Monday, February 20, 2006

The Intellect Elects Not to Connect All the Dots

One of the most amazing things to me about the human animal is its ability to compartmentalize. We are different from the other animals of the earth, because of our intellect.


BraincheckIt’s a fact! Our big brain, our ability to intellectualize in place of mere instinct, is what provides us with pencils in ten-packs for 29 cents, Audi sedans for $29 thousand, nuclear submarines for $29 million and a month of world trade at (negative, sorry ‘bout that) $29 billion. Admittedly, of all the above choices, the #2 common school pencil is the best deal, but that’s another story.


So, here we are, at the end of 10,000 or so years of pretty decent progress, makin' our way, able to split atoms and able to play poker for money on our computers, but somehow unable to deal with reality. Okay, I grant you that reality has always been a little hard for the brain-cells.


Reality-wise, an appliance, long out of warrantee, still comes as a shock when it stops making coffee and leaks all over the kitchen counter. A marriage, long sliding inexorably downhill, seems okay as long as the house is painted, the lawn mowed and the TV works. Flooded kitchen counters and a wife’s demand of divorce, each of them incomprehensible, are always a shock to the distracted, but big-brained husband.


GreenlandThus it is that (shhhh, I have to whisper this) global warming has come like a thief in the night and stolen the silverware. It's gone, the metaphoric silverware. Warming, on the other hand, is still with us. Your exploding heating-bill is not an accurate measure of what's happening on the other side of the window, it's merely an economic happenstance. How did this happen? The Prez promised it wouldn't.


Greenland's glaciers are melting into the sea twice as fast as previously believed and it was previously believed that they were going pretty fast. Damned Vikings again, will their mischief never stop? Buried under all that perma-frost and glacial ice, we may finally find out the answer to the pressing question of whether Greenland is really green, so it’s not all bad news.


FloridameltWhat is bad news is that we’re probably long past any ability to stop a significant rise (probably 20 feet) in ocean levels world-wide by the end of the century. Whew, that’s a relief. Plenty of time to sell the condo in Sea Island and move to Vail. Better get out of Naples and Palm Beach before the realtors catch on. Florida’s coastline will shrink like a $2 sweater and Key West be only a memory of Hemingway.


No longer a question of if, but only how much. It’s not George Bush’s fault, although he’s not been much help. The Polar Ice Cap went into irreversible decline well before Jack Abramoff. If George and the Congress continue to be negligent, it’s only by recommending $70 billion to rehab a Gulf Coast that will not exist in the relatively near future.


ArcticmeltIn the useless statistics department, scientists said in 1996, the amount of water produced by melting ice in Greenland was about 90 times the amount consumed by Los Angeles in a year. Well, that certainly clears it up for me. Last year, the melted ice amounted to 225 times the volume of water that city uses annually. Don’t panic. A pipeline to LA is the answer. Except LA will be as gone as New Orleans by 2100. Like I said, it’s not all bad news.


It’s not only Polar. One glacier that provided Bolivia with its only ski slope five years ago has splintered into three and cannot be used for skiing. That’s the last straw! Selling the Sea Island condo is bad enough, but not being able to ski in Bolivia is intolerable.


ThinkerOceans rising is only part of it. The equatorial band around the earth will become increasingly uninhabitable to man, including great swaths of the Middle East and the African continent. The haves will have less and the have-nots will have nothing. Immigration to a smaller and smaller list of inhabitable countries will slow, then stop, then be enforced at the business end of a machine-gun.


But it’s not too late is no longer an option. That time passed us by while we were wondering who would be this years American Idol and whether a second-mortgage would be necessary to send the kid to college.


Sorry ‘bout that. Blame our compartmented intellect, the finest Darwinian achievement the world (as yet) has ever known.


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A bunch more environmental issues muddying the waters on my personal web site.