On Climate Change: With Speed and Violence

It’s still school break and rainy days are still here enough to encourage hibernation. The horrible news of flooding and landslides in the country and the hurricane in the East Coast continue to pound presumably household TV areas. We’re feeling the pang of climate change undoubtedly even if ordinary tele-viewers including myself do not really understand this phenomenon, especially its science.

I know we need more scientific information about it except that the phenomenon remains too complex and there remain a few oppositionists and skeptics who would bet to convince the rest of humanity, suffering humanity, that global warming for example is a man-made farce.

The complexity however continues to challenge me to go beyond my zones of convenience to scour for reliable scientific information. Besides, if nature is tipping to some epochal change beyond our imagining and is groaning (glaciers and ice sheets formed after thousands of years now retreating and breaking only in a century or 2), humanity must in turn goes more vigilant, if not groan with the glaciers. Or at least ask why heavy rains are eroding our hills and mountains killing humanity with indifference. From such alarmed curiosity, the pragmatic issue of domestic measures I contend can follow suit – what can I do? What can we do within our small communities?

But I remain suspicious that the alarmed curiosity is already established among Filipinos, rich or poor. It is much easier to wallow in the consequences of climate change than to think for example that the garbage that our garbage collectors pick up in subdivisions and streets to be dumped in landfills will turn into methane, a gas more dangerous than carbon dioxide and more potent to alter Asian monsoons once released into the atmosphere. Personally, this alarmed curiosity doesn’t form easy in my consciousness. Maybe, the science of climate change has something to do with it. Maybe, the politics of climate change has something to do with it. Maybe, it’s the myopic mindset that continue to hold me up, thinking the main culprits are the rich countries like Australia and the United States whose citizens contribute 5.5 tons of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere every year.

I am no different from the ordinary Filipino in my myopia or lack of understanding thereof about the science of climate change. I need education and a better choice beyond this narrow-mindedness. There’s no other way but the acknowledgment of the interdependence of the polar ice in the Arctic and Antarctica, the glaciers in the Andes of South America, the typhoon-triggering monsoons in Asia, permafrost in Siberia, the dusts from the Sahara, the forest fires in the Amazon and the warm ocean surface of the West Pacific Ocean. My lifestyle and the choices that go with it is deeply connected to these giants of our ecosystem.

The minimum I can suggest is that good, solid and contextualized but simplified science about climate change must be taught in schools – from elementary to college and beyond – with a sense of urgency. It must be integrated into the curricula. There’s no other way but to listen not only to the voices of lives lost but also to the impending disasters coming our way because as environmental journalist Fred Pearce, in his book With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change (256-paged which I read within 24 hours; a very good book) claims:

Nature is fragile, environmentalists often tell us. But the lesson of this book is that it is not so. The truth is far more worrying. Nature is strong and packs a serious counterpunch .. Global warming will very probably unleash unstoppable planetary forces. And they will not be gradual. The history of our planet’s climate shows that it does not do gradual change. Under pressure, whether from sunspots or orbital wobbles or the depredations of humans, it lurches – virtually overnight. (p.xxiv)

From science, I hope to learn something about the ways of God…


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