Global Catastrophe

I recently came across another of those ubiquitous articles about what we can do to stop climate catastrophe. Those articles always amuse me because some of their suggestions are the same sort of things Americans were told to do in the depression, in the world wars, in the early days of the population explosion. In fact, they are the very things I have been doing my whole life, such as reducing food waste (what food waste? I have no food waste) and reducing water usage.

Other things, though, are about spending money. Lots of money. The article stressed weather-proofing one’s house, which is a good idea because it reduces energy bills. It also said to invest in energy-efficient appliances, but if you keep your use of appliances to a minimum, there’s no need to buy new appliances especially since the old ones are going to clog landfills. Same with vehicles. There’s no need to invest in an energy-efficient or expensive electric vehicle if you simply drive less. (In the past fifty years, I’ve driven fewer than 200,000 miles. Still way too much, but almost nothing compared to most people.) They conveniently forget to mention that the batteries on electric cars wear out and that they pose a hazard when they are dumped.

One thing they never, ever say anymore is to have fewer children. Back when I was child-bearing age, not having children was supposed to be good for the world and the environment to reduce the toll of overpopulation, a philosophy I adhered to. Unfortunately, most of those believers suddenly changed their minds when their biological clocks started ticking, so there was a bit of baby boom when those women who had put off having kids ended up having kids at the same time as the younger generation.

I know a woman my age who has 65 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. If she had not had any children, there would be 65 fewer people on the earth to contribute to any sort of global catastrophe. There would also be 65 fewer people to buy all those energy efficient appliances and electric vehicles, which is probably why the whole zero population growth movement died decades ago.

I suppose I should be less amused by the whole global warming thing, and I might be if it weren’t for the fact that the same panic mode has been touted my whole life while the subject of that panic has changed. And if there weren’t so much emphasis on spending money and making rich people richer. 

In thinking about all this, I considered writing a book about some catastrophe outside of our control that was about to descend on us, such as sun emissions or comets or aliens or whatever, and the whole climate change scenario was to keep us peons focused on our guilt while the power brokers raked in the cash until the catastrophe came so near that they couldn’t hide it any more.

And then it dawned on me. I already wrote that book — Light Bringer. In the novel, the problems Earth is facing has to do with a tenth planet in our solar system, one with such a huge elliptical orbit that it returns to affect Earth every 3,600 years, as was explained in this brief excerpt:

Philip made a harsh sound that might have been laughter. “In the fifties and sixties, stories of alien encounters were about saving the earth from nuclear weapons. In the seventies, eighties, and nineties, they were about saving the earth from global warming. Today they’re about creating a one world government, warning us that if we don’t have a unified global agenda, we don’t get to join the galactic federation.”

“Those are nothing more than systems of myth that each generation accepts,” Teodora said. “What we are dealing with here is a real problem. There is a tenth planet in our solar system, and it is close enough that it is already having adverse affects on the earth. Besides the growing severity of all types of storms, during the twentieth century there has been an escalating number of major earthquakes of unexplained origin. The global warming you mentioned is also being caused by the nearing planet, and during the coming years things are going to get worse.”

It could be true. Who knows.

The Sad Story of Chocolate

I try to stay away from current issues because — well, they are current, and my focus is more on timeless topics, such as being, connecting to the world, creating meaning. But today I read something that irritated me so much that here I am.

According to the article, global warming will cause the extinction of chocolate in the next thirty or forty years because it’s getting too hot to grow cacao plants.

Um, no. I’ve known about the chocolate demise practically my whole life, long before the term “climate change” was ever coined. The threat to chocolate is that cacao trees need the shade of the rain forest to grow seedlings, the soil of the rain forest to nourish them, and full sun to grow. So chocolate farming is done on the edge of rain forests on cleared rain forest land. And rain forests are geared to go extinct in about forty years. So, no more rain forests, no more chocolate.

As a citizen of the United States, I am not one to talk about clearing forests. The land here used to be covered with vast forests, but the first thing any settler did as they moved west was clear the land. In fact, so many of the stories in our readers as schoolchildren were about those great folks and their great work ethic as they chopped down the great trees to build this great country. Cutting down trees has for hundreds of years been considered a good thing to do. It would be hypocritical of me, as one who has enjoyed the “benefits” of that destroyed primeval forest, to castigate others for doing the exact same thing.

But the truth is, half the world’s rainforests have been cleared in the past one hundred years, and at the rate they are continuing to be cleared — every year an area the size of England and Wales is gone — the rain forests will be erased in forty years.

If the rain forests were only cleared to grow chocolate, that would be one thing because the demise of the forests would be quite slow, but it’s a huge business — not just for the trees themselves, but the land for palm oil, soy, rubber, cattle. Not only does a percentage of the carbon dioxide emissions come from the downed forests — 12% — the forests themselves help clear human made pollution from the atmosphere. And with no rain forest, the pollution builds.

By the time the rain forests are gone, the population of Earth will be way over nine billion folks. (Hopefully, minus one — me.) What interests me is how few people talk about overpopulation anymore. Such an unpopular topic! How dare anyone suggest that people limit their reproduction or, horrors, not reproduce at all. But then, no one really wants zero population growth because zero population growth also means zero corporation growth. No growth, no profits.

Still, when I was young, I made the decision to ignore my own ticking biological clock and listen instead to the world’s ticking biological clock. And so I have no children. My footprint on this earth ends at my death. I met a woman my age recently who has more than sixty-five grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What could I possibly do to the earth in my lifetime that would equal even one tenth the effect this one woman has? Even if I never did anything to conserve, to recycle (recycle in the old use of the term meaning to use up and wear out), I would have done my part, but I walk very softly on this earth. I don’t need governments to try to change the climate for me, don’t need pundits to scare me with worst case scenarios, don’t need reactionaries to tell me how best to live my life. I’m doing everything I can for the world as it is.

Well, except for chocolate. I do sometimes eat chocolate.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.