Global Priorities

Alan Zendell, February 6, 2023

If you read my recent post, Connectedness, you’ll recall that I ended it by suggesting that we, as Americans and citizens of Earth may have our priorities upside down. Most of our stress during the past year centered around political dysfunction, craven politicians putting greed and power ahead of governing, domestic gun violence, and the war in Ukraine. Those are all very serious problems that threaten our very existence, but one event that the news media quickly put to rest represented a far more serious threat than all of them.

Two weeks ago, Mother Nature reminded us who or what controls the real power over our lives. Though most of us never gave it a thought until Morgan Freeman, playing the President of the United States, informed us that Mom had arranged a mass extinction event, as a large asteroid was on a collision course with Earth, such potential catastrophes could occur at any moment. In fact, the near certainty that one day Earth will be devastated by such a collision is a major motivating force driving our exploration of space and neighboring planets. Humanity may need another place to live one day.

Yesterday, in case we failed to get the message, Mom sent us another reminder. A series of major earthquakes struck the area around Turkey’s border with Syria. The death toll, based on bodies recovered in the first twenty-four hours was nearly 4,000, and likely to go much higher as whole cities and towns were turned into piles of rubble, burying countless innocent people. That initial death count already far exceeds the number of people killed on nine-eleven and if casualties pile up as expected, it will easily surpass the annual number of U. S. deaths from mass shootings per year, and will very likely surpass the total of more than 7,000 Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Do we need more reminders? We all learned about the evolution of climate cycles in school. A couple of billion years ago, Earth’s surface temperature was far too high to support most life. As the planet cooled, life of every form and type flourished. Earth’s climate went through many changes since then, too. Left to her own devices, Mother Nature brought us ice ages and extended periods during which deserts expanded to cover most of the surface. Sea levels rose and fell, and our polar ice caps increased in size and shrunk again as conditions changed. Whole seas dried up, continents moved, some islands disappeared, and others suddenly rose from the ocean floor.

Events like those of the last two weeks may have reminded us where the real power in the universe lies, but if the past is any indication, we’ll conveniently forgot those lessons as soon as they leave our television screens. Our politicians tear their hair and clamor each time a lunatic with a gun mows down innocent people and then breathe a sigh of relief that they didn’t actually have to tackle the problem when the public moves on to more important things like which team makes the playoffs this year. In the same way, since Nature’s warnings are few and far between, we express horror, today, at the scenes of devastation in Turkey, but a month from now, half our politicians will still find it in their self-interest to deny that climate change is an equally serious existential threat.

It’s difficult enough to convince people that the gradual increase in average surface temperature on Earth is a threat when 100 million people spend a week under record-low winter temperatures and ice storms. Yet, the science is clear – every responsible scientist not in the pay of people who profit from maintaining the status quo accepts it. Rising sea levels, melting ice caps, thawing tundra in the arctic and Antarctic releasing huge volumes of methane and biological terrors all pose serious threats to our children and grandchildren. Climate change threatens food production and ocean currents like the Gulf Stream that keep land masses more than about forty degrees north or south of the equator habitable. It results in more frequent and violent hurricanes, tornadoes and extreme swings in local weather patterns.

There are some things we know with certainty. While climate change is a natural phenomenon, we know that carbon emissions and heat pollution accelerate the process from one that takes thousands of years to events that can occur in a single generation. The worldwide use of fertilizers and the burning of fossil fuels change our atmosphere, causing it to retain heat from the sun, rather than allowing it to radiate back into space.

It’s really a simple process at the macro level, yet we never seem heed the old adage: “Don’t f**k with Mother Nature.”

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2 Responses to Global Priorities

  1. A. L. Kaplan says:

    Reblogged this on alkaplan and commented:
    It’s time to heed Mother Nature’s message.

  2. Ari says:

    Great article, I really felt a few decades ago things were start to shift – just slightly towards people being more aware. I remember the big push that happened when the hole in the ozone layer was found or the changes that happened when certain cities around the world found their pollution levels to be off the charts. But then suddenly, things faded and people turned away.

    Greed, and profits are still the most important thing to many people and corporations and those who it affects, they still seem to ignore it – distracting themselves with social media and the latest trend. But since we can’t even care about people – the global economy is bad and people are struggling to pay for food and heating while fuel companies boast record profits… It’s painful to watch.

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