Browsing back issues of the Sierra Club’s slick magazine recently, I was struck by its marked preference for upbeat anecdotes of small, incremental environmental successes. It did occasionally mention the dire stuff, but only as stout challenges that are being worked on diligently.
Evidently, the Sierra Club has made a marketing decision about tone. It’s not Pollyanna-ish (well, some pieces struck me as a bit chirpy, especially the personal profiles of Americans toiling in exotic locales, which carried the odor of pandering to those who hate the idea of giving up pleasure travel to combat CO2 accumulation—which, truth be told, I am among), but it resolutely avoids anything that might be construed as alarmist, or that might daunt the membership.
There is room for that, I suppose—bucking up the troops. But such a tone implicitly communicates that we’re doing enough, that by grinding along we can avert the worst.
I’m pretty alarmed and daunted, myself. Yet the articles did make me think: What if I’m wrong to feel that way? Is my outlook categorically alienating? What can I report or suggest that would inspire and motivate, or even just comfort and assuage? Because I do think we can avert the worst, or at least are morally obligated to try.
So here’s my attempt to be upbeat.
- Maybe the summer ice cap won’t disappear. Maybe it’s inaccurate to extrapolate the trendline in the PIOMAS graph of sea ice volume, below.
- If the ice cap does disappear, maybe it won’t be as soon as 2018.
- If it is soon, maybe it won’t disrupt the jet stream. (Although the jet stream is already becoming more erratic; this weekend’s big chill, followed by next week’s forecast for much above temperatures, is consistent with that.)
- If it does disrupt the jet stream, maybe climatological patterns won’t be affected and grain harvests won’t collapse. (Although the Russian wheat harvest failure of 2010 and the Michigan apple crop failure of 2012, caused by untimely warmth from distortions in the jet stream, give one pause.)
- If agriculture does collapse, maybe we’ll rapidly adjust our planting, food distribution, and consumption patterns. (California’s rapidly worsening drought should be a test of that notion. Water availability to the nation’s largest agricultural area is already far below normal, and 2013 was California’s driest year on record. Reservoirs are at 1/3 capacity, and there’s almost no snow in the Sierras, in January.)
- If we can’t grow and equitably distribute enough food, maybe the economy won’t collapse. (That doesn’t seem to be working out too well for Egypt or Syria.)
- If the economy collapses, maybe that won’t incite vengeful acts of terrorism or civil strife. (That doesn’t seem to be working out too well for Egypt or Syria, either.)
- If terrorism and civil strife spike, maybe we’ll be able to counteract them without compounding the reactionary, freedom-destroying measures that we undertook after 9/11. Maybe we’ll be able to keep the NSA under control.
- If we do further institutionalize the police state, maybe a group of zealous, partisan ideologues with way more effective surveillance technology than we had after 9/11, like GPS tracking in all cell phones and cars, won’t use those capabilities to maintain power and control their political enemies.
Something in that sequence must be wrong. See? Positive!