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If these are the early stages, I shudder to think what's on the path ahead.

Two things brought that thought to mind.

One is my own aging. Aches and pains, stiffer muscles, presbyopia, diminished energy. As I approach my 67th birthday, I can imagine the kind of hard experience that led Bette Davis to say that old age isn'™t for sissies. It is no small challenge to come to terms with the ancient truth that the uphill part of life's cycle is followed by the downhill.

As a way of coming to terms with personal deterioration, we can always take the larger view in which we see ourselves as part of the circle of life. We have children; we have grandchildren; life renews itself. Although as individuals we may come and go, we are part of something bigger than ourselves that carries forward the stream of life.

But now that larger view of life has also become disturbing. That same alarming thought --If these are the early stages, what the heck is on the path ahead? --” has come to mind in relation to another reality: the early stages of climate change.

Like what happened last June, when an unpredicted enormous wind swept across the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic, knocking down trees for hundreds of miles, including some right around our house in the Shenandoah Valley. Just a few months later, Hurricane Sandy -- whose eye never approached within hundreds of miles of us --€” attacked our area with 24 hours of hard-driving rain that found its way onto our wood floors and into the homes of our neighbors. Sandy's winds took down still more trees.

Extreme weather has become far more frequent, just as scientists predicted.

Another weather development scared me even more.

All through March, I was pining for spring and  looking at the extended forecast to see when warmer weather would be coming. The average high temperature for March in my area of year is the mid-50s, but we had less than a handful of days that have reached that average. Most days were a good 15 degrees colder than that.

Then I read this in The Guardian (UK):

Climate scientists have linked the massive snowstorms and bitter spring weather now being experienced across Britain and large parts of Europe and North America to the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice.
Even this frustratingly prolonged winter appears to be part of the larger picture called "climate change."

Global warming has diminished the sea ice in the Arctic to levels unprecedented in recorded history, and this altered the course of the jet stream in a way that allowed cold Arctic air to descend to lower latitudes than is normal.

This, climate scientists warn, is just the beginning. The momentum of these changes is gathering, some vicious cycles have been triggered, and the ultimate effect of our generations-long spewing of greenhouse gases into Earth's atmosphere will be far greater than anything we've yet seen.

It,™s scary. What powers of this planet are we unleashing? What will life be like for our children and grandchildren?

How well will living systems around us survive? Apparently not so well.  For a couple of years, I've been worrying about all the dead wood in the forest surrounding our house. A few weeks ago I read in USA Today:

Years of drought and high temperatures are thinning forests in the upper Great Lakes and the eastern United States, NASA satellites show. Nearly 40% of the Mid-Atlantic's forests lost tree canopy cover, ranging from 10% to 15% between 2000 and 2010, according to a NASA study released this week.
Climate change has stopped being hypothetical. It's already part of our lived experience. It's visible. It's palpable. These early stages are rough enough.  But if the climate scientists are right, we ain't seen nothing yet. We and our kind are in for a bumpy ride.

One would think that faced with a challenge this profound, we Americans would be responding with an all-out quest for ways of solving, or at least ameliorating the problem. That's how we responded to World War II, when fascism threatened us. That's  how we responded to Sputnik, when the Soviets seemed to be overtaking us.

And yet, despite these real and ever-more-visible dangers, one of our two major political parties has made it dogma that there's nothing happening in our climate that we as a nation are obliged to address.  What gets done? Not nearly enough.  

This is dangerous.

Andy Schmookler, recently the Democratic candidate for Congress in Virginia's 6th District, is an author whose books include Debating the Good Society: A Quest to Bridge America's Moral Divide.

Originally posted to AndySchmookler on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 04:29 PM PDT.

Also republished by J Town.

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Comment Preferences

  •  And don't ask for a global effort, which this.. (6+ / 0-)

    ...really requires, because you'll be called a traitor.

    "Michael Moore, who was filming a movie about corporate welfare called 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' sought and received incentives."

    by Bush Bites on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 04:49:40 PM PDT

  •  Is it denial or just being out of touch? (6+ / 0-)

    I live not too far from the diarist, and am a fairly frequent visitor to the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge.  

    Is it denial that drives attitudes, or are most people really so out of touch with their own environment that they don't notice what is going on?

    Driving rains most midsummer afternoons, tornadoes, the loss of truly cold winter weather, 100+ degree heat, and infrequent, but dramatic snows.

    What, do people have to be hit by fucking lightning?

  •  The decline in forests is alarming (5+ / 0-)

    if you are paying attention.  I've never seen so many fallen trees, dead trees standing, and diseased trees with split bark, fungus, canker.  That's in my central North Carolina forested suburb.  Drought is usually blamed (although we haven't been in drought for over a year) but much may be due to air pollution, particularly ozone levels, which weakens trees and leaves them susceptible to pests and disease.  Gail Zawacki writes about what's happening to trees in her blog "Wit's End,"  People in general seem very unaware of what's going on "outside."

    •  I live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and the forest is declining at a rapid rate. I have nearly five acres to wander on and many more acres of neighbors land. The big older trees have split bark (one that fell was like a sponge inside), the native pines are invaded by beetles and die topdown, the sassafras trees only grow to a certain stage and then decline. The young trees that are dying is weird, you can just push them over. I am going to have to pay someone to cut up the felled trees near the house because I fear fire. We have already had fire danger days with extreme low humidity and high winds after wondering if it is ever going to stop snowing and raining. We do have air pollution even here in the hills because of the I-81 and I-70, but I think if we experience heat in the DC area that melts the tarmac at Reagan and warps the Metro rails, then that cannot be good for trees. Maybe Kos should republish the dairies about how photosynthesis stops at 104 F.

  •  Why is it being denied, ignored, given only a (7+ / 0-)

    minimal acknowledgement, funds, efforts?

    The Power of the Plutocracy
    Compromised Politicians
    Religious Fundamentalists
    Corporate media

    It's the one great truth that threatens all of them.

    “April is the cruellest month, breeding/ Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/ Memory and desire, stirring/ Dull roots with spring rain." T.S. Eliot

    by blueoasis on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 06:41:53 PM PDT

  •  I recently met one of the Biosphere scientists. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chimene, blueoasis, unclebucky

    She told me that after 450ppm CO2, trees actually release rather than absorb it.  Apparently, that is why we need to prevent getting to that point.  Given that we are at over 397ppm and rising over 2ppm/year (and the change is increasing now), that would give us less than 20 years.  Does anyone else have info on that?

  •  your "Early Stages" author here (0+ / 0-)

    I hear about this belief on the right that climate change is a hoax.  One thing I've said:

    One has to decide that something the likes of which have never remotely happened --a scientific scandal involving thousands of scientists all over the world over the course of the decades conspiring together to perpetrate a hoax on earthlings, and get the whole world worried and having conferences but not doing very much.

    Pretty inconceivable, if you know anything about how the world of science really works.

    Or one can believe that a vested interest of the most powerful corporations in the world have deployed some funds to create doubt in people's minds, when there's not really any fundamental doubt in the science, just like the tobacco companies did for all those years. And for the same reason:  they get richer if people will stay addicted to their products, even if it contradicts what they themselves know full well is true and even if it kills their customers.

    Seems like a lay-up to me.

    As it was with tobacco, so how is it also with climate change, with big oil money funding disinformation campaigns back in the 90s (see "Heating Up," I believe it was called, by a reporter on the Washington Post) and the Koch Brothers many propaganda efforts and legislative efforts in these times to clear environmental concerns like climate change out of the equation.  They fight effectively to get enough control over the politics of the issue to keep anything from being done.

    This dishonest spirit is willing to serve death against life if pursuit of profits and greater wealth and greater control, like the asbestos companies who let their workers expose themselves unknowlngly to life-threatening hazzards.

    Tobacco. Asbestos. The oil companies. And don't forget the chemical companies, who don't always want us to know the dangers they know about. Sacrifice us to make money.  Sick.

    This is a glimpse into the spirit that animates the political right in America today.

  •  Andy (0+ / 0-)

    Will you be running again in VA-06 ?

    thanks for this post

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