A complex problem for a complex world


by Nadia Gray

When dealing with a problem, do you, like me, need context? Learning to boat, we took lessons on how to chart courses to our destination. The outstanding memory was discovering the geographical North Pole is unchanging, while the Magnetic North changes position constantly. This affects everything, including how animals navigate. A cyclical change has been accelerating. In the last 150 years, the magnetic North has travelled 685 miles in a meandering fashion. But now, instead of meandering, it is “racing 25 miles to the northwest” per year. I was awestruck by this earth attribute that affects so much. Well, in trying to cope with the “climate change” brouhaha, I went on a search for a historical perspective. This affects all of us too.

What is climate cyclical earth behaviour? What have people contributed to changing the earth they live on? Are there dangers lurking, more than those signalled by a degree of difference in temperature? …And then: an announcement with hardly a ripple of reaction: “Japan’s government announced a decision to begin dumping more than a million tons of treated, but still radioactive, wastewater from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean in two years. Apr. 13, 2021” (a quote from NPR).

Is this Japan caring about the Earth’s temperature change?

Historian scientists have studied climate change for a very long time, and delved into centuries of ebb and flow. The climate in various parts of the world over the centuries changed multiple times. Now the contribution that is top of mind in discussing climate change is carbon emissions and their connection to global warming. But the story is much more complex and mired in garbage, methane escape from the earth, and plastics. Are we losing the battle on several fronts at once? Is there an approach beyond emission discussions?

Another climate change summit? There is another UN warning about how dire things are and the need to change to secure the future. But the polluting inputs of China, etc., continue with a few international mewlings about new initiatives; while new coal fired plants multiply. Quite eloquent words will be exchanged! Faces of world political figures will wear serious expressions! Significant monies will be pledged to help countries transition to do…what? together? individually specific?

What can ordinary people do? What action can we successfully do to change what is a lack of vision and action? What? The young march in protest around the world, while targets are not met year in, year out. Has a time arrived to look at the validity of assertions surrounding how to address “climate change?

There is a life style virus in industry. Can Chinese and other countries’ industry change from plastics that are invading even the bodies of babies, fish, animals. Why? Because it is in the air and waters. Large garbage islands float around the world. Can the economies of the world meet the challenge? What is the antidote to plastic, to multi sourced pollution? Petroleum products are ubiquitous. What replacement is there? When?

The problem of carbon emissions is emphasized with pictures of belching smoke stacks. Warnings are issued! Appeals for each of us to do their part. But, how if the manufacturers don’t change their processes? And the needed new “stuff” is yet to be invented. So…? Ordinary people, when they change to reusable bags, are able to help. Plastic straws are out of use, but orders of take-out food for dinner come in heavy plastic containers. These are what are invented so consumers can consume. How to change and clean up our abused earth?

Imagine: A consumer who has an electric car, a geothermal heating and cooling system at home, wears natural fibre, and uses ethically sourced products; plus probably does not eat meat. But does it need affluence to live so?

Now: juxtaposition to this other scene. The outskirts of Cairo hosts an unimaginably huge garbage dump. People sort garbage and live there. They cannot worry about whether their food is ethically sourced. They struggle just to get food of any kind. There are many such stories in our world. And in Canada we have pollution and a homeless population…

The issue for each of us, is how to participate in real changes and not just listening to exercises in gushing pleasing word pictures. I hope the people of the world invent how to change and to do more!


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