Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Thinking outside the box.

That's something we need to do, when we think about climate change.  And it may not be enough - because we are about to enter territory where the rules will change, and change drastically, in ways that we may not be able to accurately predict.

Writing today on AlterNet, editor Tara Lohan - author of the new book "Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource" - presents five reasons that climate change is going to be more dangerous than we think.

She starts with flesh eating fungi.  Yes, FLESH EATING FUNGI.  And this one isn't supposition.  Ms. Lohan writes "After a powerful tornado hit Joplin, Missouri last May, 13 people were infected with Apophysomyces — five of them died."

In other words, this isn't future fantasy - it's something that has already happened.  And what's going to be one symptom of climate change?  That's right - wild weather.  Like tornados, and other weather events that might result in you or I being punctured by a piece of dirt-encrusted wood, on which lives a population of Apophysomyce fungi.

Treehugger has more to say on this topic, here.

If flesh eating fungi isn't something you'd thought of as a consequence of global climate change, you are not alone.  I imagine you could poll a thousand folks right now and ask them what they thought will happen as the Earth warms, and not one of them would come up with that answer.

And the scary thing is, this is just ONE thing.  ONE consequence.  And it's one that we can point to because it has happened before.  But what else is lurking out there on the horizon that, once it happens, will seem face-plant duh! logical, but that we aren't able to envision now?

I am guessing a lot of things.

So in addition to hurricanes, floods, wild fires, crop-killing droughts, food rationing, mass starvation, riots, and everything else you can imagine as logical sequelæ to climate change, there are things that none of us can imagine.  And they may be worse - much worse - than what I have listed above.

Fear-mongering?  I don't think so.  I think we need to summon the will to use strong, even shocking language to drive home the point that humanity is now engaging in a vast, unprecedented, planet-wide experiment with the climate, and that the consequences may be terminal for our current lifeways.  At what cost silence?  At what cost politesse?  At what cost not speaking out urgently and insisting on political and personal change?

I don't know.  No one does.  But I'd rather feel silly later than miss what may be our last opportunity to stop the climate change train before it irrevocably leaves the station.  If it hasn't already.