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Week by Week

Surprised. Stunned: Can It Get Worse?

Every few days I learn something new, usually confirming my worst fears.

The current New Yorker has an article on the limits of liberism The Man Behind Critical Race Theory

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Scientists Surprised, Stunned: Can It Get Worse?
We’ve Only Just Begun

Humanity has never known the full truth about almost anything: war, politics, its leaders, or science, even when it tried its hardest. Looking back in history, truth was slowly found, manipulated, destroyed, inverted and used or abused by everyone and anyone in whatever way suited their needs, their intelligence, and their ignorance.

That which concerns me most, scientific truth, only began to be known in the middle ages and then by a handful of people. Another handful from time to time uncovered more until early in the 20th century when the bright lights of physics dispelled some of the darkness.

But in life there were always atmospheres of politics, health, war, philosophy and of the air itself that commingled in ways impossible to comprehend.

From today’s perspective, climate change is the worst pandemic to ever infect civilization and the first that has the possibility of being terminal. Even with the most colossal fires, droughts, floods, storms and a rising ocean, humanity is not rising to the occasion to the degree it must. My friends tell me I must reduce my carbon footprint and I erupt in anger for in reality I would have the effect of a child playing in an ocean.

It would not matter except for somethings I know, that a response like that to Pearl Harbor will not be enough for there are already too many gigatons of carbon in the atmosphere. And despite the incredible destruction happening now, Republicians still will not go with step one: The Green New Deal. What, I ask, creates this blindness, greed, treachery and plain ignorance that has been a plague on the earth for the past hundred years or so and has brought us to a precipice, or perhaps even pushed us over it.

The climate is the worst of all worlds and yet is challenged in the most perfect of perfect storms by a virus, tiny, invisible particles of death spreading everywhere, killing millions and yet not being the worst of what is happening. Uncomprehending humans from groups of one to groups of thousands or even millions despite insanely powerful brains do not know, or have ever been taught science, have never had the opportunity to learn truth and how to face it. So spreader events tiny and huge obscure the collosal catastrophe engulfing the earth. The first real effort, the Green New Deal is fought to a standstill despite being a fraction of what is necessary to save the planet, which may already be lost.

I am bipolar. I have sat at my kitchen table and imagined someone was pouring black ink into my brain, but I never imagined the feelings I am having now, feelings of a kind I did not know could exist, even in a nightmare.

I have the luck, good or bad of being an engineer which I think is worse than being a scientist. A scientist can lose himself in the minutia of the problem and that is something I cannot do. I see, as I have learned to do, the bigger picture, always the bigger picture and always coming more and more into focus and I am trained to fix things, large and small. But here, I have four, three, two but perhaps only one mind I can converse with, a brilliant man who has in his own way shared my pessimism and technical understanding over decades.

Six or more decades ago I learned an engineering term “thermal runaway” where positive feed back (such as the tundra melting) accelerates the warming. It suggests the need for multiple Manhatten Projects to learn how to launder the air, for without such projects the earth will continue to warm indefinitely. The gloomy forecast is that it will reach a state where it can support one thousandth of its present population, and possibly much less. My instinct for risk and consequences cannot fathom how terrible is our situation while knowing how much worse it will get.

I made a graph a few years ago that scientists of the climate will say is naive and yet is likely much too close to the truth. It takes what we have done in the past 150 years or so and fits a curve to it as acurately as I can manage and it points to hell. I won’t be here but I pity my son and his children and my friends and their children. It will create a new kind of world war that I do not want to try to describe.

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