Saturday, May 06, 2006

a consuming fire

Over a year ago I read three long pieces in The New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert on global warming. The writing was measured and yet also alarming , at the same time reflective and urgent. I saved the pieces, to be read again, and was pleased that the articles have now appeared as a book entitled Field Notes From A Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change (Bloomsbury). From the point of view of both reader and writer, it is a perfect title: these are field notes, observations from the Arctic Circle and Washington, D.C., from China and Greenland, from the Netherlands and Syria. The observations are carefully made, and call forth the interpretation (and response) of the reader. The "catastrophe" is the warming of the earth's atmosphere, a fact that is universally affirmed by the objective scientific communities of the developed countries of the world.

Global warming (1998 had the highest global temperature on record, 2002 the second highest, 2001 the third highest, 2004 the fourth highest) is chiefly the result of increased carbon dioxide emissions, which largely arise from the use of electricity (39%) and then transportation (32%). The U.S. is the largest producer of CO2, although we will soon be overtaken by China. The results of global warming thus far are higher sea levels in some parts of the world, droughts in others, less ice surface (which reflects the sun's heat back) and more watery surface (which absorbs the heat). The major cause of hurricane intensity is the warmth of the waters (thus the frequency of hurricanes in these past years near, among other places, Florida and the Gulf). Stay tuned to the upcoming hurricane season!

Kolbert presents the evidence from as many perspectives as possible. She notes along the way that most often the public is alarmed, while scientists are cautious. In regard to global warming, however, the scientific community is alarmed, while the general public has largely been unmoved. She also outlines the politics of global warming: the Clinton Administration is largely seen as right on the rhetoric but politically unwilling to respond, while the Bush Administration has been at times "missing in action", to use John McCain's phrase, and at other times intentionally dishonest in attempting to confuse the public. She also notes the economic perspective: the U.S. and China are essentially at a stand-off, neither willing to act, because of competitive pressures in the global marketplace.

Other questions are posed in the book: Are humans really the cause of global warming? Will the effects of warming be gradual or catastrophic? Can anything really be done, or is it too late? Can humans adapt, as they have done so often in the past? Is this a crisis where we have adequate knowledge but not the will to act?

Kolbert dedicates the book to her three sons, and of course that is a lingering question related to global warming. We are changing the environment in catastrophic ways. I am not aware of anyone who seriously believes that our children and their children will inherit the same earth that we did. The choice, Kolbert suggests, is between action in the present or self-destruction in the future.

I encourage you to get your hands on a copy of these "field notes", to look at the world in which we live, and to ask yourself, "what kind of future awaits the inhabitants of this planet?"


Blogger James Fletcher Baxter said...

The missing element in every human 'solution' is
an accurate definition of the creature.

The way we define 'human' determines our view
of self, others, relationships, institutions, life, and
future. Important? Only the Creator who made us
in His own image is qualified to define us accurately.
Choose wisely...there are results.

Many problems in human experience are the result of
false and inaccurate definitions of humankind premised
in man-made religions and humanistic philosophies.

Each individual human being possesses a unique, highly
developed, and sensitive perception of diversity. Thus
aware, man is endowed with a natural capability for enact-
ing internal mental and external physical selectivity.
Quantitative and qualitative choice-making thus lends
itself as the superior basis of an active intelligence.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. His title describes
his definitive and typifying characteristic. Recall
that his other features are but vehicles of experi-
ence intent on the development of perceptive
awareness and the following acts of decision and
choice. Note that the products of man cannot define
him for they are the fruit of the discerning choice-
making process and include the cognition of self,
the utility of experience, the development of value-
measuring systems and language, and the accultur-
ation of civilization.

The arts and the sciences of man, as with his habits,
customs, and traditions, are the creative harvest of
his perceptive and selective powers. Creativity, the
creative process, is a choice-making process. His
articles, constructs, and commodities, however
marvelous to behold, deserve neither awe nor idol-
atry, for man, not his contrivance, is earth's own
highest expression of the creative process.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. The sublime and
significant act of choosing is, itself, the Archimedean
fulcrum upon which man levers and redirects the
forces of cause and effect to an elected level of qual-
ity and diversity. Further, it orients him toward a
natural environmental opportunity, freedom, and
bestows earth's title, The Choicemaker, on his
singular and plural brow.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. Psalm 25:12 He is by
nature and nature's God a creature of Choice - and of
Criteria. Psalm 119:30,173 His unique and definitive
characteristic is, and of Right ought to be, the natural
foundation of his environments, institutions, and re-
spectful relations to his fellow-man. Thus, he is orien-
ted to a Freedom whose roots are in the Order of the

Let us proclaim it. Behold!
The Season of Generation-Choicemaker Joel 3:14 KJV


7:18 AM  

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