My thoughts on the heat wave… Do we continue to sit in this pan of water as it begins to boil our flesh from our bones, or do we leap out, and go for the throat of the man holding the pan?

    The last that I heard, over 4,500 communities had experienced record high temperatures this week. Apparently, streets are literally buckling in some places, like in St. Louis, where they’ve now surpassed the 100-degree mark for eight consecutive days. Several dozen people have died already and it looks as though the nation’s corn crop, among others, has been seriously damaged. Here in Michigan, our apples are withering in the trees. Governor Snyder, requesting federal disaster assistance for Michigan’s fruit growers, said, “This is the worst natural disaster to strike Michigan’s agricultural industry in more than 50 years,” and he’s right. The sad part is, it wasn’t all that unexpected. We’ve known that this was coming. In the few short years between 1990 and 2006, Northern Michigan has already shifted hardiness zones twice, according to data from the USDA. That basically means that the plants that used to thrive in the area no longer do. I’ve yet to verify it with any of my scientist friends, but I recently met a man from Traverse City that operates their regional produce distribution center. When I asked him about the prospects for the next cherry crop, he said simply, “It’s not coming back.” He, and the farmers that he works with, it would seem, have already written off cherries, at least in the Traverse City area. One wonders how long we’ll have apples. I mentioned this to someone earlier on Facebook, and he responded by saying that it was time to start planning Traverse City Mango Festival. I typically enjoy gallows humor, but it’s difficult to laugh when sweat is rolling down your face, and you’re listing to your infant son screaming because of the heat… Speaking of Facebook, I did some ranting earlier this evening. The heat, I guess, after a week, had finally gotten to me. Here, for those of you who I’ve apparently refused to “friend,” are some of the highlights, slightly edited.

    Every spring, when we get our last, little flurry of snow, global warming deniers are anxious to take the opportunity to point it out to all of us on Facebook, as though it somehow proves there’s no such thing as global climate change. I’m curious where they all are now, as we’re experiencing yet another day of 100-degree heat, and it looks as though Michigan may be losing its cherry crop for good…

    I just can’t believe we’ve let it go this far. I sat in on a panel about global climate change in D.C. in 1987. That was 25 years ago. That’s how long we’ve been talking about this, trying to get the anti-science crowd to take global warming seriously. And this is where it’s gotten us. How much longer are we going to sit around and wait for the other side to act in good faith?…

    And, on a personal note, I’m pissed because, after 12 years, I’ve finally given in and agreed to go several thousand dollars further into debt and get AC. I hate wasting the electricity, and contributing even more to the cycle that’s killing our planet, but I couldn’t in good conscience continue to do that to my family… I think humanity is fucked… We should have fought harder back when action would have meant something. (I’m not saying that we shouldn’t act now. I’m just saying that we should have been doing more before. Among other things, I should have gone to Florida and fought for Gore, who would have made bold moves to get us off of foreign oil after the 9/11 attacks, instead of declaring war on Iraq.)…

    And the Republicans keep changing their tact. First they denied it. And, then, when they couldn’t deny it any longer, they said that global warming might exist, but that mankind wasn’t at fault, and therefore there was nothing that we could do about it. And there’s no reason to think that they won’t continue to shift the argument as they’re confronted by undeniable facts. They will never take this seriously. We need to go around them… or over them… or through them. We cannot do this with them… And we cannot continue to wait…

    As another one of my Facebook friends pointed out, the idea of global warming wasn’t new in 1987, when I saw that panel of Congressmen and lobbyists debating how we should proceed in light of the scientific findings. We knew about the possibility long before that. As this friend pointed out, Sterling Lanier, in his book Hiero’s Journey, published in 1973, mentions the “greenhouse effect” and the possible consequences.

    Speaking of that 1987 panel, the reason I can remember it all these years later is because of something said by an industry representative on the stage that evening. I can’t remember his exact words, but he said something like, “If it’s real, we’ll invent our way out of it.” The message was essentially that Capitalism will solve everything, if we just allow it to. The specific thing that I remember him saying is, “We’ll build better air conditioners.” I can still remember sitting there, thinking about how better air conditioners wouldn’t save the crops, or the lives of people who couldn’t afford these new, improved air conditioners. Of course, I didn’t do anything about it, though. I was too busy protesting Apartheid in South Africa, and our country’s nuclear policy. The impending peril posed by climate change seemed too abstract – too far off.

    Actually, I think there may be a glimmer of hope. If the corn crop really is dead, the price of everything sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup will surely rise. And, maybe that’s what it takes to awaken the Big Gulp-drinking population of America, who don’t seem to give a damn that polar bears are drowning, and the levels of our oceans are rising. When Coke doubles in price, though… maybe that’s when we’ll see real change. Maybe that’s what triggers the revolution.

    This entry was posted in Environment, Michigan, Predictions, Rants, Science and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

      21 Comments

      1. John Galt
        Posted July 7, 2012 at 6:31 am | Permalink

        There is nothing unnatural about such fluctuations. Over the 6,000 years since the Lord formed the Earth, there have been several instances of climate change. Just sit back and enjoy the journey our Creator has planned for us, and the withered fruit that he provides. And remind yourself that now, thanks to his generosity, you can enjoy the pleasure that was, at one time, only afforded the wealthy with access to saunas. Every minute of every day is now like a trip to a luxury spa. Indulge yourself!

      2. Posted July 7, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

        People are so disconnected from reality, Mark. I keep thinking this, as I watch “news” about the latest handheld device and memes from Reddit. This morning, it was “What’ll we do when the Cloud collapses?” Reality is not that stuff, it’s the cycles of the seasons and how things grow and WEATHER and the fact that we live on a limited planet with only so much stuff to be gotten out and gotten away with. Having spent much of my adult life trying to communicate about that (this is called being an “environmentalist”), I admit I’m despairing of any helpful response at this point — there’s certainly nothing coming from government and most people don’t make the connections between their personal behavior and global warming. I don’t understand it. I regularly cry with searing grief over the terrible losses and destruction humans have made to this beautiful earth — all the species destroyed, environments poisoned, rain forests cut, and now we’re going to fry ourselves and all the rest of life. Sometimes I’ve thought, “People are just addicted to comfort,” or “People are so self-involved,” or “It’s an accident of the worst consumers living in the temperate zone,” but I really am at a loss to understand why more people won’t act.

        Georges Monbiot has written several books about this conundrum. Heat: How to Keep the Planet from Burning comes to mind, but he wrote that six years ago and, if anything, the situation has only gotten worse. I’m going to stop now.

      3. krl
        Posted July 7, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        I love the organization 350.org for thinking globally and acting locally on this issue.

        I also think that most of what needs to happen – strengthening our communities so that they can function as independently as possible – in terms of energy, food, water, shelter, taking care of each other – makes sense to most people. I think it is good to find ways around political arguements, in addition to directly taking on all the crazyness and misinformation. If we are feeling frustrated with directly political activity, maybe it is time to work on community gardens or solar projects and take a break from arguing.

      4. Posted July 7, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

        If it’s any consolation, my friend is up in Traverse City and she said that cherries and cherry products are everywhere. Of course, this is just her observation, but she seems to say that the Cherry Festival is a’swingin’!

        As I said on your FB thread, a lot of people are just terrified and would rather stick their heads in the sand. It IS really scary, and I think we somehow have to acknowledge the terror when we ask people to act. (I’m scared, but would rather be proactive than sit on my hands).

        It occurred to me after I wrote that though that there are also those who think the world is going to end or be Raptured or Jesus is going to show up and do a tap dance on the White House lawn and then the new world will be created. Or something…I don’t know the Christian bible but I know that there are those who want the End of the Days so that the rest of us can die and they can start over. In other words, some folks aren’t acting because they kinda dig this shit.

      5. Posted July 7, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        Hi Mark! Great post.

        “The 12-month period from May 2011 to April 2012 was the hottest in U.S. history. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have reached 391 parts per million, the highest in 800,000 years.” Sierra Club Magazine, July/Aug 2012, pg 24.

        Whenever I’m in Ypsilanti/A2, I notice those few individuals biking between the two towns on busy streets with no bike lanes, even in winter. At the same time, I know LOTS of people who live within 1 mile of EMU, and yet daily drive to work there.

        But then I remember that isn’t the point. Whether or not people are willing to make personal sacrifices now (such as not having central air conditioning) makes no difference. There are just too many people on the planet, and too many governments that refuse to regulate business. The massive scale of human domestic consumption and industry means that what makes a difference now is shutting down coal plants in favor of wind and solar power, and regulating corporate pollution. And from that same issue of Sierra Club Mag: “The percentage of U.S. electricity generated from coal dips to 36.7 percent in February, the lowest level since 1973.” So maybe there is still hope.

        I encourage everyone to support the Sierra Club, one of the few nonprofits that is devoted to policy change at the national, state, and local levels for the protection of the environment.

      6. Thom Elliott
        Posted July 7, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        Unfortunately for change, our shortsighted ancestors constructed our entire system, history’s most complex and gigantic machine, around a single substance. Oil’s unbelievable usefulness turned out to be its most dangerous aspect, by its very nature, using it has put the entire Earth in peril. These now palpable catastrophic consequences are the result of over 100 years of the most apocalyptic, careless, nihilistic pollution, which made our civilization the complicated and ‘successful’ behemoth it became. A barrowed posperity it turns out, one which the Earth is going to reclaim, it is simply too late to forstall what is now occuring. As Heidegger said “Only a god can save us now.”

      7. Posted July 7, 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        What we need, I think, is a paramilitary unit (full of hackers) dedicated to repeatedly taking out the air conditioning units of America’s highest paid CEOs. That would bring change. We need to start thinking tactically….

      8. Redleg
        Posted July 7, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        ….And over on msnbc right now they’re talking about 500 million dead trees in Texas from last year’s drought– Of course they’re more focused on the BUSINESS aspect of the story..

      9. Joanne
        Posted July 7, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

        The reason there are cherry products in TC is that the products are made from past cherry crops. AND they shipped in cherries from out of the country for this year’s manufacturing and Cherry Fest. The early warmth in March made trees bloom too soon and then the cold and frost killed the blooms in April. http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120521/BIZ/205210331

        Apple trees have suffered from the same thing as well as a lack of water.

      10. Edward
        Posted July 7, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

        I can see the patriots of today’s Tea Party all riding their motorized scooters emblazoned with American flag decals into a mall somewhere to protest the high price of high-fructose sweetened drinks. It would be our Boston Tea Party.

      11. Rick Cronn
        Posted July 8, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

        We know very little about the planet on which we live.

        We’re kidding ourselves if we seriously think we know what’s going on with the planet or think that we have a solution. I agree 100% with Mark and the evidence. What I agree with is that we should have done something sooner. Alternatives to fossil fuels. A serious national energy policy not ruled by lobbyists and fossil fuel industries. An energy consumption tax. Improved conservation technology and mandated conservation techniques.

        And I agree that there is push back from the status quo who are viciously protecting their economic interests.

        What I do not agree with is yet another knee jerk reaction made worse by the lateness and relative severity of the current conditions.

        At this point it seems that it’s all or nothing, but let’s try and make sure, this time, that it gets done… and defeat Mitt Romney in the fall or it would appear that we’re all just boiled frogs.

      12. Knox
        Posted July 8, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        Rick,

        I don’t think Mark is advocating a knee-jerk reaction. What he’s said is that the evidence has been mounting for over 25 years and that we may have already crossed the point of no return. As that’s the case, I think the time for timidity is over. And, really, what’s the worse that could happen if we transitioned away from oil? Yes, there would be economic implications, but what would be the negative environmental ramifications? Would it trigger a new ice age? I doubt it. I say let’s go for it. Let’s have a vision, like other countries have, to get off of oil in 20 years, and let’s focus everyone on that task. We put a man on the moon in less time.

      13. Jim
        Posted July 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        Mark, you haven’t lost the A/C war–the war has just begun. You’ll get to fight it every hot day as your family argues about whether it’s hot enough to turn on the A/C, or whether you should suffer through for the sake of the cherries and polar bears.

      14. Posted July 8, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

        According to my friend Jean, the cherries sold to tourists up north come from Washington State and Poland.

      15. anonymous
        Posted July 9, 2012 at 7:03 am | Permalink

        According to a friend, “MI lost 80% of the tart cherry crop this year. I don’t think sweet cherries were hit as hard. Also, that store ‘Cherry Republic’ is sourcing from Poland & Hungary.”

      16. Edward
        Posted July 9, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        Not only are roadways buckling in the heat, but planes are apparently being consumed by melting tarmacs.

        http://travel.aol.co.uk/2012/07/09/US-airways-plane-stuck-runway-wheels-sink-tarmac-washington/

      17. Joanne
        Posted July 9, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

        The typical cherry season is thus: Southwest Michigan picks sweet in early June; sour in early July. Traverse City picks sweet in early July and sour in early August. Both crops and both locations were hit hard this year by too warm and then too cold temps with TC being the hardest hit by cold. Most cherry products are made of sour cherries.

      18. Mr. X
        Posted July 16, 2012 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        There’s a good discussion on Metafilter about global warming and whether it will play a part in this year’s presidential contest.

        http://www.metafilter.com/117907/The-heat-goes-on

      19. anonymouos
        Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

        Enjoy your air conditioner while you can.

        http://imgur.com/kJDF4

      20. anonymouos
        Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

        Try as you might, you cannot keep it.

        http://imgur.com/rZPvU

      21. Boner
        Posted July 31, 2012 at 4:31 am | Permalink

        Thank God we are past the point of no return. Now we can get on with our lives and Al Gore can go piss up a rope. Just sayin.

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      1. By Operation Foggy Monocle on July 8, 2012 at 9:29 pm

        [...] of a serial killer, on the set of DexterOperation Foggy MonocleBy Mark | July 8, 2012In the wake of a global warming-related rant that I posted a few days ago, it occurred to me that nothing is likely to change, at least not in a substantive way, until the [...]

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