15 October 2009

Speaking of the Climate....

For Blog Action Day, I'm reprinting a couple of columns I wrote for Rapid River Literary Magazine a decade or so ago. [A little background, for those who haven't been around since day one. I used to have a monthly column under the pen name of Phydeaux Speaks, because I ran a retail shop and I didn't want my column to effect the business -- I wasn't necessarily writing from a pro-business standpoint.] I can't tell you how disgusting it is to me that these are still completely relevant.

First, my piece from September 2000, complete with call to action for everyone to vote (remember how that turned out?):

Have you been paying attention to the weather lately? I mean, you've obviously noticed the weather, but have you actually paid any attention to it? Over the past couple of weeks, we, here in Asheville, have experienced everything from whilly and wet (approximately, oh, late March weather) to cool and dry (late Fall weather) to hot and humid ("appropriate" August weather). A year and a half ago, Asheville laid claim to a statewide temperature record. Do you remember that record-setting day? 80 degrees fahrenheit... in Asheville... in February.

I remember, as a puppy growing up in the northern foothills of North Carolina, consistently cold weather in the Winter, and, oddly enough, consistently hot weather in the Summer. To be sure, there were mild days, both in the Winter and Summer, bot for the most part, Winter was cold and Summer was hot (those of you who grew up in South Florida and Southern California will have to trust me on this seasonal climatic variance).

I also remember general precipitation patterns. In Winter there were regular snowfalls and/or ice accumulations (depending on latitude and elevation). Springtime brought showers and steady rains, Summer had its strong afternoon thunderstorms, and Autumn delivered its usual gentle rains and occasional early frosts. These patterns were well established and had been observed and relied upon by the Cherokee and other peoples that inhabited this area long before any Europeans came this way.

What about cataclysmic weather, you may ask? Of a certainty, Spring brought tornados through the midwest and in the Piedmont and coastal regions of the southeast, and, from late Summer through Autumn, hurricanes were always a potential threat. There were also periodic droughts and floods. I remember a family trip to Texas in 1975, the purpose of which was a visit with my grandfather, that took place during a great Mississippi flood. As we traveled west on I-40, we encountered standing water just west of Nashville, Tennessee, and didn't reach the other side of the flood until almost Little Rock, Arkansas.

I also remember listening to Walter Cronkite relay a news item, some time in the early 1970s, about a new theory proposed by climate experts, a phenomenon they called Global Warming, caused by something known as greenhouse gases. There was concern expressed that, unless more research was done and steps taken, these accumulations of greenhouse gases could eventually adversely affect our climate.

Well, it's thirty years later, and what have we learned? Carbon monoxide (CO) content in the atmosphere is at its highest since the time of the dinosaurs. There is at least one hole in the Ozone layer (which protects our planet, and all life on it, from ultraviolet rays from the sun) which, despite the banning of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) is continuing to grow.

We have also learned that the two main contributors to these record CO emissions are power plants and automobiles.

And so we come to the heart of the problem: power plants and automobiles -- electricity and cars. The abilities to dispel darkness and be mobile -- two cornerstones of the "American Dream". A recent report shows that there are more autos in the US than people by almost 20 million. Cars probably outnumber legal drivers by upwards of 100 million.

Power companies steadfastly refuse to voluntarily reduce harmful emissions, and our elected federal officials (Senators and Congressmen) are equally steadfast in their refusal to mandate reductions. The reason usually given for this stance by industry and government is that it would be cost-prohibitive to retrofit existing plants to make them cleaner. I'm here to tell you that it will be much less "cost effective" (not to mention impossible) to retrofit our planet with life once our modern, enlightened society destroys what exists now.

So when you vote this November, remember that all the money in the world won't help you breathe when the air is toxic.

See ya.

And my column from March 2001, written -- as a letter -- from the future:

My Dearest Darling,

I hope this letter finds you in good health. The situation here is, as always, stable but chaotic. Since we are deep into winter, the constant stream of refugees seeking water has dwindled to a trickle. The biggest problem we have now is trying to provide shelter for those who do show up.

I spent the last two weeks stationed at the Black Mountain checkpoint (in the pass where the old interstate comes up the mountain). The few refugees that come up have been temporarily placed in the compound (the old Warren Wilson College) until they can be processed and either granted admission into the Conclave or sent back down the mountain.

I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing all these destitute people, folk who believed the government of the United States when they were told that the future was grand and glorious, that unlimited growth and unlimited power consumption were not only posible but actually preferable, people who never gave a thought to the fact that humanity was destroying the planet. I'll never get used to seing them trudge up here, thinking that things here are like they used to be. I see the haunted looks on their faces, with their starving children and their meager possessions, clinging to the past. They still believe, for the most part, that civilization is merely experiencing a temporary difficulty and that somehow the remnant of the Federal Government is going to make things better.

Speaking of Federals, a company of soldiers passed through the other day, returning to the War Zone after a week of R&R at the beaches outside Fayetteville. I spoke with one of them, a young man from Ohio, and he told me that their unit had been stationed in Little Rock and had been part of the army that had attempted (unsuccessfuly) to liberate Dallas from the Mexicans. The soldier also believed that things were "just about" to return to a pre-Collapse state. This was from a seventeen year old kid, who couldn't possibly remember much about the Old Times.

The best part of the Federal's visit was, of course, the barter. They had three crates of oranges, that must have been smuggled out of Cuban Territory, and several crates of (almost) fresh vegetables. In exchange for these delicacies, we were more than willing to allow them safe passage through the Conclave, and even hooked their vehicles up to our generators and fully charged their batteries, which was enough to get them to Knoxville and out of our territory.

We were very careful, while they were here, to not display too much power or water usage. The bivouacked on the old interstate roadbed, in an area where we had no winter crops, and weren't allowed access to any sensitive areas.

Some other rumors we heard from the Federals included news from Europe. Reports indicate that the Asian Hegemony has finally rooted out the last resistance cells of the Euro Army and that everything east of the Alps is now under Chinese control. The English still control the Isles and what remains of the northwest of Mainland Europe. Apparently, the Hegemony didn't think that invading Great Britain was worthwhile, since little natural resources remain in British Territory.

The Feds also passed on intelligence from Africa and South America, more news of total anarchy. It appears that both continents have completely returned to tribal unit status and that no national governments survived the turmoil there. Of course, none of this information is less than five months old, so situations could have changed drastically, but it now appears that the global population is now less than three billion people. This means that nearly four billion people have died over the last twenty years. And yet, there are people who still deny that the civilation of the late twentieth century, the gross over-consumption and amassing of economic power into the hands of a bureaucratic elite, the supremacy of materialism over stewardship, that all of these things, along with unsustainable population growth, caused the Collapse.

One of the Feds even told us that there is, in the planning stages, an invasion of the Arctic Territories -- an attempt to recapture the oil fields and restart production. I don't see how even the Feds themselves can believe that the attempt would by anything other than a total failure. The Inuit are too well entrenched, and without fuel for the tanks the Feds would have to rely totally on infantry to carry out such an invasion. It will succeed only in decreasing the population of North America even further.

It's hard to believe now, looking back over the last twenty-five years, that what we knew as civilization could have disintegrated so quickly. I remember seeing a television news program back in '01 that contained predictions regarding future crises and conflicts in which the United States could become involved.

These predictions were based on Central Intelligence Agency studies, and said that the most precious resource world-wide would be, within ten years, fresh water. As I recall, the greatest areas of concern in these reports were Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Well, this report was obviously one of the most accurate ever produced by any governmental agency.

By 2008, Egypt had conquered the Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, thereby gaining total control over the Nile River. Almost immediately after, the combined forces of Iraq nd Iran invaded Southern Turkey in an attempt to gain control of the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Simultaneously, in Asia, China and India began land-grabs that ended only when they had divided betwen them all of Southeast Asia.

American's first involvment in these conflicts came when Turkey requested NATO aid in their battle against the invaders from the south. This involvement, as you know, didn't last long. The OPEC states immediately stopped exporting crude oil.

Then, and to this day we don't know whether it was the eco-terrorists who were flourishing in those days or OPEC Special Forces, the oil fields in the Alaskan Arctic were destroyed, and the Alaskan Pipeline shut down, leaving Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana as the only sources of fossil fuels in the U.S.

That was when the Mexicans invaded, decimating the vaunted American Armed Forces, who lacked the effective counter to the masses of infantry and horse cavalry with which the Mexicans crossed the border. It was all the American forces could do to stop the advance west of the Mississippi River, keeping America in control of that strategic waterway.

The end of America's profligate use of energy came too late, however, to stop the environmental disasters that followed. Decades of over-consumption and pollution raised global temperatures enough to melt most of the polar ice caps, which caused worldwide sea levels to rise over one hundred feet, inundating most of the world's major cities.

Other climatic changes ensued, and long-established weather patterns seemed to change overnight, blanketing most of North America (not to mention Europe and Northern Asia) under heavy snowfalls each increasingly longer winter.

I suppose, though, that those of us who have survived these upheavals are, in a way, better off than before.

We discovered, to the surprise of most, that a lot of the things that we "had to have" in order to get by turned out to be totally unimportant in the real scheme of things (remember cell phone and automatic coffee makers?). Wealth at the expense of others, power at the expense of the environment, and decrees of government at the expense of the people all hastened the end of things "as we knew them."

It is my fervent hope, my Darling, that our children, and the children of the world, will grow up with the indisputable knowledge that we can make a difference -- positive or negative -- and that if we err in the future, it will hopefully be on the side of caution.

Love Always,


*The preceding letter from the future hs been brought to you by the Ecosphere of Earth. We hope that it isn't too late already.

See ya.

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