brain


There just is no place like Brian's Place. For us, anyway. Brian does our hair, and usually has a nice treat in store for the three of us. Cookies or a pie, fruit, whatever. For my wife, my daughter, and me. Elisabeth senior and Brian go back a long way, decades. He is also a fine gardener; a man of impeccable taste in things horticultural. Going to Brian is a mini vacation. I wouldn't embarrass him for the world. But last week I took a chance.  3

I said to Brian, you have conversations with many people whereas we live in the boondocks, in isolation. Does climate change ever come up? And, yes, it does, quite frequently. Weather has always been a staple for social chit-chat and climate change doesn't go much beyond that. Yes, wildfires are mentioned; heavy rains and flooding. But otherwise, nothing nearly as alarming as the title of this piece. Then someone interrupts and the talk moves on to other things.  4

There has never been any question about it, humanity will come to an end. Isaac Asimov wrote a book about it four decades ago, "A Choice of Catastrophes". Neatly categorized as "Catastrophes of the First Class" down to "Catastrophes of the Fifth Class". An interesting read, but nothing there to keep us awake; not at the time. Besides, human resourcefulness would help us cope far into the future.  5

Nevertheless, away from everyday small talk, that kind of complacency has been evaporating at an accelerating rate over the last few decades with climate change seeming to become a major concern. The timeframe of what might happen millions of years from now has shrunk to thousands of years, then to a century, now to decades, and with some occurrences to yearly. Wildfires, flooding, tornedos. Then came Dorian, a tropical storm that hit Atlantic Canada a week or so ago.  6

I am a 92-year-old fogey living well away from the Atlantic, so what, me worry? Global warming hardly keeps me awake, but that does not take away an ongoing concern about my offspring's future. Children, grandchildren, a great-granddaughter even. And so, I keep following media reports about the effects of global warming; what's actually happening, what do scientists believe, what do politicians do, or not do. Or try to hide from us.  7

Deliberately try to hide from us as when former prime minister Steven Harper restricted how and what government scientists could communicate to the public. "We were all under a clear understanding that we could be dismissed for talking directly to the press," quoting one—Source. More generally, and internationally, the work of climate scientists has been pooh-poohed for years and they themselves accused of using dire predictions merely to get more research grants.  8

Medical doctors make up a highly accomplished establishment. Sure, as our media keep reporting, there are instances of things gone wrong to the point of being perceived as scandalous. In contrast, silence reigns over most medical practice that altogether serves us well. Improvement comes from, both, making access to medical services more affordable and by ongoing medical research along with such supporting technologies as manufacturing equipment to meet medical needs. Medical science is highly regarded.  9

Why not climatology? Even though, like medical practitioners, climatologists attempt to serve our well being to the best of their ability. Why this dichotomy? Perhaps because the medical treatment is so much more immediately available than measures to stave off ravages from climate change. In part, anyway. Another part, I might put it tersely: mamma is more concerned about her own kid's cough than some far-away kid drowning. Another part still—a major part—a barrage of propaganda emanating from those in the top tiers of social power who resist social change in what gave them a position of privilege, and well supported by many others who seek a share from that benefit, and so on. Trikcle-down economics of sorts, an attitude that puts food on the table.  10

Sorry, I have to interrupt for a call by nature. Happens a lot to old fogeys like me.  11

Oh yes, I wonder what I might be able to do—still able to do—after years of writing my ongoing essay about our Canadian Senate becoming a guardian in our global environment. I have received a number of nice emails from senators about my insights. I also learned that Senator Raymonde Saint-Germain tasked her legislative assistant to take a hard look at my writings. He did, and also wrote me a heartening email, dated December 22, 2017:  12

      "Hello Mr. Van Eyken,

      "First of all, I want to congratulate you for your terrific work regarding the Senate modernization process.

      "In addition to your brief called Toward a Guardian Senate, I also noticed that you are the first person to ever submit a paper to the Special Committee on Senate Modernization on February 19, 2016 (On Guard in a Global Environment). I would advance that you might be the person most interested in the Senate modernization across Canada.

      "I just wonder why you did not testify as a witness in front of the special committee? Were you ever invited? I think your work is substantial and should be more promoted, at least in front of the members of this committee.

      "Please let me know if I could do anything for your contribution to be more acknowledge in the Senate.

      "Season's greetings, ..."  
13

The answer is that nobody ever told me why I was not invited. Even after I drew the modernization committee members' attention to that letter, not once, but twice. And even the entire Senate. But dead silence. Senators playing it close to the vest. The kindest conclusion I can come up with is that, yes, we have a Senate filled with highly accomplished individuals who somehow can't work together to serve Canadians as well they should. Canadians are left to their own devices. Good luck!  14

With our Canadian federal elections scheduled for October 21, we have just been subjected to a TV debate with some politicians, notably the leader of the Conservatives, putting global warming on the side burner. But its impact is beginning to be more widely felt what with increasingly fierce forest fires in the West and the tropical storm Dorian in the Atlantic provinces getting some grip on the public mindset. We shall see what we shall see.  15

News about climate events and expectations has been served up by the media in dribs and drabs among a plethora of other issues that strike most people as more interesting, from entertainment to war, from scandals to whatever Trump trumps up. But when all those isolated news items are presented as one big collection, that picture changes dramatically.  16

I have here a Kindle book by David Wallace-Wells, "The Uninhabitable Earth: Life after Warming", a New York Times editor's choice published this year. A few years ago, the author tells us, he began collecting stories of climate change. Quoting:  17

      "My file of stories grew daily, but very few of the clips, even those drawn from new research published in the most pedigreed scientific journals, seemed to appear in the coverage about climate change the country [U.S.A.] watched on television and read in its newspapers. In those places, climate change was reported, of course, and even with some tinge of alarm. But the discussion of possible effects was misleadingly narrow, limited almost invariably to the matter of sea-level rise. Just as worrisome, the coverage was sanguine, all things considered. As recently as the 1997 signing of the landmark Kyoto Protocol, two degrees Celcius of global warming was considered the treshold of catastrophe: flooded cities, cippling droughts and heat waves, a planet battered daily by hurricanes and monsoons ...

      "There is almost no chance we will avoid this scenario. The Kyoto Protocol achieved, practically nthing; in the twenty years since, despite all of our climate advocacy and legislation and progress on green energy, we have produced more emissions than in the twenty years before ...."  
18

The book is well-written and, yet, it is hard to sit down in a comfortable armchair and read it from cover to cover. It is hard because it is so studded with data that it almost begins to read like a telephone book; our brains simply can't cope. Still, it is a good book to have on hand for consulting some particular issue that apears of most immediate interest—heath death, hunger, drowning, wildfires, on and on.  19

Can humanity survive, say, the next 100 years? I don't know and never will. But it is evident that the coming decades will become ever rougher to live through. Young people have every reason to be concerned.  20

The UN's weather chief feels that words like "scared" could make young people depressed and anxious, so tells us a BBC news item dated September 16. On the other hand (from the same news item) Prof. Sir David King, an ex-chief scientist in the UK, tells us that extreme events linked to climate change, such as the heatwave in Europe this year, are occurring sooner than expected. Consequently, we should advance climate targets by ten years. Other scientists agree, but then again, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization scorns radical green campaigners for forecasting the end of the world. "Fear", he says, "could lead to paralysis—and also mental health problems amongst the young". And so forth, and so on—ref. the report.  21

But now, let's stop this doom and gloom and turn our heads to how best to proceed. First off, I'd like to see that any politician who puts global warming on a side burner be given the boot. An immediate side-benefit would be that the other campaigners do not need to compete on pussy-footing. It should be made crystal clear to the electorate that not being alarmed leads to not thinking about the problem and thereby cutting off all hope for any solution that may see us through.  22

The next few paragraphs will sketch a broad overview; maybe too abstract for many. There is still much to be worked out and mistakes to be ironed out. Unquestionably. So let's have a look.  23

We should shift the balance between competition and co-operation toward becoming a far more co-operative society. How? To begin with by getting to realize that jobs and commercial enterprise as we now know them need not be the source of our livilyhood. I am not getting into details here; others have already been working on various approaches. One outcome should be doing away with making and selling things and services we can do well without. That would bring about a steep cut in the demand for energy as well as making for healthier diets for sustaining physical and mental well being.  24

Yes, work needs to be done. There will be manufacturing. There will be services, there will be a need for maintenance. There will be adjustments to achieve a better, fairer system of justice. There will be life-long learning and the need for enhanced curriculum design, instruction, and educational facilities. There will be people with greater difficulty to cope than others, something that needs taking care of. There needs to be a leg-up for the underprivileged. There will be unforeseen circumstances. In short. there will be plenty of work, but not of the energy-wasting make-do kind we have become accustomed to. The kind that produces an excess of stuff we don't need but makes Jesus Christ's presumed birthday a year's best season for shop owners.  25

I hope there will be others with plans better laid, and better articulated, than by this old fogey. The change in climate now in progress may well be the end of mankind. Or only the end of mankind as we now know it. This is not the first time that man seems about to become extinct, nor may it be the last.  26

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