A Long Way to Go
The long-term and more permanent damage that global heating will cause has seeped into even American consciousness, though other more pressing problems keep shoving it to the back of the line. Fortunately perhaps, the more proximate crises involving energy and energy costs may well be playing out in a way that, however sideways in intent, does something at least to lessen greenhouse gas emissions.
But the Climate Crisis is also causing--or making worse, or otherwise contributing to--bad stuff that is happening right now, and is very probably going to happen more in the near future, like extreme weather and its consequences. The more familiar crises these patterns cause are paradoxically the ones we seem unequipped to face or understand. Katrina is the poster child for poor government response and comprehension. But the Midwest floods this week exemplify the weakness of our public information systems, particularly our preposterous news media.
First of all, only major newspapers and the broadcast network news (plus certain shows on CNN) paid much attention. And their coverage was silly. John Stewart made fun of the "human dipstick" approach--focusing on reporters standing in flood waters to indicate how high they were--but that really seemed to be the general level of coverage. It was stupid.
Buried in print reports and blog reports were such facts as 25,000 homeless in Cedar Rapids alone, 24 deaths, billions in damages, toxic waters flooding homes, businesses and schools. Serious stuff, you would think.
What is it about the weather that makes people talk and act so dumb? Is it repressed fear? The cheery weather person dancing in front of the map, sing-songing about record this and not-quite-record that. Temperatures in excess of 100 for days on end, and "it's going to be another hot one out there." And so on. Either that, or it's alarmists breaking into programs to sow fear of a thunderstorm. Are these people that weak-minded?
Meanwhile, people die and weaken in the heat, power grids tremble, drought spreads and kills, fires burn trees (killing their carbon-holding capacity, and spewing carbon into the air), while a sudden tornados ambush Boy Scouts and tear through homes, and floods wash away crops (while perhaps poisoning the ground) and destroy homes and businesses.
It's refreshing that at least one presidential candidate--Barack Obama--heeded the request of overstretched law enforcement in Iowa not to come to be photographed looking at the flood. (He filled sandbags in Quincy, Illinois earler.) John McCain however could not pass up the photo op, ignoring the real needs.
We need a lot more of that maturity and judgment. We need media that can actually report on what's going on objectively, and as comprehensively as possible. Because as these events happen more frequently, and they are more damaging, the fact that they are unpredictable results of a predicted pattern can't come as a surprise, or the capacity of government and other agencies to deal with them to decrease suffering and longterm damage will be severely hampered.
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