The Error of Arrogance

Hello, and happy Monday friends! Yeah, I know, I know, Mondays aren’t exactly happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed. I know.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, a reset of sorts, every single week. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

“I am a member of a fragile species, still new to the earth, the youngest creatures of any scale, here only a few moments as evolutionary time is measured, a juvenile species, a child of a species. We are only tentatively set in place, error prone, at risk of fumbling, in real danger at the moment of leaving behind only a thin layer of our fossils, radioactive at that.”

— Lewis Thomas, The Fragile Species

Have you ever heard of the Greek goddess Aidos? She was said to be the daughter of Prometheus and the personification of the feelings of modesty, humility, and shame, reverence, and respect. She was said to be a companion to the goddess Nemesis who punished men guilty of arrogance before the gods.

Together they represent the shame and respect that keep men good, and what can happen when we lose sight of how small and fragile we are. Or, put another way, they represent the “emotion that a rich person might feel in the presence of the impoverished, that wealth was more a matter of luck than merit,” and “righteous indignation aroused by the sight of wicked men receiving undeserved good fortune.”

Humans have accomplished much on this planet. We’ve colonized every continent, invented culture and society, found math and the sciences, conquered nature, and each other, and soon even the distance and emptiness of space between the stars won’t be left untamed. We are the pride of our planet, and of the universe as far as we know. Most of us believe this reality was made for us to rule, many of the rest believe we have earned the right, I say we haven’t earned shit, and nothing here belongs to us.

I say we need a little humility, a little shame for the way we are acting, and a bit of respect for or planet and the life on it. I say we need to remember that we got here purely by luck and we shouldn’t be so damned arrogant. I say it’s time for some righteous anger for those who forget that and act carelessly, putting all our futures in danger.

Humans are what we are because of our big brains, and our thumbs, and the ability to walk upright. Our feelings of empathy and self-awareness, our ability to reason and work together, and our unwavering curiosity have taken us far, but when you put our accomplishment on the scale of time from the beginning of the universe, we are less than a blink of an eye. On the scale of space, we are less than a speck of dust; we are very nearly nothing at all.

Yet, here we are acting like it all belongs to us. Like gods deciding who gets to live and who dies. Gods who cannot give life to the ones we take it from and who cannot fathom a future farther than our own. We are polluting the planet, killing off species who have been here long before the first thing even resembling a man was born. How is this much ego even possible?

There will be a price to pay for our arrogance. There will come a time when we’ll regret being so damn stubborn and stupid. We’re going to wish there had been more respect, reverence, and shame to keep us good. We will wish we had been better. I can see it now, and every move we make in the name of ideals as short-sighted as money or convenience makes me cringe.

Of course, I am speaking of our President, a man who seems to made entirely out of foolish pride and extreme short-sightedness, but I am also talking to people who refuse to see what is happening around them and refuse to listen to reason. The science is conclusive, the rest of the world is leaving us behind, the future is coming and you cannot stop it.

I’m talking about climate change. I’m talking about us thinking that cutting down the trees, dumping chemical into our rivers, throwing plastic into the ocean. I’m talking about hunting for fun and profit. I’m talking about taking land that animals need to live. I’m talking about the blood on our hands, the death we are bringing now and for eons to come.

I am talking about the way we treat our home and the life that fought just as hard right alongside us to get just as far as we have. I am talking to anyone who believes that we have the right to use this planet for our own ends. I am talking to those with no shame and no respect!

Arrogance is a human emotion that comes far too easy and one we have to be ever aware of. We have to fight it to keep from acting stupidly, another human tendency that comes far too easily. We are a species that has learned to imagine the future but only so far as it concerns us personally. We have difficulty holding vast expanses of space or time in our minds, but we have grown in numbers and strength that affects whole planets and eons of time when they act. We literally possess power we do not understand, but instead of stopping for a moment to grasp the impact we have, we stupidly move forward. We double down in the face of facts and warnings and become bolder and more arrogant. No good can come from this.

This week, take a moment to check your own arrogance. I have found the easiest way to do this is to take time every day to look up at the sky, particularly if the stars are visible. Or maybe get out into nature. See some tress, not ones we have planted but old ones that were here before this place had a name. Get out of the city and away from the influence of other humans if you can.

I have found that looking at the sky reminds me how small I am and that finding my way into nature reminds me that this world does not need us to go on turning, growing, and creating. We have only just gotten here and so much happened before us and will happen after we have destroyed ourselves once and for all. We are not gods and this universe does not bend to our will. We are not omnipotent nor omniscient. We have no right or claim to this world.

 

We are small, and dumb. We are barely beginning to be anything at all, but we do have some power, and it would be better to use it for good than for bad. It would be better to stop here, realize our recklessness, and make a change but it has to start within each of us.

It has to begin with letting go of our pride and letting ourselves feel some awe and gratitude and a sense of protection for what we have been given.

***

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Featured image via Unsplash

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A is for the Arctic, Which is Melting

“I have been looking at Arctic weather patterns for 35 years and have never seen anything close to what we’ve experienced these past two winters,”

— Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (via Quartz)

When it comes to talk about the effects of global warming a lot of focus has been on Antartica, which saw record low levels of ice this past year, but as winter in the Northern Hemisphere comes to an end all eyes are on the Arctic as the trend toward higher temperatures, low sea ice levels, and shockingly low levels of human panic and action continue.

For a bit of background, when I talk about the Arctic I am talking about the sea of ice to the north of Canada and Russia. In the summer, every summer, the ice melts as the sun becomes a constant fixture in the sky, and every winter the ice freezes again. It’s all normal and all due to Earth’s orbit, tilt, and the natural warming and cooling the seasons bring.

This winter the Arctic froze, and when scientists measured the ice at it’s largest extent, there was a whole lot missing. Average Arctic ice extent should be something like 6.04 million square miles, in March of 2017, when we take these kinds of measurements, we had 5.57 million square miles of ice. We are missing 471,000 square miles of ice! And this isn’t the first time we have been below average, and it is not going to be the last.

Less ice might not like such a big deal, except that it is. Arctic sea ice melt contributes to further and faster warming, since our bright white ice cap will be gone, it won’t reflect the sun’s rays back into space ad instead the heat will be absorbed by the ocean. Sea levels will rise, of course, and that’s bad for anyone living along the coast which is a whole lot of American citizens. Ocean and air currents will change due to the ice being gone and the temperatures being warmer. This leads to more climate change on average and more unstable weather patterns day to day.

And of course, in the end, it all boils down to more death and suffering for animals and mostly poor people who are already suffering, but it won’t end with them. We will all feel the ramifications of this.

A wise man once said “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” and despite the fact that, yes, sea ice freezes and melts according to the seasons and yes anomalies happen and some years are freakishly colder or warmer than others the truth is  that for a while now we have been trending farther and farther outside of the averages. Take a look at the terrifying graph below for example:

nsidc_global_extent_byyear_b
https://sites.google.com/site/arctischepinguin/home/global-sea-ice

See that part on the right that’s clearly outside of the gray area average, that was the end of 2016, far outside even a regular bad year. See the little line on the left sitting below every other year back to 1978? That’s the beginning of 2017 continuing along on a catastrophic path toward sea level rise, ocean ecosystem disruption, and the first signs of the end times.

Now, if we remember our geometry education back in high school, we know that area and volume are different. Could it be that the ice is still there but just taking on a different shape? Nope. Take a look at this graph of bad news showing monthly global ice by volume:

giomas-year-global
https://sites.google.com/site/arctischepinguin/home/global-sea-ice

See that line veering off to the right well outside the mean and below every other year as far back as 1981, that’s 2016. I haven’t seen a version with 2017 on it yet, but I would bet a lot of money that just like ice area measurements we are still trending down and still, no one is doing anything about it. Instead, we’re running around arguing about whether or not the problem is even real.

This is not normal. None of this is normal! You may hear people talk about natural cycles but take a look at another graph. This one shows measurement of atmospheric CO2 found in drilled ice cores containing bubbles of air from thousands of years ago. See that big spike on the end, well outside of anything ever, that 1950 to now. It is us! We are doing this!

15_co2_left_061316
https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/

Now, this is all pretty bad, but it actually gets even worse. So much worse. All hope of stopping these trends is gone. We have done too much damage. CO2 measurements will continue to rise, and the ice is going to go on melting, even if we stopped everything, all the cars, all the deforestation, all the burning, today. There is just no way, right now, that we can get the gasses we put into the atmosphere, and the ocean, back out.

We are fucked. We are so fucked and so stupid.

Scientists started warning us back in 60s that burning fossil fuels and putting greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane into the atmosphere were going to lead to a warmer Earth which would lead to collapsing ecosystems and unstable weather patterns but too many people wanted to keep on making money and fought long and hard, and are still fighting today, to keep you from panicking or changing the way you do things.

So what can you do now? Hell, why do anything if we are already too far gone?

Well, even thought the earth is going to warm and the climate is going to change, and many many people and animals are going to die, we can lessen the extent and the suffering if we start today.

The EPA has a list of things you can do today, but ost of us have read it and have made the changes that we can, but what we really need to do now is get the people who are in charge to stop being so damn selfish and stupid and do something about it. We need to contact our leaders in Congress and let them know that we will not stand for their cowardice any longer. You can even fax them by text now! There is no excuse.

Change needs to happen now if we want to have a future where humans can at least survive, and you need to ask yourself here and now, do you care? Be honest with yourself, do you want something to be done, or do you like it better when you pretend there is no consensus or science to back this up? Are you a part of the solution or part of the problem?

***

If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps?

This post was written for the 2017 Blogging A to Z Challenge. My theme is The World is Really an Awful Place. You can read the rest of the posts under the AtoZ2017 tag.

Featured image via Unsplash

An Open Letter to the Climate Change Denialist

Dear Climate Change Denialist,

I’m writing you today because I truly cannot fathom how you could not believe that climate change is real and that humans are the cause. I hope you will not take this the wrong way but I find your thinking to be both harmful to the entire human race, and incredibly stupid.

To disagree with 97% of scientist who are trained and study this phenomenon takes an ego larger than I can imagine. To continue to stay uninformed on a major subject of world, not just U.S., politics must require a lot of energy. How do you manage not to encounter one true fact about this subject is beyond me. Or maybe you do but you tell yourself that it can’t be true.

The mental gymnastics required for either scenario are almost admirable.

Just in case I am wrong and you just honestly don’t know the facts, here are a few things I’m going to need you to seriously consider before you vote in anymore elections:

  1. Average global sea level is expected to rise 7 – 23 inches before the end of this century. This doesn’t seem so bad unless you realize how many people actually live close to a coast, about half of the world’s population If that doesn’t move you consider the fact that sea levels are rising three- to four-times faster along parts of the United States’ East Coast than they are globally. Does that hit home yet?
  2. California is in the midst of a staggering drought. In fact, it’s been at least half a millennium since California has been this dry. Add to that the extreme high temperatures and you have a serious wildfire issue and a strain on agriculture and drinking water supplies. Texas isn’t faring much better with record rain fall in the spring leading to floods and then no rain at all leading to a drought. These conditions are not usual for these areas and seem to be getting worse every year. How long until these people have no water to drink let alone water for farming?
  3. More than a million species face potential extinction as a result of disappearing habitats, changing ecosystems, and acidifying oceans! Yes, evolution is a thing, but it needs time and even with time there is no guarantee that a species will adapt to changing conditions. Oceans are warming, droughts are killing vegetation, ice sheets are melting, animals are having to climb higher into mountains to find food. We are killing them!
  4. 2014 was the world’s hottest year on record. This year the world has experienced record-breaking warmth every month so far. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said that 2015 was 97% likely to be the hottest year so far, eclipsing 2014. I wonder how bad things will be next year, and the next, and the next…?

Knowing all that, how can you continue to support legislation that blocks efforts to clean up our air and reduce our  impact on the rest of the world? How can you support politicians that are paid to keep us ignorant and do what hurts us all in the long run?

I beg you to please, stop and think about more than yourself. Think of the other life on this planet that has no choice but to suffer at the hands of humans. Think about other countries that are unfairly impacted by our unwillingness to make any significant changes. Think about the future generations that will have to deal with, and clean up our mess! Think of what history will have to say about us and what we did. Will they say we were the stupid ones who had the chance to make a difference or did we fuck it all up.

I beg you to do a little research. Stop looking to a political party that cares nothing for the ways this will impact you and your family to tell you what is going on. Look to the scientific community, the majority of whom care very much about facts and the future. Scientists love this planet and hate to lose any bit of it. Look to them to tell you what the facts are. They are trained to study this phenomenon. They know more than your favorite candidate in the election and they are not as easily bought.

And finally, I beg you, please if you cannot help, get out of the way of people who can. If you cannot contribute to the conversation, stop talking. Do not let your ego force you to get in the middle of a movement where you only create controversy and slow down progress. You are not so important that you must always be heard. You are not so smart that your opinion is equal to those who know more than you.

In closing, I hope this letter has made you reevaluate your current thinking. If it hasn’t I encourage you to read it again and then head over to Google for some much needed education on the subject.

I wish you the best of luck, for all our sakes!

Warmest Regards*,

Lisa

In response to Daily Post’s Blogging U. course, Writing 101 assignment: Reinvent the letter format

*Pun entirely intended