Monday, November 29, 2010

Asleep At The Wheel

If you were a passenger in a car driven by me, and you saw signs that I was asleep at the wheel -- my head nodding, eyes closed, inattention to the road in front of us -- you would likely not wait until the car was headed off the road to do something about the situation.

One could argue that climate change, in concept, is much harder to detect and verify, and therefore our leadership and the leadership of other governments are not obviously asleep at the wheel.

In fact, to strain this metaphor a bit further: the car is off the road, heading towards a cliff at freeway speed, while most of us passengers are saying, "Gee, the road is bumpy right here. Some people say that's a cliff up ahead, but I think they are being alarmist."

The Guardian's John Vidal took a trip to Latin America and met some of the people whose lives are being affected right now by the accelerating effects of climate change, and has this compelling report.

With shrinking rivers, desertification, and glaciers on which we depend disappearing before our very eyes, you might think the deniers could easily be dismissed, but it is not so. Thermometers are not swayed by lobbyists, but our capacity to ignore bad news is indomitable. For the populations of less powerful countries, the effects are concrete, yet their voices are shouted down along with the scientists.

Beginning today, an important international conference on climate change takes place in Cancun, with nearly 200 countries in attendance and yet no determination to emerge with any binding treaty.

Our leadership still believes that some of us exist on a different plane than the rest of us. Pachamama, mother earth, has some hard teaching in store for us about Indra's net: the climate that sustains our life sustains all human life. Moreover, it is not a box, but a living process. Like the patient who will not stop smoking, we are undoing ourselves, all together.

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