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Part IV

Simply Terrifying

How do you think about the earth? The first image that pops into my head is a golden brightly illuminated orb in the distance against a black sky. There follows a cacaphony of images: the first earthrise image from Apollo 8, The big bang that started it all, the time-line of the cosmos for cosmology to get down to the job of making planets (see the longer story below), and then billions of years of evolution and the creation of life and finally homo sapiens and a stuningly georgous planet.

Now I suggest you watch the slide show above for a minute or so. It only touches on what has happened with a temperature rise of 1°C (above the pre-industrial age). Then click on CAPE COD, a video from the Boston Globe.

The slide show shakes me and moves me. It overwhelms me, but I have been overwhelmed for the past fifteen years. The video makes me want to cry. I took our young son there countless times to be with him and to satisfy his love of fishing.

As I learned more and more about global warming and watched what our leaders, fossil fuel vendors, the press and even scientists either let it happen or made it happen I experienced a helpless fury which will be with me for the rest of my life. Now I read of the latest presidential debate with scarcely a mention of climate change and I ponder again what it is that makes this a topic of little or no consequence. To our great grandchildren, it will be the only topic.

The greatest tragedy in the history of humanity is a combination of larceny, negligence and ignorance.

It was not without warning. In 1959 Edward teller, a world reknowned physicist and ineventor of the hydrogen bomb addressed the 100th anniversary celebration of the oil industry (see below). The industry itself, doing fine, honest research, came to the same conclusion and burried the results. And sixty years later, with the climate on a rampage, when all the time during which research and planning should have been going on, almost everyone is still doing the same thing. Power and money in exchange for destruction of our planet and our civilization. Whoever or whatever created homo sapiens did a desperately poor job.

The video of Cape Cod stays in my mind because Cape Cod became a playground for Gregory and me, first from shore and then all over Cape Cod Bay.

This may strike you “oh, it’s just an exposed hunk of land, a tourist attraction.”

It is that, but it has a unique geography and access to the ocean and it is being slowly devestated by waves rising and growing more fierce, eating at the shore line and demolishing homes. But as bad as it is, it is mild compared to what hurricanes and cyclones have done, and wildfires and floods and deadly heat waves and no water to drink and no food and mass migrations and more and more.

We knew this was coming, but as with most of the ravages of global warming it has come faster than anyone could have imagined including brilliant but cautious scientists.

In this website I try to cover a wide range of issues and perspectives on what has happened. I expect few people will read it but it relieves a pressure to do something and is teaching me a great deal about life.

But there is one more thing.

The world, and that includes everyone even the most educated, is willing to do modest renewable power (incomparison to the total needed) and let the carbon dioxide rise and the temperature increase to perhaps 3°C. This is unacceptable. It is as if we all lived in a great and beautiful mansion, and parts were on fire, but we were only willing to pay for enough firetrucks to leave one corner intact and not a smoldering ruin. There are trillians of dollars of wealth and millions of intellectuals and workers. With the most valueable property in the universe, I expect nothing less than a return to 350 ppm carbon dioxide no matter how long it takes, how much effort it requires nor how much it costs.

A Small Tale Of Audacity

After sixteen years I had become a half-time employee of Bose Corporation so I could pursue photographing the landscape.

Dr. Bose was about to introduce a new compact all-in-one high-fidelity music system for $500 that looked like a $70 boom box. He asked me to take charge of the entire product introduction and told me he expected the best set of reviews any audio product had ever received. Both he and my natural father, who had passed away ten years before, had taught me clear thinking, determination and audacity. I thought for about 10 seconds and said O.K. and, with a staff of four, I delivered.

Global warming is a billion times more difficult but we have billions of times the resources. However, we are missing the bridge between everyday life and the most amphorous science I can amagine, a sense of the infinite significance of the task, determination and audacity.

It is our job not just to limit further ravaging of the planet, but to return it as far back to its original state as possible. We will all have to learn skills, courage and audacity beyond anything humans have imagined.

In the face of the devil himself, our president, it is time for the wealthly, the influential and the educated to stand up and say O.K., with a greater determination anyone has ever imagined.

Earthrise, Apollo 8, 1968


Speak Loundly, Without A Big Stick

It is 350 ppm, period.

In World War II it was Franklin and Winston. In 1859 it was Abraham Lincoln and his team of rivals. In 1776 it was George Washington and others who had a thing about yokes. Today there appears to be no one. And perhaps with good reason. If you mixed all the cuisines of the world into one pot, and were challenged to separate them back into their original reciepes and flavors...Well that is what it feels like.

Even scientists do not appreciate how difficult it is. I watched the original Al Gore presentation and then heard the laughter about hockey sticks.

When I left engineering at Bose Corporation I realized that lay people and scientists both speak English, but understand not one thing the other is saying. And that was with utterly simple easily visualized technology. All it took was locking 15 people at one time in a room, a nine projector slide show produced by a certificed genius, about $200,000 and 24 hour work days. And telling the story of music from the Egyptons to the phonographs of World War II vintage.

Climate change is a combination of all the phenomina of heat, light, air flow, water flow, fire, evaporation, water in all its forms, continents, oceans, sunlight and a few dozen more, all in an unstable state decades from equalibrium and continously being force fed more insulating gasses. Now stir with a hundred spoons and try to explain it to your accountant neighbor. And don’t forget the feedback loops.

Now add that it is eposidic in space and time. But this is the easy part.

The hard part is that no one is responsible, because everyone is, to one degree or another. And the wealthy wish to stay wealthy and the poor are furious at the wealthly for causing it. Add to that the time scale. Short by cosmic standards but generations long by human standards. What? Me Worry? It’s their fault.

Leadership? There is none, anywhere except perhaps in the smallest countries. Morocco, I undersstand, has meet the Paris targets. There is leadership in the dictatorships, but it is busy dictating. And should there be leadership in the United States (his name escapes me, but it is long, brassy and off pitch) but comprehension is negative, if there is such a thing. As is attitude. Is it concievable that an army can be raised?

Yes, if there is an institution of competance, understanding and leadership in the necessary fields, that stands taller than all the others but can join with the best of the others.

There is a strategy of story telling of the right kind that overwhelms by a rich emanembarassment of competance and moral suasion. It is neither easy nor hard. It is just a case of getting it right.

It is a mixture of technology presented as metaphor, of morality presented as inescapeable, of duty to the universe itself, of pride of association and accomplishment.

I am familiar with the accomplishments of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the top university and engineering school in the world. I have heard the elequence and character of its president. And I have asked myself, if not MIT, who? Just as I ask myself at the age of 78, if not now, when?

I think it begins quitely, with an announced purpose, and the first few steps, and with the choosing of leaders with likely one who is first among equals, but who can communicate the metaphysical mission, quietly, but with the sense that there is only one choice. It will include nuclear reactors, likely many thousands; negative emissions, and wholesale turnover of attitudes. All for the sake of 350 and a planet. There is one sine qua non. One has to begin, and that has happened, I believe best at MIT.

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