Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Way and the Life

The oceans are dying.  They've absorbed most of the carbon they can probably take and are acidifying to the point where they won't support anything with a skeleton.  Wide swathes are covered in toxic plastic and underneath the rapidly decaying petroleum byproducts float gigantic schools of jellyfish sweeping the ocean of protein.  The days when we as a species could feed ourselves from the ocean are gone.  An ocean devoid of life will absorb even less carbon, warm even faster, and release the frozen methane its held safely for who knows how long. 

The forest are dying, as well.  Hopes that increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide caused by our addiction to burning carbon for fuel would prove a boon to plant growth are turning sour.  It turns out the trees can't handle the heat and the dryness; they close up their breathing vessels to keep from overheating and starve to death.  Once the trees die, the largest terrestrial carbon sink available to the planet will disappear.  The dead wood will catch fire and add more carbon to the atmosphere, melting the permafrost that's so far kept its immense quantities of carbon safely locked a mere ten inches below the surface.  The lungs of the planet are the vast taiga of the northern hemisphere, currently managed by rapacious governments in Canada and Russia eager to turn everything into short-term political and economic advantage, and the Amazon basin, quickly being denuded of vegetation to support an equally myopic perspective.  Soon enough there will be no more wood to harvest.

And in the most powerful nation on the planet, the most successful empire ever, positive change is held hostage by people who think a return to a 14-year-old regulatory regime is tantamount to national socialism.  The agenda is defined by people who believe government-run health care is a crime because the private health care companies tell them its so; who believe global warming is a fraud perpetrated by self-interested scientists because the oil companies tell them it must be so; who believe living in a society where everyone can shoot anyone at any moment will keep kids safe, because the gun companies tell them it will be so.  The might of the mightiest society ever is thwarted by people who are motivated primarily not by self-interest or the common good, but on whether people like me get pissed off. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Status Quo Antebellum

In the last year I've tried unsuccessfully to read two long, landmark books on Reconstruction, A Nation Under Our Feet and Race and Reunion, prompted by a short, almost young-adult level novel called Where The Southern Cross The Dog and some thoughtful blogging by Ta-Nehisi Coates.