Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Warming Wednesdays: 400,000 and counting

climate change kills-400,000.jpg
This sign brought me up short at the San Francisco iteration of the Forward on Climate and NO to the Keystone XL pipeline rally on Sunday. Is abrupt global warming really already killing 400,000 humans a year? It behooves us to know.

According to climate journalist Mark Hertsgaard the figure derives from a study, the Climate Vulnerability Monitor [PDF] prepared at the instigation of governments of some of the nations most vulnerable to harm from climate change such as Bangladesh. It asserts

...nearly 1,000 children a day are now dying because of climate change…

Climate change also is costing the world economy $1.2 trillion a year, the equivalent of 1.6 percent of economic output …

Most of the 400,000 annual deaths are “due to hunger and communicable diseases that affect above all children in developing countries …"

Floods, contaminated water, heat waves, droughts, new pests and new diseases kill those most vulnerable -- poor children in poor countries. It was ever thus -- and without seeing these consequences of our carbon-based energy society, it is naturally hard to hold on to conscious awareness that this is happening.

The same report concludes that the death toll will be 700,000, still mostly children, annually, by 2030. This Wikipedia entry on carrying capacity comes to mind.
So yes, I attended Forward on Climate. I came away thoughtful.

A friend wrote:

Haven't been around that many old white people in years.

I concur with the observation, especially along the edges of the crowd. In the center crush there were more younger people, also largely white. The organizers seems to have worked for a more diverse presentation. If you'd just wandered up to the San Francisco rally and listened to the people on the loudspeakers, you might have thought this was a Native American gathering. I hear tell that African American enviro activist Van Jones brought down the house in DC. Still, this seemed a white folks show.

Meanwhile, as I've just highlighted, it is not us who are doing the dying -- at least usually, at least yet.

This wasn't the first time I've felt uneasy about a climate change rally. These events do not yet have the forceful focus of movements that I've seen that win material victories. They slip into asking individuals to make tiny incremental changes in the ways we promote carbon emissions -- take the bus, turn off the lights, recycle -- good practices, but piddling given what we face. Even our asks from the government seem piddling -- suppose we stop the Keystone XL pipeline, won't the oil companies only turn their greedy eyes elsewhere? We need to change our entire social system or die -- how to get a handle on this for purposes of citizen agitation?

I'm grateful to the folks who are trying to find ways in which we can make our desire for a different climate path heard. It's a big project and worth trying multiple approaches. I believe in the human species' intelligence and our will to live, so I'm actually hopeful we'll find a way.

And meanwhile, 400,000 humans, mostly children, are dying. Every year.

forward on clean energy.jpg
Despite every other legitimate concern, we cannot ignore that our economic and social system is rapidly making the planet less habitable. So I will be posting "Warming Wednesdays" -- reminders of an inconvenient truth.

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