GLOBAL WARMING - There are a few events in one's lifetime that are so surreal in nature that when you experience them, you naturally expect to wake up as if from a nightmare. But you don't.
The assassination of President Kennedy certainly comes to mind for those of an earlier era. For a younger generation, the sight of airliners crashing into the Twin Towers will always be indelibly etched in their consciousness. And of course there is the unexpected death of a close friend or family member. Most recently, there is little question that possibly the worst financial crisis in a century as sparked widespread disbelief. .
Who would have thought Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns would fold and who would have anticipated the behemoth AIG would be on bended knee in Washington begging for a handout. Even the dreaded "D" word is being used by some pundits to describe the dire economic situation we are facing. But in this day and age of new fangled financial alchemy, the word depression has most often been associated with Prozac, not economics.
Yet day after day and night after night I glue myself to the TV and watch CNBC's Mark Haines joust with guests and have now come to realize what it must be like to be a soap opera addict. It is easy to develop an almost morbid fascination as we wait for the next massive company to fail. Oh it's high drama alright, and reality TV at its finest.
But this evening as I pondered the possible return to soup kitchens and endless unemployment lines, the melting economy suddenly came into perspective. Yes, we are almost certainly headed into a long and severe recession, hopefully nothing worse than that, and yes people will lose their jobs and homes and there will undoubtedly be a great deal of suffering as we pay for the years of living beyond our means.
But no matter how dire this current crisis is or gets, it will likely run its course and just like the memory of a loved one who passed away fades with time, so too will this economic downturn. And rest assured that lessons will be forgotten and that we will live to repeat another boom-bust cycle in a few years time because the world spins on regardless and we have all been here before. More times than we care to remember, in fact.
However, when I observe this so-called financial apocalypse, I am still overcome by a foreboding fear over an ominous threat that goes much deeper than any economic cycle and simply refuses to go away. The one disaster that will make every war and every famine and every plague that we have faced since the dawn of time irrelevant and insignificant is the environmental catastrophe known as Global Warming.
I know that it's become fashionable in some gilded circles to dismiss the environment as nothing more than a bunch of alarmist lefties and liberals. And yes, most of us in the so-called 'civilized' world like to feel safe and secure in our cocoons. We don't wish nor need to be constantly slapped in the face with the difficult realities of life, whether it be a world where billions live in utter destitution. Still, our attitude towards the realization that we are destroying our planet borders on criminal neglect. One of inherent weaknesses of mankind is our enormous propensity towards procrastination and often results in us failing to deal with a crisis head on, which invariably leaves us picking up the pieces after each train wreck to start all over again.
But Global Warming is entirely different because chances are there will be no pieces to pick up after this train wreck.
We can simplify things by using the analogy of a smoker. Smoking is, for all intents and purposes, a self-inflicted disease. In the past, when smoking areas were common areas there was a very good chance that the hazards of second hand smoke could adversely affect the innocent. But today, thankfully, smokers largely puff in cordoned off and restricted areas. Now all smokers are fully aware of the fact that their habit will bring them ill health and quite possibly lead to an accelerated and unpleasant death. Yet many puff away with seeming impunity choosing their destructive addiction over the over the arduous task of kicking it.
Well global warming is not much different than smoking, save for the fact that those who can't kick their destructive addiction of imperiling the planet are ruining it for those of us who do want to save the place. Look, we know it is happening and virtually any scientist of merit supports research that demonstrates that the burning of fossil fuels is responsible for global warming and that the destruction is actually accelerating.
But global warming is different - there may be no pieces to pick up after this train wreck.
We also know that the Arctic will be ice free in summers in the next few years - decades ahead of what scientists had predicted – and we know that large tracts of Australia are turning into deserts as a fragile environment is impacted by wanton abuse. And of course those of us living in Asia know far too well that we are exposing ourselves to extreme health risks by breathing the heavily polluted air in cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
There is also a great deal of credible research that indicates that even if we reverse global warming dramatically now, it may already be too late because we have put in motion forces that are unstoppable including the melting of the ice caps which will release enormous amounts of methane gas into the atmosphere accelerating warming even further.
Yes, we all know what is happening, even the most cynical of us. But we do virtually nothing to end it. Instead, we sip our low fat lattes and yammer and sms our life away.
Of course our governments are no better. I many cases, they define the ethos of procrastination. Instead of using the excuse of $100+ barrels of oil to wean ourselves off this black death and aggressively invest in renewable energy, many lead the masses in cheers of the insane mantra 'drill baby drill'.
To better appreciate what is coming, and don't; kid yourself - an environmental meltdown is on the way if not in our lifetimes then in the lifetimes of our children, try to think of how incredulous you felt when Lehman or AIG collapsed. And remember your complete sense of disbelief on September 11, 2001 when you turned on the TV and watched two aircraft tear holes in the New York skyline?
Now hold on to that feeling of utter incredulity and multiply it by 10,000 and you can begin to envision the profound sense of loss we will experience when temperatures increase to the point where much of the world becomes uninhabitable. There will be more than a little bit of panic when much of our productive agricultural land is rendered useless and when economies are crushed by the staggering weight of the effects of global warming.
Some scientists have warned that the world's population will be reduced by billions – yes billions – when the environmental apocalypse come homes to roost.
I know it sounds alarmist to many, but again, who would have thought that we would see the demise or emasculation of every independent investment bank in America over the course of a few months? And who would have thought men would fly aircraft into skyscrapers in New York? This is not a movie. The director cannot yell 'cut' and make it all go away. In our modern age of saturated information, we know now perhaps more than at any time in the history of mankind that very bad things do indeed happen.
Don't kid yourself. Global warming will not be one of those nightmares we wake up from. Yet we idly stand by, texting and sexting and breathlessly waiting for the next edition of American Idol. And please Mr. barista, could you make my double latte with soy milk? Because, I am like, sooooo concerned with my health.