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Warner Home Video, 2015.

Levy, Shawn, et al. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 2009.

Nace, Trevor. “America Is Officially The Only Nation On Earth To Reject The Paris Agreement.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 7 Nov. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2017/11/07/america-is-officially-the-only-nation-on-earth-to-reject-the-paris-agreement/#5d435d134dc4.

Nolan, Yvette. The Unplugging. Bloomsbury, 2017.

Rivera, José. Marisol. New York :Dramatists Play Service, 1994. Print.

“The Great Barrier Reef: The Largest Living Organism on Earth.” Scribol.com, 18 May 2018, scribol.com/environment/animals-environment/the-great-barrier-reef-the-largest-living-organism-on-earth/.

“What Is the Paris Agreement?” UNFCCC, unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/what-is-the-paris-agreement.

Wise, Justin. “Al Gore Warns: UN Climate Change Report Shows 'We Have a Global Emergency'.” TheHill, The Hill, 12 Oct. 2018, thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/411223-al-gore-warns-un-climate-change-report-shows-we-have-a-global.

Yau, Nathan. “History of Earth in 24-Hour Clock.” FlowingData, 8 Oct. 2012.