Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Wake

It has been less than a week since Donald Trump became president elect. The country is still deeply divided and along the west coast and several "liberal" areas, protests are being held. The internet is on fire with both supporters and detractors alike. But it is the supporters that I am intrigued by. Some expect to be excused for voting for Trump claiming it was some sort of protest vote against business as usual political parties full of career politicians.

Another common thread from what I've read is based on a backlash narrative. Claiming to be tired of being called racist or bigoted, working class white males voted for an outspoken and unafraid mans man. When the real truth is more like neither the republicans or the democrats managed to rally their base, and of the Americans who have actually registered to vote, a dismal 47% of them actually turned out.

Now I am basically a single issue voter. Progressive response to climate change is the single biggest issue we face. Sorry, but gender neutral bathrooms, gun control, tax revenue or employment, is not going to matter much if we fail to protect the natural systems that provide our food and drinking water. I can understand how a person well versed in the nuance of the business world with all of its complicated systems could be wholly ignorant of the equally if not more complex systems that make up our natural life support system.

There is only so much a single individual can really understand completely. In the sciences this is the specialization that makes so much of the most important research difficult for someone with out years of dedication to fully comprehend. Now, before I'm accused of being elitist, keep in mind that it is not isolated to sciences. Lawyers, mechanics, accountants, and many other professions seem to have a language all of their own.

Many Americans have found them selves in quite a bit of financial trouble after a tax audit, often times due to a mistake that could have been avoided if they consulted a professional. Not everyone knows how to tinker with the right parts or even where to look in the event of car trouble. The legal system is so complicated, we have mandated that anyone accused of a crime be provided with a lawyer. So when scientists who have been carefully collecting and analyzing data for decades of their lives deem it necessary to influence policy, giving equal voice to business interests, is akin to asking your doctor to replace the timing belt in your car, or having your mechanic attempt heart surgery.

We are at a critical junction collectively as a species, we have done amazing things throughout the world, mostly with the jump-start of fossil fuels. Now it is time to harness the core of the creativity that made that happen, and redirect it towards creating a sustainable future. Trump is 70 years old. He will not likely be around long enough to feel the most dramatic effects of the problems we face, but his influence at this pivotal time will be responsible for the severity and scope of them.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Last Frontier

On earth at least is the "New Arctic". It turns out, not only have oil companies been  publicly denying climate change, while they have been aware of it in their boardrooms, it looks like they have been planning on it. Shorter weaker ice building seasons, combined with warmer ocean temperatures maybe be bad news for life, but for oil exploitation its a boon.

Now, the economic forum in Davos is wrapping up, and among the topics being discussed by the worlds elite and the toothless political body they hoped to walk over, are the rules by which this prime slice of virgin territory to the north of everyone, is to be dressed up and whored out to the benefit of a fistful of multinational corporations. While the actual proven reserves haven't been determined, it is sure to be the largest massive discovery since the Persian Gulf.

I wonder if anyone there even considered the fact that this is the last hurrah for a resource that cannot be extracted at a sustainable rate. The implications that carries for much of our technology; especially in agriculture and medical science, that have become as petroleum dependent as they are important to our society, are disturbing. From drug synthesis in industrial chemistry, to the actual syringes used to administer said drug, almost everything is done with petroleum derived products. The chemical fertilizers, pesticides and the entire centralized distribution system that has replaced the family farm, are so completely integrated with plastics and petroleum products that the average person now consumes more petroleum per meal than the weight of the actual food.

Will we one day face a choice between rationing of petroleum resources? Undoubtedly. Will using a plastic bag today prevent someone from having kidney dialysis someday in the future? Quite possibly. Responsible consumption should be the first and most important consideration for this resources. I know this flies in the face of traditional petroleum distribution methods. Where the idea is to flood as much as the market will bear, and to make as much money as possible for the investors. By having rational conversations about priorities when it comes to how we invest our slice of this very valuable pie, we can maybe come up with a plan for allowing future generations access to some of this resource.

Lets not let this be an excuse for GM to put out a Cadillac version of the Humvee at 8900 lbs.GVW, because if we go down that route, we have truly become, the last, most selfish generation.