From Buck Rogers to Climate Change – Facing the Real Future

Posted on June 13, 2011


John Prine sang this song:

We are living in the future

I tell you how I know

I read it in a paper

Fifteen years ago

We’re all driving rocket ships

Talking with our minds

Wearing turquoise jewelry

Standing in soup lines

You have to agree with John on this:  we didn’t get the future we were promised.  We’re not Buck Rogers.  We’re not Star Trek.  We’re not even the Jetsons.

But then the science of the Jetsons was of roughly the caliber of its companion show, the Flintstones.  A universe which allows cave folk to coexist with domesticated dinosaurs is the same sort of universe which allows George J (or Buck Rogers) to commute to the office with a rocket pack:  a cartoon universe.  Those of us who aren’t cartoons can’t live there.

The world we do live in is not as fun as we would like.  It’s a world possessing ecological limits.  It’s world of floods in Manitoba and Colombia and along the Mississippi, and recently floods in Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and China.  It’s a world of heat waves and droughts bringing wildfires to Texas, Arizona, and Alberta, and recently to the Ukraine, Russia and Australia.  It’s a world of collapsing fish stocks and dying coral, where jellyfish cram the sea and the ocean turns slowly acid.  It’s a world of hunger, unrest, crop failures and killer storms.

It’s world that we really ought to be doing something about.  It’s a world that we really ought to be adapting to.

A farmer on the prairies, flooded out for years, wants a handout from the government to help him ride it out until the wet seasons stop coming to Manitoba.  But they aren’t going to stop coming.  The old climate is gone.  Our civilization has put too much carbon into the atmosphere already.  We can’t expect anything to go back to where it was before.  Climate change is the new reality.

The job of survival has always meant facing things as they are and working with that.  It also means, when things change, changing with them.  The big question now is—and it’s not a question with any one answer—what is the most rational way to adapt to our new reality, the reality of climate change?

But before we can get to that question, the first thing we have to do is turn off the cartoons and face the facts.  The future is now, it’s dangerous, it’s evolving and if we don’t start taking it seriously right away, it’s going to kill us.

Climate change is a problem we’re not going to be able to escape with our rocket packs.

News of a warming world today:

Manitoba flood likely most costly – CBC

Wet weather affects Prairie wheat seeding – CBC

Slave Lake plans rebuild – CBC

 Cities try to adapt to heat waves – CBC

 Europe Braces for Serious Crop Losses and Blackouts – Scientific American

 World Off Course on Climate; Renewables Vital – Scientific American

 Are You Ready for More? – Newsweek

 Summit plots route to clean electricity – Nature