At the end of Under a Green Sky, Ward turns to the human consequences of the current global warming. The main thrust of his book has been the evidence that greenhouse gases were the driving force in the numerous previous mass extinctions, but the absolutely unprecedented recent rise in these gases really won’t let us ignore the logical conclusion that another mass extinction is likely to occur soon. And it is impossible to avoid imagining what would happen to us humans if it did. Will we, with our Doomsday Vault full of seeds and ever-improving air conditioning, all gather in the high middles of big countries and ride it out?
Ward offers three future scenarios:
- We get our act together, quit driving so much, rein in industry, and things don’t get worse. We suffer through extreme weather, millions are displaced as coastlines in places like Bangladesh rise by about five feet, and the increase in the insect-to-bird ratio we are already seeing continues to allow the increase of tropical diseases — but we mostly survive.
- We continue to mess things up at the current rate, and face mass extinctions by the end of the century.
- The people of China, India, Mexico, and Thailand decide that they too have a right to two car garages and climate control, and we mess things up so fast that we face not just displaced people, wholesale climate change with resulting shifts in food supply and political power, global resurgence of tropical diseases, the death of the oceans, and the extinction of 10% of all species in the next couple of decades, but also World War III as people become more and more desperate for food, potable water, and dry ground. Then a mass extinction rivaling that of the Permian Era takes place, and we are no longer interested parties in the story of the Earth.
If you are scientifically-minded, check out realclimate.org for more interesting stuff on the subject. If you are not scientifically-minded, but still interested, check out Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. There is a version for kids which is an easier read. If you do not believe that global warming is a problem, then I don’t know what you should do. My husband doesn’t believe in petrified wood. Some of the old people in his country when he was a child didn’t believe that the earth went around (“Look at the trees,” they would say when smart aleck kids like him came home from school with such stories. “If the earth moved as you say, they would be waving around more.”) You can believe whatever you want, as long as you will make an effort at conservation.
Now, suppose that you wanted to make such an effort, but feel, as Chanthaboune’s coworker said, that there is nothing you can do personally. There is a book I would recommend to you (I’ve recommended it before, but I think it is still accurate): The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists. This book does not give you 365 little things you should worry about. It lists and clearly explains the main things you and I can do that will actually make a difference to our environment.
- Drive less. When next you buy a car, choose a fuel-efficient one.
- Eat less meat, and buy or grow organic produce.
- Be conservation-minded in your use of household fuels for heating and hot water; accept a little bit of discomfort.
- Choose efficient lighting and appliances.
- Don’t use hazardous chemicals (give up dry cleaning and leave chlorine for those who really need it).
- Don’t buy things you don’t need. When you do buy things, let them be renewable (bamboo, not mahogany or plastic, and forget that ocelot coat) and durable.
For me, it was helpful to know that all the little controversies (paper or plastic? disposable or requiring washing in hot water?) were not making as big a difference as the few big things. We can’t, or at least won’t, do everything we could to make that difference, so it is sensible to do the things that make the most impact.
As for Ward’s book, I really enjoyed it and would certainly recommend it, but you do need some background in the sciences and a high tolerance for numbers.
Hey! It’s Leap Day! Girls can propose to boys, and we all get an extra day to catch up.
Wouldn’t that be great? If Leap Day meant that everyone got to spend the whole day catching up on the things they were behind on, and nothing new happened, we were not expected to conduct our normal business, and if what we needed to catch up on was sleep or play, that would be fine, because it is an extra day outside of time?
Yes, well. Heading up to the store, myself, after doing some work on my business. If I happen to be able to close up two of the six shows I have out there today, I will win a prize. Of course, if I submit them next week, I’ll also win a prize. Central Office gives out prizes with really stunning frequency.
They also produce bamboo tools, offer lifetime guarantees (see “durable” above), support women, and give to food banks, so I’m pretty happy with them.