Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Where are we going?

I read a very interesting article in The Economist on the extreme weather patterns in the southern US this year.

“Between July 1st 2010 and June 30th 2011 Georgia had 9,358 wildfires—41% above the five-year average—that burned 114,578 acres. Five wildfires in south-east Georgia in late March caused $26.5m in timber losses; add to that the $68.3m in losses caused by the April tornadoes, and it has been a bad year for the timber trade.

It may stay bad for a while. In the Southern Forests Futures Project, the US Forest Service and the Southern Group of State Foresters examined how a changing climate and population pressures could affect Southern forests in the coming decades. It predicted more “major wildfire events” and longer fire seasons in the spring and autumn. Since 1970 the average temperature in the South has increased by two degrees Fahrenheit. Summer precipitation has decreased and the increase in population has put pressure on the region’s water supplies.”

There are several issues that this raises:

  1. Is the weather changing? Maybe this is a freak year, and things will revert back next year and on in the future.
  2. If we assume the “science” and data indicating changing patterns are correct, how do we prepare/adapt to these future events?
  3. Of course, the big question: is this due to man-made global climate change due to fossil fuel burning?
  4. What about the money…the economic costs of not doing anything; or the costs of doing something?

The economic impact on timber and water resources in this area of the US is significant today…not only wood production, but all the jobs associated with its industry as I have seen in my own Humboldt County. The impact on water resources, on the agriculture, on industry, on population residential and commercial development, on the creation of new jobs…all hinge on what the weather will be like in the future.

My read of what defines a “fiscal conservative” is one who is very concerned about money…they don’t want to spend any more money than they absolutely have to towards investment in the future. It is all about NOW! Less government, more personal freedoms, let people do their own thing with minimum interference from anyone else.

So how does that work for the realities of today? What do you do to adapt to tomorrow’s future? Do you think about it? Do you worry about it? Do you see our society working towards the good of the society? What if man made global climate change is real? Do we invest money now to minimize it, or does society pay the cost in the future with loss of resources, jobs, industry, etc.

I guess it makes me sad that our politics today is being blind-sided by the fiscal conservatives. Their political debate is not about what is best for society, but what their money can buy in terms of tax cuts, getting rid of environmental and true fiscal regulation, and basically taking away more personal freedoms by creating new “moral” regulations dealing with women’s reproductive rights and citizen’s sexual preferences.

America is truly past its prime, and is descending down to a second-world country…not quite third-world yet…but we are approaching third-world status like Nigeria, Egypt, Sierra Leone…where there is enormous wealth accumulated by the top 1-2%, who control the politics in their favor through corruption and bribery, and the majority of citizens struggle just to survive a “comfortable?” lifestyle. Meanwhile, our infrastructure of roads, bridges, water systems, utilities, transportation, police and fire protection, libraries…our whole education system degrades to something like that in Sub-Saharan Africa.

I am sad…I think of my father-in-law who fought in WWII; who hardly ever ate rice…”I fought a war so we wouldn’t have to eat that stuff!” Today, even in America, there are many people who would love a good bowl of rice to eat…maybe even with a little chicken thrown into the pot.

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