Monday, July 13, 2009

The Real Issue Behind Global Warming

So let's talk about global warming. I live in one of the most conservative areas in the country. I get a lot of letters to the editor, some from scientists even, talking about what a scam or hoax global warming is. They point out, correctly as far as I can tell, that our planet has always gone through warming and cooling periods. And I agree with them. However they also go so far as to say that the extreme amounts of C02 that we're putting in the atmosphere aren't really contributing to the latest alarming finds in polar icecap melting, extreme climate conditions and rising natural disaster rates (and you know you've all met, hell maybe even been one of, those lovely people who are just sure these are signs of the times and that the end is nigh). And you know I'm not a scientist. I trust the scientific sources who have told me that we're doing some severe harm to our planet, but I admit that if presented with raw data, I wouldn't know what to do with them.

But to me, these scientists and lay people decrying global warming are missing the point. They are missing the point entirely. This planet will survive whatever we throw at it. We may not, and the polar bears may not, but the planet will. But even this is beside the point. The real point is that global warming is a humanitarian issue far more than it is a planet issue. Regardless of how our carbon footprints are affecting the planet, our blatant consumerism is affecting our ability to sustain ourselves on this planet. There are just too damn many of us.

"Wait! Wait!" say the traditional family values folks among us. "America's birthrate, hell the birthrate of quite a few developed nations is in decline! It's those heathen third world countries who are making too many humans!"

This is true. Third world countries do in general have a higher birth rate than developed countries. But I'll be damned if some woman and her seven children living on a dollar a day consume nearly as much as just me and my two kids living on nearly sixty times that a day. You can bet that in clothing, feeding and transporting my kids that I'm consuming way more than my share of the resources. In fact, if I'm honest with myself, I'm probably able to consume this many resources because this woman and her seven children are working on a plantation of some sort, or a brick molding pit or maybe even a clothing factory producing, harvesting or mining the everyday "necessities" that I feel so entitled too.

The reason we need to cut back on our consumption, the reason we need to downsize our lives, is because we are stepping on other people's backs to be here. We are maxing out our planet's ability to support our lifestyle. There are only so many arable acres, and every time a new subdivision goes in, we're limiting our ability to make that land agriculturally useful in the near future. Every time we slash and burn a section of rain forest to grow corn or soybeans, we're cutting out vital ecosystems that do their part to support local climates and maintain those areas' abilities to feed themselves. And every time a privileged First Worlder (myself included, although I made the decision to have kids before I was aware of this) makes the decision to have another child, we're depriving dozens more already living people of the real time stability needed to have even one third of the "necessities" that we take for granted.

So don't talk to me about the "science" that contradicts actual climate change. Tell me how it is you're looking yourself in the mirror knowing that everything you use today probably came off the back of someone working dawn til dusk and getting paid a minuscule wage just so you could have the latest in fashionable clothes, cars or even breakfast cereal.

(And just so we're clear, I'm the uber-hypocrite and actually don't spend a lot of time looking myself in the eye in the mirror, because I'm so ashamed of my apparent unwillingness to change my lifestyle)