Saturday, 24 September 2011


Albert is my cousin, the youngest son of my dad's older brother Albert (known as Uncle Al), but a significant age difference was between us. So when I was up north in Illinois around the age of 10 or so, visiting my Uncle Al and Aunt Gertrude (you couldn't make this stuff up) with my dad, Albert would sometimes drop by to say hi.

This one visit sticks out, and I've only just recalled it within the past year or so. But I remember my dad and Albert talking about the world's state of affairs, as men of a certain age do, talking with some authority that they somehow are steering the world away from catastrophe with every sentence. I was sitting a few feet away, at the dining room table, drawing freehand interpretations of works in Al and Gertrude's huge book of Leonardo da Vinci. I loved that book. At any rate, at one point Albert said something that caught my attention, I can't remember what, but I do remember that I looked up from my drawing and asked him what he meant.

He was standing by the table, and he turned to me, put his hands on the table, and shaking his head ever so slightly in a resigned way, he looked me square in the eyes and told me that the world wouldn't last another 50 years at the rate we were going. I remember being shocked and scared. What did he mean? The words he used escape me, but it was clear he was talking about pollution, which was a big deal in the 80s, and also excessive use of the earth's resources. How fast the world would use available resources has always been to debate. People in the 80s, or before even, thought they'd be gone by 2000. That was wrong, obviously, but on the grand scale of things, not completely off the mark. We're closing in on something called "Peak Everything", where demand of all resources exceeds supply (Peak Everything does though fall under the current paradigm, and only worries me insomuch that we don't collectively stage a revolution and change everything about the way we do things, creating a new paradigm, which I think we just might will).

I've seen Albert many times since, latest at my dad's funeral in 2001. He'd gotten married, and had a kid since that episode I mentioned. But the weird thing, looking back, is that he hadn't changed anything. He flew in to the funeral, showed off his new wife and her expensive purse and shoes, bragged about his latest automobile purchase, you know, just went along with the business as usual model. So despite him prophesying the end of all things because of the way we do things, he does nothing, save adding to the problem, and even having a kid who will be alive when it all happens.

I'd love to retrospectively take it all with a grain of salt. Partially because Albert wasn't probably any more well-read on the subject than my dad, gleaning only from what mass media fed him, possibly drawing the odd conclusion from it all once in a blue moon. But at the same time, it really pisses me off that an adult, arguably a role model for the generation after him, shows so little interest and action in changing "The Way Things Are". And despite him being a harbinger of things to come himself.

As I mentioned, I was around 10 at the time. Albert gave us another 50 years. I'm 33 now. That leaves around 27 years left, according to him. And depending on how you look at it, that's not quite wrong. I'll leave you to go google about ice caps melting, peak oil, etc., but we're hardly going to enjoy our lifestyles as they are now for another 27 years before things go awry.

Admittedly, I haven't seen Albert since 2001, so I don't know if he's changed his lifestyle accordingly, or does anything to actively change things aside from that. But I'm reaching the conclusion that if you identify a glitch between the way you live your life, and the way your own life is supported by our ecosystems, I strongly suggest you heed that conclusion, instead of merely identifying it.

In conclusion, I'm angry at an entire generation for having latently harbored the knowledge that is scaring the wits out of my generation and the ones after this. I'm angry for the inaction of thousands, millions even. I think life was too comfortable for them to question, or change. And those who did were probably just deemed hippie dissidents. I'm angry that my kids are footing the ultimate bill for a party they're not going to enjoy. I'm not just scared of the future. I'm angry about it.

Thursday, 22 September 2011


Back in 2007, when I started having real anxiety attacks about what was happening, becoming pysically ill, worrying about the future and subsequently making real changes to my life that better fit into this reality (ie. my non-flying stance), one of my really good friends, who to some extent doubted how real this phenomenon was, and likened it to a sci-fi catastrpohe movie that people were integrating into their lives, ultimately called me an altruist.

He called me that, because in some moment of clarity and deep friendship, he realized that real or not, climate change was affecting me, and I was going to do my bit counteracting that. Now, I'd like to think that I were solely doing this for the greater good! A true altruist, according to the definition, is strictly unselfish. I'd love to say that about myself in my whole solastalgia/climate worrier context, but I must admit, I'm doing this for myself as much as for everyone else!

Since this whole personal phenomenon was brought about my motherhood (mostly, although admittedly I've worried about global warming since the 80s), you could say I'm worrying about my children's future. I'm worried about them, where they will live, if they will have food to eat, if they will be free to live full lives akin to the lives of their parents and grandparents. I fear they will not, which is what motivates me. What also motivates me is my own well-being.

Seeing as I can hardly get through a day without having a knot in my belly over this, and that whatever I write here, or talk about with others helps me get rid of the knot, and that helps me on a personal level, then I'm not a true altruist then, am I? And in this manner, I doubt that there are many true altruists out there at all, not to say that a great many people are genuinely concerned with the well-being of others that they aren't directly connected to, I think the drive to help these people is found in the purpose of alleviating one's own qualms about not doing anything to help.

So speaking for myself, altruism is a cover. A cover of doing something selflessly for the greater good, that just boils down to heeding one's own personal affect. And that's just fine by me.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

There Are Others

Yesterday, through my Twitter-stream, I fell over this article. A woman who is seeing, with her very own eyes, how climate change is effecting the planet, and in this particular case, the arctic. As result, she cries and despairs. And although this is incredibly sad, it feels good to know that someone else out there is feeling eco-anxiety, perhaps even solastalgia.

It's a comfort in the face of a melting artic. I'd prefer not to have to state the facts on this blog, and keep it to the psychological flipside of climate change, but there are several tipping points that life on earth can't afford to have happen, and the ice cap on the North Pole melting is one of them. I'm so anxious I can't even bring myself to google some links up to bring here, so you'll have to find them and read them for yourself. If the North Pole melts completely, it's only a matter of time before a lot of the other self-perpetuating tipping points are reached. And then we're toast.

Rationally, I know there are many others like me out there. Why should I be so special to be the only one? But as I've stated before, our lives are so intricately weaved within this harmful paradigm, that it's so much easier to be complacent and become distracted with any number of other trivialities that fill our lives. There must also be room for trivialities.

But - what I think I'm trying to say is: if you feel this way too, you must not keep it to yourself. I think we have a duty to make this a visible issue. To make this concern available for other people leading normal lives, who have a hint of eco-anxiety but who are more adept at pushing it aside. Let's bring it up to the surface, let's talk about it, write about it. Let's grieve about our predicament. And then do something about it.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Finding Our Inner Neanderthal

I was reading this fascinating article about Neanderthals in The New Yorker (here's a small excerpt), and I was again reminded of an apparently inherant human trait.

We can expound all we want on the things that set us apart from other animals in the animal kingdom. The abstract thinking, our ability to create art, our technological advance. I wish I could look at these things as though they were good things, positive things. It would seem though, that they are good for Western Society, and bad for everyone else, including the planet. Life in earlier times may certainly have been uncomfortable, violent, dangerous, and harder in any number of ways, but given the overall rise in population on the planet, the fact that the West seems to have it good does not exactly make up for the dire poverty in other parts of the world that appears to be a direct effect of Western lifestyles, not to mention the havoc we have wrecked on our ecosystem. And will possibly cost us everything.

Back to the article. Through genetic research, it's apparent now that humans and Neanderthals, while having evolved separately, interbred. And genetically, all humans, save Africans, are anywhere from 1%-4% Neanderthal. Good thing to know next time someone calls you a Neanderthal - it's true! It is also apparent that Neanderthals no longer exist, except as genetic remnants. So where did they go? We did them off of course. Pushed them back, mated with some, but probably killed some and starved the rest by hogging their resources. Some habits just never die I suppose. For the 10,000 years that Neanderthals existed, they didn't evolve much. They used the same tools without variation. One thing they apparently did differently over the years was burial, something they only did toward their latter years on Earth. Perhaps it was a ritual they got from us. At any rate, humans took over.

This leaves me naturally pondering - are humans inherantly self-effacing, in the most dramatic use of the word? Are we somehow destined to technologicize ourselves to death? To progress ourselves to the end? Is that the true definition of progress seen in an anthropogenic light? Hardly a destiny I'd like to embrace, but progressing right now seems to be the only way out. But should we leave our Neanderthal heritage behind, or should we make room for it? You know, sticking to the tools we have that haven't evolved much for millenia, but luckily also meaning that they're pretty sustainable, and non-destructive on a large scale like the stuff homo sapiens invents.

I really don't want to be a reactionary ass-hole, all "things were better in the old days", because dammit - despite everything, I'm having a lot of fun in my little corner of time and space. And there's no way I'd want to go back to family life with a higher infant mortality rate or lower average life span. And knowing that you can't have it all, can I at least appeal to a middle road, where people lead good, healthy lives without living beyond the means of the ground they walk on? Can we just put the worst of our own humanity behind us once and for all? That would be really swell.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Climate and Danish Politics...

hit a new low yesterday.

Debate with head of four political parties yesterday (there are eight major ones), concerning a number of different subjects - the head of the Danish People's Party said, only meters away from head of the Danish Climate Commission, that "climate change was not necessarily caused by human activity". Also the head of the party called Liberal Alliance (I must state here, that Liberal does not mean the same thing in Danish politics as it does in American) openly stated that he knows nothing about climate change, basically saying that it doesn't interest him, since his interest is mainly economic. To think I liked him once, when he was a member of another party.

Climate change is the biggest threat right now to...everything. To have party leaders brush it off like that is anguishing, questionable, moronic and anachronistic.

Pia Kjærsgaard, who still doubts humans' role in climate change should be banned from using technology, full stop. 98% of climate change scientists have reached the consensus that it is real, and caused by humans. This is high-school science people. Amazing she ever dares to travel by plane, or go to the doctor, since those are arguably scientifically based as well.

I dare not hope that people in their inner circles will shed some light on the subject and smack some sense into their heads. But I certainly hope their parties suffer in the upcoming Danish elections on Thursday.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Progress, Pt. 2 aka Queen of the Stone Age

I've got so many new posts on my mind that I need to write, but this one has kept them all stuck like some sort of alphabetical, semantical traffic jam! The past two weeks have been busy, with what I can hardly tell you, it's just one big whir of my oldest starting school, my youngest being really sensitive, my mom visiting from the States with her new beau, my thesis starting to haunt my dreams, my body becoming really sore everywhere for no apparent reason, and of course, on the sideline, watching a huge display of civil disobedience and the seeds of an American Energy Revolution take place in D.C. at the site of protests against the Keystone Pipeline. It's pretty historical, turbulent and hopeful all at the same time. Ok, so looking back at all that, I seem pretty busy, but funny how you have to get all meta before realizing it!

I was discussing all of the pressing issues that this blog is about (if you're new: climate change, peak oil etc), at the daycare no less, with some of the other parents of the board, and one of the childminders who was there - she said to me, bluntly "so you want us all back in the Stone Age?". You know, I can see how one would draw that conclusion, but it couldn't be further from the truth. Let me break it down.

Right now, we are dangerously close to not fulfilling our goal of cutting carbon emissions enough to keep the global temperature from rising more than the magic 2 degrees Celsius. Anything above 2 degrees Celsius, and the entire world as we know it will be washed away. Fungi, jellyfish and maybe even cockroaches will survive (totally unfounded, just thought it sounded good). Stone Age life sounds like a pretty good alternative. You know, lots of supple leather clothes, family get togethers around a roaring bonfire, simple living really - presumably with more fear and weapons, but still preferable to complete annihilation, right?

Now, as far as climate goes, stone age life is not really an option. We either wipe ourselves out completely, or we revolutionize everything, arguably bringing global living standards up with sustainable technologies that probably won't included mass consumerism as we know it, but will let us keep our planet.

Peak oil on the other hand...So science tell us that the world peaked in oil production in 2006. World markets tell us that the demand for oil is rising, exponentially. Imagine if you will, a chart where the one black line is on a rapid road of decline, and the other black line is on an upward curve - the spot on the chart where those two meet is very near in all of our futures. What does it mean? It means no oil for the masses. If you look around your home, I dare you to find one item that oil hasn't made possible.
And exatly how much energy are you getting from sustainable sources? And what about the wares in your home? Is there anything that was made using wind and solar? Shipped across the ocean only using sail? Anyone?

So what will happen when those to black lines on the chart cross each other, very soon, and we are very unprepared, won't technically be the Stone Age - but for people who are used to living in a world with easy oil as a supporting role in everything they've done, they might possibly feel that way!

Will people let that happen? We already are. When I've mentioned peak oil to people, there have been two reaction - one has been nodding in agreement, the other has been "what does that mean?". Half the people I encounter have long known that oil would run out. The other half have never given it a thought.

So, even though technological breakthroughs seem to fill the papers every day with how to make fuel from banana peels (pr algae, or poop), or a car that can run on air, or a cure for some awful disease - exactly how much of that is then implemented in our daily lives? Why? We all know why (powerful oil/pharmaceutical lobbies, in case you were wondering).

Is that progress? Is it really progress to keep technology back in a non-democratic way because of the capitalist paradigm? The same paradigm that is supposedly responsible for progress?

So what is progress then? Should we define it as something that is advancement of living standards for all, with the greater good in mind? Because, if that's the case - we are still living in the Stone Age.