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This Blog used to be about the question: What is Science?
Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Warm My Tootsies..

First it was the Greenies. Then the politicians joined in to massage their support base and mostly illusory personal intellectual egos. Then the scientists caught on and questioned the rationality. A much loved and much banned politically variant South African magazine called Frontline published a article by it's generator, one Denis Beckett, trashing the notion of global warming as yet another hippie scare plot. If anything, we were well on our way to another big freeze!
That was 1985. Two years later global CO2 levels went over the scientifically safe limit of 350ppm CO2. (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies - April 2008).
3 years earlier, in 1982, a little known freelance journalist by the name of Helen Zille had written the following in the same Frontline publication.

"The Appropriate Technology group at the University of Cape
Town, with a membership ranging from students to pensioners,
engineers to sociologists, are as busy as ever looking for ways to leave
this corner of the earth more capable of supporting life than they found it. They
are concerned with finding simple practical ways of giving the people living in
poverty-stricken rural areas “a leg up rather than a hand out,” to enable them
to regain a sense of purpose and control over their own lives and the fate of
their communities."

Read the full article here

For non-SA readers, Helen Zille is now the leader of the opposition in South Africa and the mayor of the most successfully run city in the land. She was elected 'World Mayor of the Year 2008'. Ms Zille faces continual charges of promoting environmental issues et al as a vote-catching ruse.

I continue....

It is now November 2009 and CO2 levels are at 384.11 as measured by the Mauna Loa Observatory (NOAA).
But what exactly does it mean to have CO2 levels 'over the safe limit'?

350ppm means parts of Carbon dioxide per million molecular parts of the atmosphere.
At levels higher than this a runaway condition sets in where the Earth is unable to shed as much heat as it gains. How does this happen? We are all familiar with greenhouses or those plastic tunnels that allow crops or flowers to grow in climates normally unsuitable. The sunlight can pass through the glass or plastic and then warms up the ground and plants. The resulting heat energy cannot escape through the glass and so the temperature of the environment rises. The increase in CO2 and other 'greenhouse gases' in the atmosphere is turning the world into one big over efficient greenhouse.

With the World Conference on Climate Change at Copenhagen just around the corner, many people from diverse interest groups are now talking about related issues. How do we adapt our now familiar and comfortable lifestyles in the developed world to encompass this 'imminent' danger of climate change? How do we dovetail global socio-military politics with the apparent threat facing all humanity?
As usual, that built in survival mechanism called 'Fear' that we all have is triggered only when we are directly faced with the 'Fearful'.
For most people on the planet the effects of global warming remain in the theoretical. Turn the aircon up some more, 'oh my gosh! it does seem to be raining more than normal!'.

For those whose lives are lived close to the edge and will increasingly bear the brunt of tidal waves, rising sea levels and desertification, the idea of worrying about more than just daily survival is not high on the list.
Do we, as a species, have to literally bump our heads hard before we do something? What will it take? New York under 2 feet of water? Holland to disappear? Will even that globalize our group survival instinct? I fear not.

Traditionally there has always been a massive divide between the white coated scientists and the 'I am not interested' public. This is clearly both the fault of those in the ivory towers of blue sky science and those who wilfully choose ignorance. My conviction is that now is the time for us who have knowledge of the science behind this crisis to look inside ourselves and find the empathy that needs to drive proper scientific and social discourse so we can never look back and say, "Why did we not do something before it was too late?"

How many of us have any idea what is meant by a 'Carbon footprint'?
When I watch an airliner streak overhead I am left with an acute sense of the irrelevance and reletive insignificance of my actions compared to one hour's emissions from an Airbus.
Well, don't kid yourself. Every year, the average modern urban dweller (That's us!) produces a metric tonne of CO2. If we are thinking gases, then that is a 1000kgs (2200lbs) of 'air' which if contained, would fill a cube 8 metres by 8 metres by 8 metres.

The following short video clips are from a global multimedia exhibition that seeks to give us a real idea of what this looks like. As I write large 8x8x8m cubes are being placed in key public spaces in the lead up to Copenhagen. Using light, sound and sheer size this UN sponsored exhibition, called 'CO2 CUBES - VISUALIZE A TONNE OF CHANGE' is hoping to make an emotional dent on the many key opinion and decision makers who will determine the planet's future later this month.

I picked up on this exhibition from a routine UN press briefing I receive daily. It puts into words a question that I have had for a while. How do I make a real difference? Well, here is a group of artists who are literally magnifying their creative vision in a big enough way to reach a global audience. I can also do this. So can you.
Each of us has a talent that we play with in the real world. Do you build things? Are you a do-it-yourselfer? Do you spend all your available time downloading erotica? Are you a singer, dancer, poet or conman? Well, no matter what, it can be done in a more environmentally friendly way. It really isn't that hard.
But why on earth should I do this? I actually don't give a shit about whether the planet is warmer in 300 years time. Or, as my friend, Frank Harris, says, I come from Iceland, we need all the heat we can get!

The first and easiest thing to do is to just help the world accept that this is actually happening. Trust the great majority of scientists out there. They know what they are looking at and even if some of the details are inaccurate, the big picture is not. We need to take energy and environmental issues away from the realm of weirdos and white coats. It must be trendy and FUN! Tell jokes about it, learn to look disapprovingly at people who consume excessively. Tell the teller at the super that you don't want packets because they mess up your world. Make a statement - use a bright pink shoppingbag with 'Save the Planet - Make Love not Gas!' written on it.

Spread the word and be part of those who will get an invite to the greatest party ever held on the planet - when we finally get our CO2 back to 1980s levels!

And if you lose heart, just imagine that 8x8x8 cube that is yours every month to fill, along with a few billion other people.......

Next Blog>>>I will work out exactly what a 'Carbon footprint' is and discuss fun ways to reduce ours.

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