Monday, September 15, 2014

Mother Nature bats last

Earlier today I reread -- for the fifth or sixth time -- Aldo Leopold's Thinking Like a Mountain, from his wonder full A Sand County Almanac. It made me wonder if we, with our mountain top removal coal mining and the mess we make of the environment in our haste to reap the profits of copper-nickel and gold mining, have become the equivalent of the deer on the mountain. Then I started to wonder if our obdurate refusal to seriously respond to climate change might make Anthropocene Climate Disruption our 21st century wolf pack. When you get a second, read Leopold's essay and see what you think. Just remember, Mother Nature always bats last. It wouldn't be all that hard for her to erase our footprints.

foot prints in Superior's sand
Photo by J. Harrington

My perspective on how all of this may, or may not, work has been shifted since I recently started to read The Great Lakes, The Natural History of a Changing Region. To be honest, I have to admit that a time span of 4.5 billion years, the age of the earth, is beyond my comprehension. Neither am I doing well with the implications of the idea that the land under the Great Lakes was at the equator.  I'm still dealing with the idea that the line from Joni Mitchell's lyrics to Woodstock -- "we are star dust" -- isn't just a metaphor. My Better Half often tries to persuade me that we may be at greater risk from an eruption of the Yellowstone volcano super eruption than we are from Anthropocene Climate Disruption. She may be correct. She usually is. I remain troubled by the idea that geologic, astrologic and man-induced disasters, as measured in human terms, aren't mutually exclusive and may in fact be additive. This all reminds me of the saying about not annoying a dragon, because we are crunchy and go well with ketchup. Meanwhile, we need to figure out how to balance the recent Audubon report about climate change having a devastating impact on bird habitats and the State of the Birds report from the North American Bird Conservation Initiative U.S. committee.
Today, we have the science, technology, and knowledge to prevent extinctions. Conservation works. When we have the will to conserve, we can make a better future: for birds, for ecosystems, for everyone.
So, is the cup half full, or half empty? Can we muster the Magnitudes of political will needed to conserve energy as well as we are learning to conserve habitats?


By Howard Nemerov 

Earth’s Wrath at our assaults is slow to come
But relentless when it does. It has to do
With catastrophic change, and with the limit
At which one order more of Magnitude
Will bring us to a qualitative change
And disasters drastically different
From those we daily have to know about.
As with the speed of light, where speed itself
Becomes a limit and an absolute;
As with the splitting of the atom
And a little later of the nucleus;
As with the millions rising into billions—
The piker’s kind in terms of money, yes,
But a million2 in terms of time and space
As the universe grew vast while the earth
Our habitat diminished to the size
Of a billiard ball, both relative
To the cosmos and to the numbers of ourselves,
The doubling numbers, the earth could accommodate.
We stand now in the place and limit of time
Where hardest knowledge is turning into dream,
And nightmares still contained in sleeping dark
Seem on the point of bringing into day
The sweating panic that starts the sleeper up.
One or another nightmare may come true,
And what to do then? What in the world to do?

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