Friday, May 15, 2009

Breaking News: Climate Change is Unhealthy!

The Globe and Mail has an article that warns, and I quote, "...that people won't escape unscathed from global warming...." It makes me uneasy that the paper thinks this is news to people. Global warming will cause the spread of disease, increased malnutrition, more mosquitoes with malaria and west nile, floods, cholera, droughts, starvation, killer heat waves, etc. And all that might affect how we work together: civil unrest and mental health issues could take their toll as well. This will affect us significantly within this century.

It's curious how people have such a disconnect between the environment and themselves. "Climate change is a health issue affecting billions of people, not just an environmental issue about polar bears and deforestation." It's news to people that our survival is intertwined with the survival of polar bears. And it's news that if we cut down the trees and kill all the sharks in the ocean, we lose some pretty important links in the oxygen cycle. We'll be hard pressed to manage without breathable air.

This has to be my biggest frustration. People just don't see their place within the world. They just see their place within their own private dramas or comedies. We all forget the larger scheme of things, and how much of an effect we each have on it.

Near the end of the article it reveals the positives of fossil fuel use: it's doubled our life expectancy. Is it worth a longer life for maybe 20% of the population at the expense of the other 80%, and at the expense of all the generations to follow? Because now this overuse is starting to hurt.

Their solution to all this: a "low-carbon lifestyle." Walk or bike instead of driving to reduce obesity, heart disease, and stress. This last line falls under the heading the myth of individual responsibility. Yes, of course we're all individually affecting the world. I just said that up there somewhere. And it would be great if we all drove much less - if we were absolutely humiliated to be caught driving empty-handed less than three "k." But it's a myth that carbon emissions can be reduced to a healthy level if we each turn down the thermostat a degree and bike to work. Industry needs a massive overhaul. But that's a story for another day.

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