It started just before dawn with a peep here and a warble there and before you knew it, a fabric of bird song was unfurling, birds in the hundreds, saluting the new day, claiming their ground, making a joyful noise. If you were familiar and so inclined, you could tease out the individual threads, or you could just allow the whole brocade to weave itself and wrap around you.
There are places that still host such a wonder, and maybe it’s every bit as splendid as it once was, but who’s to say? Who remembers? I heard it in West Virginia, a wealth of warblers in their spring migration, returning to the same trees and the same woods in the same mountains they were born. It’s an extravagance of life, except where the mountains were decapitated for coal and their dismembered bodies dumped in the streams.
But most of us do not wake to the dawn chorus anymore. Maybe we snarl awake to one crow we find annoying. Most likely there are three or four birds in our yard and we can’t tell one from the other, or aren’t moved to. Three or four ignorable birds seem like the normal amount. We were born yesterday. We have no idea what is missing, so we don’t miss it.
That’s what happens. Whatever condition you find yourself in, you get used to it quickly. One day you’re utterly amazed that you can take a stack of books on vacation on a device the size of a playing card. The next day you find yourself picking up an old paper book and spreading your fingers on the page to enlarge the font.
So it turns out to be really easy to persuade people that global warming isn’t a big deal, or that we have nothing to do with it, or even that it isn’t really happening. Doesn’t matter that it was predicted over a hundred years ago, or that everything scientists have warned us about is already happening, or that the only thing they missed is the torrid pace of it. All it takes is a bunch of money; a disinformation campaign and propaganda outlets created and funded to spread it; and an underlying resentment to exploit, a suspicion that over-educated scientists are scolds who think they’re better than we are. And that bumbling fop Al Gore, annoying as a morning crow, is just in it for the money.
Because it’s simply not possible. There’s no way humans could have an effect on something as huge as the climate. That’s ridiculous. The climate changes. It always has. It can’t be us.
But it’s not only true, it’s obvious, if you take just a step back and pack a few facts in your pocket. The composition of the atmosphere has changed a number of times for a number of reasons. Ultimately it comes down to where the carbon is. At one time plants grew so large that they pulled carbon from the air and loaded it up with oxygen. Firestorms released the carbon again. Plants were submerged in warm, rising waters and the carbon was buried in the ground in the form of oil and coal. Quarantined. For 300 million years. If we come along and pull sixty million years’-worth of safely buried carbon and burn it up again in a matter of a hundred years or so, it’s back in the air. Fast.
So what people who scoff fail to appreciate is what a special time we are living in. Being able to keep large uninsulated houses the same temperature all year is nice, but it’s not normal. Being able to motor a hundred miles for a day trip is nice, but it’s not normal. We’re on a heck of a ride, but it’s costing us. It’s more than we can afford.
Our weather isn’t normal either. Almost everyone can see that now. Greenland is melting. The Arctic is on fire. More and more, people are coming around to the idea that we really have started something we need to fix. Some day. And now that the writing is on the wall, and we’re told we have maybe a decade to kick our fossil fuel addiction–to leave it in the ground—it’s more important than ever that we learn why. Facts we got. It’s wisdom we need.
Because it’s going to be damned hard. And, as always, it’s going to be even harder on the poor. Our task is nearly impossible, but the alternative is not survivable. We all need to understand how urgent our situation is, or we will be conned once again by the first rapacious gasbag who tells us that the liberal elites want us to pay a buck more for gasoline. Or take away our “freedom” to use plastic straws. Or foist “socialism” on us, whatever vague horror we imagine that to be.
We’re in a stupid amount of trouble.
These liars are not on our side. They’re not even on their own side. We are sunk if we believe life began with us, that our unfathomable, unprecedented power is our birthright, if we believe our diminished world, our endless striving for material accumulation, and our dissatisfaction with it–that all of that is normal. What birds? We never had birds here.
Almost everyone agrees that we are entering The Sixth Extinction, which will undoubtedly include humans as well as a plethora of other creatures. The disagreement lies in what we can do about it — and if it’s even possible to do anything at this point. I have read that the tipping point for the possibility of turning this around has already passed over ten years ago.
An enlightening book that I’ve recently read is A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright. It IS short, which is good because it is also depressing. The book delves into how we’ve been down this road before: many civilizations have built themselves up only to “overbuild” themselves to the point where they destroy themselves. The most telling example in the book was the story of Easter Island. It wasn’t always a barren rock. It used to be a paradise. Then they started building those stone monuments to their gods. Each tried to outdo the other. Moving the rocks involved felling trees for a way to transport the rocks. They did not allow younger trees to grow to take the place of the older ones. In fact, they knowingly felled the very last tree to make a monument. Without the trees, other plants and creatures failed. The natives lacked food, and also lacked any way off the island, as they had no lumber to build boats. This is a microcosm of what we are doing now… what we have done since civilization began. The difference is the scale; it is no longer an island or a country. It’s the planet.
Wright also avers that we cannot go back to an agrarian society. We are too populous, and the farms that we have cannot produce enough to supply food for them. Add to that the fact that much of our food production has been outsourced to other countries. A high percentage of our farms are focused on corn and soy beans.
This is all very depressing and is just one of the reasons that I self-medicate with alcohol. This is a no-win scenario, and I am just trying to get through it and hold onto as much of the small joys as are left to us.
My life now is a balance between being informed and being a little bit high.
I am a Deanz Greenz shopper.
One the basic tenets of early christianity was that the Earth and all on it belongs to mankind. The animals, plants, soil was ours to do with as we wish. This lasts today in evangelical groups. Even those who don't openly practice religion have inculcated this belief. In Montana and the west, including Oregon, I frequently hear and read about how predators are killing 'their' elk and deer.
This belief, and it's variations go on in the rural areas, where the effects of climate change are dismissed as coincidence. I don't see it changing any while religion and orgs like the nra have such a grip on our government.
I think that religion has been THE most destructive force in our species. What you mentioned about Earth belonging to the humans, and also the "be fruitful and multiply." ENOUGH already with the multiplying! Since we can't contain ourselves, Nature will do it for us.
Don't let the plutocrats off the hook for this.
I agree with everything you said about climate change, but let me tell you about the dawn chorus I used to wake up to. at first it was just a cacophony of bird sound, then I began to notice and listen, eventually even getting out of bed to watch through my window. One small bird, perched on the roof of the unit behind mine would send out a call and wait. From a short distance away, another bird would answer the call. then the first bird would send a second call and again wait, and soon a second reply from a different area. This would go on for about a half an hour until all "families" in his are had been woken for the day, then he would fly off and I'd go make coffee. but then came evening, and as the sun lowered in the sky, the little bird came back to the roof of the unit behind mine and began calling again. One by one, "families" would answer his calls, again taking about a half an hour, until he was satisfied that all were safely in the nests. I noticed on a few occasions, if a bird didn't answer, he would repeat the call until he got an answer, and he had a slightly different call for each family. Now that I'm here in a different location and retired, I'm not often awake so early in the mornings, but when I am, I hear the birds and have begun to listen again to see if the same routine is carried out and I think it is, just with different birds.
That's at least one of the things they're doing. They're also establishing territory, giving notice of their preferred boundaries, checking in on family. And maybe exuberating. There's a lot of good research on this. If I ever get my Bird Book published, you can read all about it.
I do listen to the dawn chorus. And marvel at it.
And, sadly/infuriatingly we heard yesterday that local companies (no doubt with the support of our guvermint) are about to spend multi-millions on an advertising campaign spruiking the benefits of coal. Hiss and spit.
Oh for Pete's sake. Make it stop!
As Joni Mitchell once sang, "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."
And…once it's gone, you don't know either. That's the trouble.
Another good book on climate change is "The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming" by David Wallace-Wells.
We live in a remote area of Sonoran desert outside Tucson with a tremendously varied bird population, many migratory. The spring migrations have shifted about 3 weeks sooner in response to the warmer average temps but more interesting is what happens when the resident breeding starts sooner. Quail that used to breed once in the spring now have enough time to do two generations and combine families! It's quite a sight to see 4 adults (2 older, 2 younger) with 2 dozen chicks running around. Plants have thrown in an extra blooming this year as well.
Interesting that it's working out for them! I know a lot of species are all bollixed up because the birds are arriving in their breeding locations too early for the insects they need to feed their young. I do consider this an experiment we'd be better off without.
I loved the attempt to make a book font bigger by spreading your fingers. I have occasionally held my finger on a word in a book hoping it would display the definition.
I HAVE TOO. The only thing I can say for myself is the number of seconds I wait before recognizing what a dummy I am is coming down.
I admit, I have a tremendous sex drive. My boyfriend lives forty miles away. Click here and Check me out i am getting naked here 😉