Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Year of Storms

We're seeing a series of massive, deadly storms in the midwest, and it's just the beginning of summer. Tornadoes, floods and hurricanes occurring over and over; the atmosphere is unleashing tremendous energies. Storms in Europe are creating unprecedented flooding. The Nation Institute, via TomDispatch.com, has posted an article by Rebecca Solnit, which is in dialogue with Bill McKibben's writings on planet Eaarth.

Her article at Tom Dispatch makes timely comments about how human civilization responds in the face of large disasters, now bearing down upon us more and more often because of climate change. The consequences of climate change are a lance aimed straight at the heart of our oil-supported structure in the United States and now across the globe:

Cheap oil requires our insanely expensive military whose annual budget amounts to nearly as much as the rest of the world’s militaries put together, a crazy foreign policy, and in the past decade, a lot of death in the Middle East. It also pushes along the destruction of nearly everything via climate-change, a cost so terrible that the word “unaffordable” doesn’t begin to describe it. “Unimaginable” might, except that the point of all the data and data projections is to imagine it clearly enough so that we react to it.

Bill McKibben, writing in the New York Review of Books on Nov.5, 2009 makes his usual succinct comments on her previous book "A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster". They have proven to be prescient.

"Its also time to ask another question, which is what the future will actually feel like once we don't prevent global warming. That is, what will it be like to live not on the relatively stable planet that civilization has known throughout the ten thousand years of the Holocene, but on the amped-up and careening planet we're quickly creating? With her remarkable and singular book, "A Paradise Built in Hell", Rebecca Solnit has thought harder about the answer to that question than anyone else. And she's done it almost entirely with history - she's searched out the analogues to our future in our past, examining the human dynamics of natural disasters from the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 up through Hurricane Katrina...Solnit's argument, at bottom, is that human nature is not necessarily what we imagine it to be, and the even in very extreme cases, people are cooperative."

This challenge that arises to meet us now may perhaps be the very Frankenstein monster that we've created - which will force us into a moral stance on the lifestyle that we've built -  a lifestyle which violates the physics of natural processes on our planet.