Day 70: Nothing Like A Global Catastrophe To Cheer Me Up

Today was one of those good news, bad news, sagas.

Good news that the wind is finally dropping.
Bad news that at the very same time I ran into an adverse current, and without the wind to help me, I am going backwards.

Good news is that the ocean is becoming calmer so I can engage the oars better.
Bad news is that my shoulders are still feeling the after-effects of my mishap a week ago, so I can’t row as strongly as I would like.

Good news that I was listening to a fascinating, well-written, well-researched book, and I agree with the author’s conclusions.Bad news is that the book was Bill McKibben’s “Eaarth, which describes how we human beings have altered our planet to the extent that it is becoming unable to support civilization as we know it. To an already marginally unhappy rower, this maybe wasn’t the ideal reading matter to uplift the spirits.

Eaarth keys into last week’s Philosophy Friday post, and some of the comments that resulted. Rico and Michael – I think you, especially, would find Eaarth an interesting read if you haven’t read it already.

We seem to be rather spoiled for choice as to just what might cause the downfall of human civilization. Rico is going for “global economic collapse”. Bill McKibben is going for climate change. And there is a multitude of other possibilities, many of which have been the subject of books I have listened to recently, mostly fiction, but none the less convincing for that. How about this list for starters?

– worldwide plague (The Brief History of the Dead“, or The City, Not Long After“)
– dramatic decline in fertility (that PD James book – is it The Children of Men“?)
– catastrophic wipeout of all technology, possibly as a result of a solar flare (Dies the Fire)
– or maybe a GMO with a terminator gene running rampant leading to major food shortages
– or a superbug resistant to all known antibiotics
– or even aliens resembling Keanu Reeves coming to save Earth by wiping out humanity (was it The Day The Earth Stood Still, or The Day After Tomorrow? – they all start sounding alike)
– or all kinds of 2012 theories

For me personally – and I take the state of the planet very personally – I fully expect to see significant changes within my lifetime. I already have. I was born just before the end of 1967. In that year we had 322 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. There were 3.5 billion people on the planet. As I write this, at the age of 43 in 2011, we have close to 390 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, and there are nearly 7 billion people on the planet. By the time I am nearing the end of my life (say), aged 82 in 2050, who knows? 43 years ago scientists would not have predicted our current situation (although the Club of Rome came close). From where we are now, we cannot accurately predict what we will face in 2050. We can only hope that our present rate of exponential growth does not continue. That would mean the kind of world that I would not be happy to live in. Overcrowded, hot, with intense competition for increasingly scarce resources.

Something’s gotta give. It is time we became our better selves – the mature, wise, evolved beings who understand it is worth sacrificing immediate gain for long-term survival.

We have a choice to make. We can recognize the seriousness of our situation, accept responsibility for our past mistakes, and take the tough, even humiliating, but essential decisions needed to ensure our continued existence. Or we can continue to be distracted by the very same man-made artifices that got us into this mess in the first place – the all-conquering supremacy of high finance, rampant consumerism, and the myth of infinite economic growth – until we have dithered and procrastinated so long that we end up doing too little, too late (if it’s not already).

I have some notions on the feasibility of such a seemingly miraculous shift in consciousness. But I’ll save those for Friday.

Ah, nothing like a bit of global catastrophe to cheer me up at the end of a hard day….

Other Stuff:

From global catastrophe to minor personal catastrophe. I found today that my Larabar locker has leaked. This locker is beneath the sleeping cabin and has always been as dry as a bone. I cannot for the life of me figure out how water has got in there. Can water penetrate an intact carbon fibre hull?!

Latest podcast now live at Roz Roams: Anfangen Sind Schwer (German saying, meaning “beginnings are hard”)

Will Stockland – great to hear from you. Hope to see you next time I am in Oxford for some in-person debate over a glass or two of vino.

Pippa – good news! On further investigation I discovered that the pillow itself is not mouldy – just the pillowcase and the white pillow cover. I have washed them as best I can, so they should at least smell better.

Pam Longobardi – the ocean would certainly have a right to be angry with us. I just wish he/she wouldn’t take it out on me!  Keep up the great work you are doing for the oceans.

Geoff and Janet – 25 knots? Is that all?! Wusses! It’s been 25-30 around here for the last 10 days. Today was the first day I didn’t have to stick my nose right into my porridge mug to stop my food blowing away en route from mug to mouth. Glad you’ve been having a great time. Sail safe and enjoy!

Quote for today: “Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshipped.” (Calvin Coolidge)

Photo: logo from 2009′s “Pull Together” initiative in the run-up to Copenhagen’s COP15 conference

Sponsored Miles:
 On a day when Roz has been carried by a current in the wrong direction, thanks go to Steven Huysseune to encourage some forward progress, and to Matt Ellis and family, who contributed so that Roz and her mother can talk for a bit longer on the phone tomorrow.