The Green Spot: How Bad Can It Be?

My goodness you people do surprise me once in a while. My first little 660 word green spot post generated almost 3500 words in comments (granted I was part of those) and resulted in a traffic spike to the blog that was double the usual number of visitors and page views. So overall I thought it went well. That’s not to say this is a permanent thing yet. I’m still giving this about 6 weeks before I decide.

Now this week I said we would enter into why we think the way we do about environment issues. Specifically I want to look at a one thing that seems to cause us to not to anything more than most. The idea of “how bad can it be?” Let’s for starters look at global warming.

I live in Regina, SK. In the winter it is COLD. I mean REALLY COLD for at least a few weeks every year! So the idea of the planet warming up by 0.5C doesn’t sound all that bad. Hell in the middle of December I think most people would like to see an extra 6 C warmer. So the idea of this being bad just seems hard to shallow. Ok the experts say it will shift rainfall patterns and cause the oceans to turn acidic. Yet as long as I’m fine with my little piece of life I’ll do just fine regardless of all that.

You see it doesn’t seem all that bad, because we tell people what the start of it looks like. A warmer winter is hardly a threat. No one seems willing to go out there and extend the picture a bit. Yet people argue, well this has never happened before how can we know what will happen. Well actually there is a similar event that previously happened on this very planet.

Back at end of the Permian period, about 251 million years ago, something significant happened almost instantly (at least geologically speaking). The rocks tell a story of a rapid shift from the Permian period, which was full of life like huge reefs with sharks and herbivores the size of rhinos, to the reefs dying off and 90% of the life on this planet was gone. The reefs don’t show up again for 10 million years.

So what happened? Well a series of volcanic eruptions in Siberia gave rise to the Siberia Traps. These volcanoes put out huge amounts of sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide. The sulphur dioxide would have caused acid rain, but otherwise would have been gone from the atmosphere rather quickly. The CO2 lingered on raising temperatures by about 6 to 8 C and that released methane trapped in arctic landmasses and shifted ocean currents. Life survived, it always does, but not 90% of it. Obviously we don’t have the exact situation now (we don’t have the same SO2 emissions), but it does give you an idea when things go bad it takes a long, long time for the planet to correct itself. Also I’m not arrogant enough to think humans could survive something like that. A fern, perhaps. Humans, no.

So when people talk about the end of the world. Yep that’s what we are facing. I won’t sugar coat it. First our food supplies will fail (likely from over farming what small areas are useful after the rain patterns move) and then famine will kick in. Then wars for what little resources remain. The world will dissolve into third world countries everywhere. All our science, art, progress and comfort won’t mean a thing if we can’t eat. That is what is on the line. I don’t know about you, but thought of raising my kids (or seeing my grandkids) in a third world country doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Granted this may not happen in my lifetime (depending on who’s predictions you want to believe), but I don’t wish this fate on anyone for any reason.

This is what awaits us, this is how bad it can be. Sucks doesn’t it? What to stop it? That’s the good news. We can if we get off our collective butts and do something to prevent it. Actually when you think about it this is an exciting time. We get to examine our lives and rebuild them from the ground up to be sustainable. It’s lifestyle design at it’s finest and largest scale. Perhaps we should call this time the sustainable renaissance?

4 thoughts on “The Green Spot: How Bad Can It Be?”

  1. so, exactly what are you arguing here? Are you saying we should be planning to stop CO2 emissions to slow the ‘threats’ of less deaths in winter months . . . or are you arguing that we should be preparing for the overdue ice age?

    If anything I think we need to hit about 600ppm-1000PPM of CO2 in the air. Our food production won’t be much of a problem anymore then at least.

  2. Traciatim,

    I’m saying regardless of what you believe it appears a high CO2 environment isn’t a good idea in the long run.

    Actually there is some newer work about food yields and high CO2 which seems to indicate that we will actually get 50% less yield, not a gain of 30% (which is the most quoted study and about decade or two out of date). See:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/312/5782/1918

    I know where I live if the rain fall drops off by even a small margin the whole southern half of the prairies could change to a wasteland.

    Tim

  3. The point of sustainable food supply was passed some time ago. I say, all thoughts about sustainable issues go out the window when the pressure is on. After all, unsustainable methods are more profitable in the short term e.g. eating the seed corn. People are only green insofar they can afford it. The future will pay. The future is/will be us.

  4. This century is going to close with a world that is dramatically different than the one that opened it.

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