The planet is heating up… We hold more power than we realize to shift the way things turn out
Last week I stumbled on a frightening but inspiring article which many of you may have already heard about or even read. The magnitude, depth and length of the article caused me to take several days to finally complete reading it. Part of me wanted to hold up in a quiet place and not come out until I had fully drunk it all in. Another part of me took in a bit and then said “holy moly, I am not sure what to do next, but already this is more than I can fully absorb.”
The timing of this article came when I was in a loop that I have often imposed on myself. The ongoing question that I ask myself: “What do I have to say or offer to people that will add some value to their life?” In fact, I was asking myself this very question as I pondered the upcoming Mindful Maui 2018 Retreat content. This article ignited the internal engine that drives me towards finding the greater and deeper purposes of life.
Soon Richard and I will be hosting an intimate evening Salon with 2 dear friends. Swami Brahmananda Saraswati and his older brother, Swami Umesh Yogi who will be with us in NJ for the first time together. I am eager to meet Umesh. (As an aside, when Swami Ji told his older brother the topic that I was interested in pursuing on this particular evening, his reply was “what fear of death?”) You see the Indian culture does not espouse such fears and I know that they have much to teach their Western brothers and sisters in this regard. This is why I chose this topic and am hosting this private event.
The New York Magazine article to which I am referring takes on the topic of climate change like no non-academic article I have yet read. The details may seem overwhelming because of the Biblical magnitude of its predictions, but the call to action is undeniably urgent and sobering. It is broken down into 9 “chapters” each one building a level of intensity and adding to the greater picture of the urgency. I can see how the human mind would protectively shut down or perhaps worse yet, assess as ludicrous, the message delivered in graduating proportions of scope.
Chapter 1 Doomsday
Midway between the North Pole, Greenland, and Norway sits an archipelago of islands called Svalbard. Tucked deep within the earth at the layer of the permafrost (so named because it was to be exactly that “permanently frozen”) is a global seed bank fittingly named “Doomsday.” In this vault lie hundreds of boxes with 4-5 hundreds of packets of plant seeds per box. In total 4.5 million seeds of all known species and varieties are held here to protect agriculture in case of wars or natural disaster that would threaten our species’ survival. Opened in February 2008 by the Norwegian government, it is buried in a rock formation 394 feet above sea level (at that time) to ensure its safety in the event of global warming rising sea levels of any proportion. Take a look at the schematic here. Though the vault is safe, the flooding levels of the rising seas are already more than expected and that flooding stems from the happening of the “impossible:” the melting of the permafrost!
The author cautions that the focus we have held on rising sea levels has distracted from the even larger threat of the permafrost melt that would release twice as much carbon than is already released in our atmosphere wreaking its havoc. That catastrophic fact would be magnified by the impact that this release of carbon would have on the greenhouse gas methane. The warming potential of methane in the atmosphere would be 86 times magnified!!!
Chapter 2 Heat Death
Well, if that chapter title doesn’t say enough, I will do my best to synopsize and illuminate the way these first two chapters interact and link to the additional possibilities to come. We all know that carbon emissions have been a uncontrollable, modern-day monster consuming our planet’s stability. Capping carbon emissions has been the focus of scientific and political treatises including the recent Paris Talks Pact which was signed by President Obama and unsigned, as it is, by President Trump. Chapter 1, above, prophesies the growing threat of unprecedented carbon that the melt of the permafrost would unleash and the Biblical impact that this carbon level would have on the methane gas in our atmosphere. All of this raises the heat levels to our physiological systems which, on their own are already heat producing machines.
Have you ever lain in bed with your partner on a cold winter night and cuddled up to maximize the warming potential of each others’ bodies? Soon you are moving away from each other because you have not only warmed up, but you are overheating from your own heat production as well as theirs. This is proof positive that the human body, as a metabolizing machine can be mighty. Any woman in menopause will tell you that when her body is heated up, it is urgent that there be air movement to help cool her. Our systems require a threshold of dryness in the air to allow for the evaporation of moisture produced by our inner and any outer heat. When the heat and humidity are too heightened, there is nowhere for that moisture to go and so it sits on the body, trapping the heat inside and cooking the internal temperature to an unhealthy level.
This chapter delineates the various measures of temperature rise and the corollary impacts on our ability to remain healthy or even alive! We are already in the warming stages and heat has been rising on the planet since 1980. Something called the “wet-bulb” maximum which reflects the effect of the combined heat and humidity impact maxes out for human life at 35 degrees Celsius (95F). At present most areas of the globe are already at 26-27 degrees. This significantly raises the threshold for heat stress, a heat emergency in the body that threatens the brain. The dangerous increases of heat that have occurred in some places since 2002 are going to begin to occur in more places and for more portions of the year.
This means that more people will die. More people will be unable to work outside more and longer periods of time during the year. This impacts farming. This impacts construction. This impacts policing and fire fighting. This impacts children playing. This impacts older people enjoying a simple walk in their neighborhood. This impacts landscapers and even your own simple gardening efforts. This impacts mail delivery. And delivery of your Amazon packages. And this is just what comes to my mind in the 10 seconds it took me to write this paragraph. This heralds a significant modification to our modern life and health.
Chapter 3 The End of Food
The warmer climates generated by the chain of events described thus far will also impact farming in another way. The crops simply won’t grow! Staples such as grains are impacted in their growth by a 10 percent decline in yield for every degree increase in heat above the optimal growth temperature. The author posits that by the end of our current century, just 80 years more, a 5 degree increase in temperature would marry a 50 percent increase in global population with a 50 percent decline in the level of food production. We are already living in famine conditions in much of the globe. This would be beyond devastating.
Drought in our world’s agricultural areas will be catastrophic. Southern Europe, significant parts of the Middle East, all the southern hemisphere continents (Australia, South America, and Africa), and parts of China will be in drought conditions and no longer able to be relied upon to be the source of world’s food production that they are today. As for the United States, our farmlands will be in a drought like none seen since the past 1,000 years when all the rivers east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains completely dried up.
Consider the magnitude of this impact when, already for this year alone, the United Nations is predicting starvation in separate parts of Africa alone be at the 20 million mark!
If you aren’t already picturing a vast wasteland littered with the carcasses of human and animal bodies strewn across uninhabitable swaths of lands on a global level, you are not taking this serious enough! There are 6 more chapters to go in this chronicle…
Chapter 4 Climate Plagues
This chapter begins with a subtitle: What happens when the bubonic ice melts? The up shot of this is that the ice has compressed, compartmentalized and preserved, as well as protected us from the rampant reproduction and gestation of bacteria and viruses from all of time. As this melting occurs, who knows what will be released and what has the potential to be reanimated? And civilizations before us were overtaken by plagues that could not be controlled or contained. We don’t know what we don’t know! And we have already seen viruses like Zika that have come virtually out of nowhere to devastate people in mass numbers.
Chapter 5 Unbreathable Air
In addition to carbon monoxide taking up more of a concentration in the air that we breathe, this chapter talks about the impact of more ozone in the air that we breathe.
Increased carbon dioxide will impact our cognitive ability (ability to think) at levels just 2.5 times more than what it is presently. Unhealthy ozones levels are predicted by mid-century. That is just 25-30 years away. In 2090 when the air reaches that “unsafe to breathe” level, the author sites one paper indicating the rise in autism because of it’s link to rising ozone. Not only is the threat of this predicted, but also is the suggestion that we are already seeing such a curious rise in cases of autism in West Hollywood, CA.
With the rising heat comes rising forest fires and that increases the particles in the air. And that adds again another source of increase to the heating of the climate. So each thing leads to the next and rests on the previous disaster which magnifies the impact and makes it more and more uncontrollable. It is a snowball rolling downhill.
Chapter 6 Perpetual War
Without going into the Social Science rationales, the Criminal Science statistics or the Psyche 101 reasoning, as a student of Ayurveda the idea of rising heat contributing to rising tempers seems completely sensible. It makes sense to me that when someone with a Pitta dosa (Fire constitution) gets too hot or eats too much spicy food, they are going to become irritable and likely to have fits of temper flaring up. The addition of heat to an already hot situation doesn’t make for a soothing result. So the science of rising temperatures contributing to the result of an increase of armed conflict seems like a no-brainer. Add to that the imbalance of the distribution of wealth, the instability of the state of health, the threat to the food supply and nowhere to go to cool off and you have a cocktail that seems nuclear in proportion.
To quantify, the author states that for every half degree of warming there will be an increase by measure of 10-20 percent in armed conflict. Let’s see… that starts to make the efforts of the NRA to maintain our American “right to bear arms” make more sense too, doesn’t it?
Chapter 7 Permanent Economic Collapse
I found this chapter a bit harder to digest. It seems the details of this impact are not as logically quantifiable, but one thing that was mentioned that came though loud and clear was this: every roundtrip ticket on a flight from New York to London costs the Arctic 3 more square meters of ice! So to keep the economy functioning the business of business is a self-depleting activity.
We saw how commerce will be slowed or even stopped by increased warming in Chapter 2, above. We know from history that the Great Recession lowered GDP by 6% in one shocking moment. And we have research that indicates that for every degree warmer there is a 1.2% decline in GDP which dwarfs the percentages which are cited as significant when the conversation is about GDP growth. So it sounds like we will be significantly less productive and at the same time significantly more consuming due to rising population… without needing any math, that sounds like an equation catastrophically out of balance.
Chapter 8 Poisoned Oceans
The author is predicting at least a 4 foot rise in sea levels with up to 10 feet by the end of the 2000’s. That rise will automatically flood coastal areas, rivers and streams inland and he states that currently there are 600 million people living in regions within 33 feet of sea level.
Consider that the ocean acts as a carbon filter and as more carbon enters the scene, the ocean (read filter) will become so polluted that it will no longer be able to perform its job. That means plant and animal life that make their home in the sea will be contaminated. And the dying matter will further contaminate those waters causing the already clogged filter to become garbage. Picture your air conditioner filter or your vacuum filter or your car’s oil filter if you never cleaned it.
All of this raises the ph of the waters, meaning the acid levels rise. As the oceans become more acidified, those surviving sea creatures will not be able to grow their protective shells. In humans, rising ph levels cause seizures, comas and sudden death!
Now picture the moist, humid forest floor or even your backyard after a series of rainy days… what happens? Mushrooms pop up. Well, consider the vast array of bacteria that will grow in the petri dish of the new acidified ocean? Again, we don’t know what we don’t know! One thing leads to another and each new horror rests on the chain of horrors that preceded it.
Chapter 9 The Great Filter
The critical data of this chapter, for me, falls squarely on its last paragraph. The task for humans to reverse the cavalcade of assaults that have befallen our planet and that clearly indicate we are well on our way to going the way of Venus, is one gargantuan in stature, but not impossible for the creatively capable human spirit. If consciousness can guide, then nothing is impossible.
I particularly resonate with this quote from the final segment of the article: “The scientists know that to even meet the Paris goals, by 2050, carbon emissions from energy and industry, which are still rising, will have to fall by half each decade; emissions from land use (deforestation, cow farts, etc.) will have to zero out; and we will need to have invented technologies to extract, annually, twice as much carbon from the atmosphere as the entire planet’s plants now do. Nevertheless, by and large, the scientists have an enormous confidence in the ingenuity of humans — a confidence perhaps bolstered by their appreciation for climate change, which is, after all, a human invention, too.”
The Next Chapter
It’s a sizable mission and confounded by the current reality that we are being “governed” by one who leads the charge of a pack who are stuck in the inaction and negative action of denial. If the world at large and those among us who are conscious of being conscious can continue to stay the course of commitment to doing everything we can to shift, the worst that can happen is that we do not reverse the trajectory of that snowball, but we somehow steer clear of being in its path by at least reducing the burden of our own karmic footprint on the planet. Perhaps in doing so, we can give birth to smaller communities that burst with life and defy the” inevitable” by rejecting its supposed fate and instead fulfill the inimitable potential of love.
This is where the path of Yoga comes in for me. It always winds back to love. There is nothing that enough love cannot resolve. This is something that my friend and guru, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati often says. This is something that I believe to the depths of my heart. Because love is a light and fear is darkness, it makes sense to me that shining the sun on the murkiness of our fears will reveal all that we need to bring forward in our consciousness to eradicate that which threatens life.
Stay the course!