Something's going on with the weather. Nearly every week there's news of
another broken record and of severe disasters from abnormal wind, rain,
cold or heat, somewhere on Earth. Recently there have also been a number
of reports indicating a general global warming trend.
The first five months of this year were the warmest since records have been
kept. Earlier this spring, the temperature of New Jersey's coastal water
was reported to be six degrees above normal. <I>Science News </I>magazine
discloses that researchers have discovered, with 99.7 percent certainty,
that three years in the 1990s were each hotter than any year for more than
six centuries. <I>Science News </I>also reports that 200 square
kilometers of Antarctica's ice shelf recently broke off, just four years
after a chunk five times its size suddenly disappeared. <I>The Washington
Post </I>reports that the Arctic ice sheet has been shrinking at
two-to-three percent per decade during the last 20 years. El Nino, which
is still affecting the weather over many areas of this planet, is simply a
large concentration of slightly warmer ocean water. And fires in
Indonesia, Mexico, Florida and other places seem to result from, and may
accelerate, this warming trend.
Three years ago, the International Panel on Climate Change, made up of over
2,000 scientists warned that the burning of fossil fuels has pushed the
Earth into a period of climate instability which is likely to cause
"widespread economic, social and environmental dislocation over the next
It took hundreds of millions of years for those fossil fuels to form as
plants removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and natural processes
converted those plant materials into fossil fuels. As carbon dioxide was
removed from the Earth's atmosphere, the climate changed.
We are currently reversing the process, dumping that carbon dioxide back
into the air in just a few hundred years, that's millions of times faster
than it was removed. Not surprising then is the discovery that this rapid
change in the concentration of a gas which helps control the flow of heat
out of the earth, is having some notable effects. Of course, we are adding
many other so-called "greenhouse gases" too. As suggested by climate
change theory, more violent and unpredictable weather and changes in the
locations of organisms (including those that cause serious human diseases)
are occurring now.
Scientific studies, news reports and personal experience all support the
current reality of climate change. The world's nations, gathered in Kyoto,
acknowledged this view, although the power of our country, which produces
one quarter of the world's greenhouse gases, is such that only a very
modest, seven percent reduction in the global carbon output could be agreed
People here keep buying larger vehicles, planning more vacations, building
bigger houses, widening roads and replacing farms with energy-intensive
commercial buildings. This trend is further encouraged by very low-cost
crude oil. Forty-two gallons, or one barrel cost just over $11 earlier
The news media faithfully tell us about each penny or two change in the
price of gasoline. They don't, however, tell us that we pay $20 to $30 per
barrel with our taxes to provide military protection for the Persian Gulf
(so that oil companies can continue to buy cheap oil there). The media
don't report total environmental costs of fossil fuel use or give us the
big picture of global warming, either.
This isn't too surprising once we learn that the fossil fuel, automotive,
chemical and aluminum industries, the major advertisers in mainstream
media, are also spending millions of dollars for a propaganda campaign
which includes deceptively-named groups organized by global PR firms.
Their purpose is to spread doubt and to delay action on climate change that
might serve the common good, but could hurt profits.
This Sunday marks the Summer Solstice, a good time to be reminded of the
importance of the sun and of the possibilities for using its energy
directly to satisfy our needs. An organic garden for food, well-placed
trees for cooling, south-facing glass for winter warmth and an outdoor line
to dry our clothes all provide essential services without producing
greenhouse gases. They also can create a place beautiful and interesting
enough to keep us near home.
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
(C)1998, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491
Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT
certified organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on urban
agriculture projects in southern Connecticut and producing "The Politics of
Food" and "Living on the Earth" radio programs). Their collection of essays
Living on the Earth: Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful Future
is available from Bill Duesing, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491 for $14
postpaid. These essays first appeared on WSHU, public radio from
Fairfield, CT. New essays are posted weekly at http://www.wshu.org/duesing
and those since November 1995 are available there.
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