Thursday, September 26, 2019

For the Greta Good

Agent Smith said this to Morpheus in The Matrix: "Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment; but you humans do not. Instead you multiply, and multiply, until every resource is consumed. ... There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern... a virus."

But does the planet really care what we do to it? After all, we are just a blip on its 9 billion year life-span. Pollution, weather extremes, proliferation of plastic, rising water levels around the globe, extinction of species at an alarming rate, and the growing inability to sustain the rapidly expanding global population – all these points will be moot as we hurtle towards extinction thanks to our short-sightedness and greed, or as life simply ceases to exist in a billion years when the sun warms up enough to make it unsustainable.

Do the humans care what we do to it? Maybe we should, given that our coming generations will bear the brunt. Not to discount the unwelcome changes we have already started to see -  frequent hurricanes, drowning islands, rising temperatures, dried up glaciers, thawing permafrost in Alaska and Siberia, and the specter of Greenland actually becoming green. Combine this with the astounding unwillingness to pay attention to the science, shift blame at every opportunity, or simply dismiss climate change as a hoax, and we are basically frogs in slowly boiling water.

Somehow science is starting to become hostage to belief (which, by definition, is unsubstantiated. Else it would be fact). But the laws of nature do not care whether you believe in them or not – they do not yield different results based on belief or lack of it. As Ricky Gervais so astutely observed, if all religious and scientific text were destroyed today, the scientific text will come back in a 1000 years because natural laws are immutable and people will measure and discover the same things over time. Religious text, on the other hand will not, because beliefs change over time. 

The science is simple - use fossil fuels as an energy source and cut down trees, and you add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide retains heat, so temperature rises. Temperature rises, and the ice in and near polar cap melts faster. Water occupies more volume than ice, so melting polar caps add more water to the oceans. Water levels rise, and livable land is submerged. Plus there's more of that uncomfortable heat to deal with.

Science can measure this at a granular level, project the future impact, and also help devise preventative measures, which is as simple as reducing emissions globally by shifting to greener energy sources and actively reducing the carbon footprint. By the way, climate is the average of weather over at least a 30-year period, so extreme cold or weather does not mean there is no global warming. It is symptomatic of climate in tragic transition towards the worse for humans.

Which brings me to Greta. Here is a brilliant 16-year old, who instead of enjoying her adolescence is protesting in front of parliaments, traveling over the world to present the science, urging leaders to take action for the greater good, and trying to keep the earth livable for her generation and beyond.

She repeatedly urges people to listen to the science. In fact, she brings much needed emotion to the science, because facts are dry, boring, and preachy for people that are about regressive policies for short-term gains. If belief can get a horde of willing preachers, what is the issue with science getting a preacher if it helps drive the point home? 

The people ridiculing, vilifying, questioning, and attacking her are petty, short-sighted, and simply missing the point and the issue at hand. They are threatened because of the impact to their own self-serving agenda. Greta is a messenger, a highly effective one, who drove climate protection pledges from 70 countries in the UN General Assembly. Not only that, she has inspired her generation around the world to take a stand through her Fridays for Future initiative. I wonder what's holding up our generation. Maybe the conveniences we have gotten so used to.

The biggest polluters, however, did not commit to action at the UN General Assembly – that’s a shame. The ice sheet in Antarctica is melting faster, and all it takes is a few inches rise in sea-water to start putting coastal cities underwater. When the impact is right in front of our eyes, there will be some action, but it will be too little too late. Till then, there will be denial and bravery in being out of range.

Kudos to this amazing activist who is fighting for the fate of mankind. She is an inspiration – all we have to do is pay attention to the science that she keeps pointing to. It’s not about her and she always says so.

It’s about the science.


Here's something to ponder upon - Totten Glacier, the biggest glacier in East Antarctica (Antarctica's coldest region) is melting faster. When (it's no longer an 'if') it melts fully, global sea levels will rise 12.6 feet. I cannot even imagine the drastic reduction in livable landmass.

The impact:

The science: