April 8, 2007
Global Warming is so yesterday. Let’s talk about Global Rhythm. All life is based on rhythm, and I don’t mean of the beat-box variety. The rhythm I’m talking about is what we might call Planetary Predictability. The sun rises every morning, the moon and the tides follow rhythms, and the seasons repeat themselves year after year. Rainfall, wind, and heat, alternate and blend rhythmically in what has become a relatively predictable pattern. That’s all changing as the Earth’s patterns are stretching, slipping, and falling apart altogether. The Earth, already warmed to perfection by the sun’s rays, is being whipped into a fever by human carbon burning. As a result Earth is getting dizzy, missing some of her dance steps, and losing her sense of rhythm.
Unfortunately for us, even though our human lifestyles have evolved from hunting and gathering to herding and horticulture, to agribusiness and manufacturing, our current survival style is based on predictable seasonal patterns. Plants and animals can be knocked out of rhythm with devastating results by what seem like tiny changes in rainfall, temperature, prevailing winds, and ambient water conditions. Fish die out altogether simply because there’s not enough water in the stream at spawning time, or it’s too hot, too cold, too acid or to alkaline for fish eggs to survive. Caribou starve when they are unable to break through the ice covering their forage, that forms when warm days melt snow, and cold nights freeze it. Fishermen and caribou hunters are then forced to abandon their ancestral homes and livelihood. Even mechanized agribusiness will find it ever more difficult to power its way through the increased complexity of keeping the planet fed when the seasons come at the wrong time.
It’s not just a matter of things getting too hot. That might be the case if the planet were a simple system like a building with a cooling system, which when it goes down, will cause there to be more sweat on your beer bottle in the hotel bar. But the Earth is so much more complex than that, and the complexity of the Earth’s rhythms relates directly to the productivity of people and land. If the prices of producing products change too rapidly, markets will simply dry up. Agricultural businesses will stop producing very quickly if prices go out of whack, and even ordinary weather fluctuations cause commodity crises. Wait until crop yields start fluctuating radically due to changing seasonal rhythms. Being a farmer will be as exciting as playing video poker, and about as profitable.
Right now, the planet is being rocked out of rhythm by the excessive energy inputs of industry. I visualize the people responsible for the loss of Global Rhythm as some old white guys in Panama suits, drinking cold beer and mopping their brows, talking about the price of coffee and gold, oil and mercury, women and cocaine. I imagine these can-do guys calling the shots in mining and logging, fishing and ranching, dam construction and electrical generation, manufacturing junk, polluting skies and rivers, taking their cut of the gold, and leaving others waste. If they had been Martians, we would have recognized them as enemies of humanity and of Earth. They have controlled the industrial leviathan for nearly two centuries, and our nation now sits astride a collapsing planetary ecosystem and economy, the world’s greatest energy hog, declaring that it will never change its ways.
The acme of this folly is the way the Bush regime is flirting with Armageddon in a run-up to the Hundred Years’ Oil War, as if no life would be worth living without the black juice, as the makers of Road Warrior put it prophetically. A friend of mine once said he hated Road Warrior because it was utterly inane to imagine that people who were running out of gas would still be revving their engines and engaging in vehicular aggression. The more I look at the current situation in Iraq, the less this seems like a legitimate objection to the film.