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Thursday, May 29, 2008

the cold rush



There I was on top of the world in 1975, age 18-almost-19, hiking a path from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen, Switzerland, with pigs. I had never heard of global warming, although the melt at the Arctic had been happening since the 1950s. The Alps don't even look like this any more. (Well, neither do I, but that's another topic.)

Pardon me for huffing here instead of at my huffing blog, but while some of Nature is beautiful and warm and loving, humanity included, some of it isn't, and I don't want to ignore that here.

Have you heard that at least five countries are vying for territorial rights at the Arctic? The United States, Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark (I vote for Denmark, since they're trying to convert to 50% renewable-energy-dependent in the next couple of decades) are arguing about who "owns" the land, tundra, seaways. Ultimately the political import is about the shipping routes and oil under the sea that is becoming more accessible due to ice melt, and who will have rights to harvest and control what could be as much as 25% of the world's remaining fossil fuels, according to this article in Vanity Fair by Alex Shoumatoff. In fact, the Russians sent two Mirs down below to gather geologic samples, and while there they planted a titanium flag (anything less than titanium or something that strong would be compressed under the pressure). And it's not just those five countries. China, Japan, India and others are in place to be part of the highly political regional footholds. Russia is claiming it has sovereignty over some, if not most, of it - nice thought, considering they turned off the gas faucet once to Ukraine.

Okay, so the Arctic ice has been melting at a rate of 10% every decade since the 1950s, which is why it is suddenly a topic of oil drilling: it's accessible because of the melt. And what caused the melt? Well, um, yeah, global warming, caused by burning fossil fuels. What a poetically devastating cycle we humans generate.

It seems that life is replete with the difficult tension of a) wanting things to get better, wishing everyone would wake up and b) knowing in my heart of hearts it probably won't happen in most cases, until absolute desperation and necessity demand it.

Do I believe our powerful countries will turn to alternative eco-friendly sustainable fuel sources rather than turn to what's left of the earth's oil? As long as there is oil, it's not running out, right? And Americans with gas prices above $4/gallon, and Brits with twice that price, are clamoring for their governments to do something about it. So should they drill that precious oil, buy a few more decades of oil dependency? Make their penny-pinched citizens happier?

As "we" embark on this new frontier of exploration, expedition and exploitation, I am sitting here with a stupid, gullible look of disbelief on my face, disappointed that nothing has changed, artificial borders on Mother Earth continue to be drawn, and we suck out her life as if we are entitled, with no respect or acknowledgement for how we were born from Her, will dissolve into her, making us one with her and each other.

I guess we can hope that some Russian scientists are right, that global warming is almost over, that it's getting colder up there again, and that thickening ice will prevent oil drilling.

Or, if that fails, maybe we can fly above the earth like the shamanic Siberian flying reindeer.

30 comments:

LeenaM said...

Sorry, but nobody can prophesy, what will happen in a future.
Some has said for instance,that when Atlantic ocean will get warmer, it will change a direction of Golf Stream and after that starting from Great Britain all countries to the north will be colder and colder, because Golf keeps us now so warm in these latitudes. What this will do to the North America, who knows, if it happens. All the time if this or if that.
And also the velocity of global warming may be logarithmic.

And now my fire alarm alerts!!!
My food is a little too warm now :)

LeenaM said...

I forgot to say, that you are like a fresh flower of the Alps!

Anet said...

First of all Ruth, adorable picture! Second of all, I keep wondering who really controls the world? Do the oil tycoons want us to have a new useable energy source? NO! I'm afraid of how strong their grip really is on us. They have us right where they want us, dependent. How much control do they have to stop us from turning away from their black liquid gold.
Mother Earth will someday slam her hand down and say "Enough is enough, I've warned you!"
The Native Americans believe to only take what you need from her and to always give back, honor her, be thankful for what she gives us! hmmmmm.....

Sharon said...

NPR ran a short piece on Morning Edition yesterday about the arctic nations scurrying for jurisdiction and it was definitely one of those stop and try to believe your ears moments.... I mean who are we??? And who are these people who we entrust with our interests? Sad but I think the only way to affect widespread change is to make alternative solutions more profitable than fossil fuel and then they can fight over those profits.....sad but manipulating their greed may be more effective than appealing to their consciences. Because for every individual who thoughtfully alters their behavior there are always some financially less fortunate who are willing to do what ever is necessary to improve their condition......so wealth and greed will always be relevant to finding a solution. My point is not to promote synicism but to talk about the factors important to effective and practical change.....
(I LOVE the picture!!!)

Sharon said...

Oh, the other issue is the methane trapped under the permafrost (keep in mind that I have NO idea how accurate my understanding of this is....) and some believe that the more critical issue at hand is that as global warming occurs this methane will be released into the atmosphere in such abundance that it will be catastrophic..... If any of you understand this more accurately please post your thoughts/corrections. Thanks!~Sharon

Ruth said...

Leena, no one can prophesy, true. But what IS at this moment is disturbing, just the arrogance of the parceling.

$ $ $

Anet, for days I've been thinking about that aspect of Native American world view, to not take more than we need. It would be a different world if we all did it.

Ruth said...

Sharon, I don't think you're promoting cynicism. We live in a capitalistic world, and that's a fact.

Yes, there is the methane issue in the permafrost. There are also bacteria and diseases that will be (are being?) re-introduced to the world that could devastate the population.

We are in for big changes ahead, no matter what, just as we've seen big changes already. All we can do is keep trying to honor the Earth, each other, and ourselves with respect.

Ginnie said...

You and your pigs, Ruth! WOW! That was awhile ago, I must say. :)

They say what goes around comes around. I hate to think what that will look like for our grandkids. Sigh. One person, one step at a time. If only we all did our part!

Freefalling said...

Yodellay he yodelley he
Yodellay he hoo!

Ruth said...

Boots, I wonder if those pigs are still alive? I can't believe how long ago that was either. Good night!

$ $ $

Letitia, that about sums it up!! Would you mind putting that in a YouTube and send it to me? Oh wait, I can't play YouTubes right now, something's wrong with my computer.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Wow, this is exactly the discussion John and I had last night while sitting by the firepit... Everyone is talking about......and looking up into the dark sky, we watched plane after plane go by in close proximity...
I'm wondering why no one talks about the pollution that planes are making... We live in a flightpath where all the planes heading to Europe from North America passes over our part of the world...The amount of air traffic is unbelievable...

we all have to DO something about... We can not wait for Gov't ...

Gwen Buchanan said...

and the photograph...What a memory! Adorable!!

Loring Wirbel said...

Oh what the heck, if there's going to be mosquitoes on Baffin Island, we might as well drill under the North Pole. Let's use every last drop and party all the way to utter destruction. How does that one F. Scott Fitzgerald story about dissolution end?
"High," said Mr. X
"Higher."
Or something.
MORE OIL! Florida's an ugly peninsula anyway. Buy Dalton, Ga. beachfront property today.

Ruth said...

Gwen, there was a lot of noise about carbon footprints these last couple years. I calculated ours, and we were pretty fine until I added in ONE flight to Europe in a year (when I took students on study abroad), and my bad points "sky-rocketed." I would love to hear businesses talk more about how to do international business without sending their people all the time. I mean, what about skyping?

$ $ $

Loring, what story is it, now you have me curious.

Loring Wirbel said...

One of his short stories, where two drunk rich kids are stuck in an elevator during a time dangerously near to the Oct 1929 crash. Maybe I can hunt for it!

Loring Wirbel said...

Found it! From a short story called "May Day":

"Higher," said Mr. In.

"Heaven," said Mr. Out. ...

He went out half an hour later and bought a revolver at a sporting goods store. Then he took a taxi to the room where he had been living on East Twenty-seventh Street, and, leaning across the table that held his drawing materials, fired a cartridge into his head just behind the temple.

-end-

There, now THAT'S what I feel about drilling in the Arctic.

Ruth said...

Loring, you're da bomb. What did that take you, like 5 minutes?

And yes, that's how I feel too.

Drowsey Monkey said...

I love the photo of you!

As for this issue, it's a big news item here in Canada. I'm not sure where I stand on it, other than being Canadian I'd like to see our government win ... altho I'm not sure I trust them any more than any other government to be kind to the environment. Great post!

Drowsey Monkey said...

Just looked at the photo again, you're very "Heidi" looking there! :)

Ruth said...

Drowsey, it's the way of the world to map it out. I'm resigned to the drawing of imaginary lines. But drilling for oil under the Arctic Sea makes me crazy.

And re Heidi, no doubt I had some hippie-esque idea of that when I put those braids in, hehe.

Sandy said...

The photo wasn't there, but I enjoyed that you wrote a post about this and very interesting to read.

s

Ruth said...

Thanks, Sandy! But hmm, I am seeing the photo in either IE or Firefox. Sorry about that! Don't know what the problem at your end would be.

Bob Johnson said...

The days of our youth hey Ruth, times less troubled or so we thought.

I believe we will eventually take control of our mistakes, our need for survival will overcome our greed, but how sad, like you say we will probably take it to the limit and have quite a mess to clean up.

Ruth said...

Bob, I agree with you, some day this is all going to level out. What will happen to humanity in the meantime, I don't know. But the planet will survive no matter what. It just might hiccup a few of us off!

laura said...

I'm going through a similar thing, Ruth: working on a book by Terry Tempest Williams about the, I can only call murder, of prairie dogs, which are endangered, to make way for development and golf courses. They're poisoned, burned in their burrows, and shot (for fun and sport by some true subhuman savages). For the sake of money these social, intelligent animals are deemed pests and slaughtered. Why haven't we an ethics to guide our relations with animals? The ridiculous and perniscious idea that everything on this planet is subordinate to man still has legs.

Bob Johnson said...

Lol, hiccup a few of us off.

Ruth said...

Laura, how disturbing. I often wonder what rocks these subhumans grow under? I guess they are far more prevalent than what I see personally. But then, I work at a university . . .

$ $ $

Yeah, Bob, I think we might be in for it.

SwedeHart said...

Spooky, when I saw that picture, I thought: "Where did she get that picture of me?" You were quite buff in your younger days:D I loved this huff and forwared it to my papa-in-law.

Ruth said...

Oh hi, SwedeHart! I've missed you. Maybe you have a slower summer ahead of you? Ha, yes you can see the family resemblance, eh? I'd love to have the 18-year-old bod back, but with the 51 years of experience.

I'd love to sit down with you, Swede and your papa-in-law and have a good long conversation about such things.

SwedeHart said...

Yes, you would enjoy it, I am sure. They are fun to conversate with. I wish I could say I am back for good, but we'll have to see if things slow down at work. So much creative work, it really drains me. There are so many things that need to be improved, and it will be really nice when we are done with construction and can just enjoy the journey!