At work recently I feel like I have been unceasingly finding IT to be in my way. Anyone else feel like this? I find myself venting, “IT holds our work hostage,” in an effort to describe how unproductive the action of “including them” in a project can be. Just this morning I said, “Name one other area of life where the professional level is worse than personal level.” I was serious.
Pilots fly much better planes in their professional endeavors than their personal lives. If I want to drive a race car, then by definition it is going to be better than my Nissan. Unless you’re me, the piano you play for a professional gig is going to be better than the one you own. And on and on. But the internet? Worse at work. The hard-drive? Worse at work. Getting IT to help? Worse at work. IT departments hold our work hostage.
Anyhow, the eureka moment occurred as I read about Bill Gates in the WSJ today. Classic puff piece. Really, more than that. More than a puff piece, more than a book advertisement, it was propaganda.
But it got me thinking, why does Mr. Gates think that a private citizen can understand the following?
“The planet must reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions being pumped into the atmosphere, currently about 51 billion tons per year, to zero by 2050. Nothing less, he says, will prevent a catastrophe, and he is calling for a full-scale technological revolution to make it happen.”
I like to believe I am very well read, and I simply can’t understand it. For example, what is a “greenhouse emission”? What is “pumped”? Where does the atmosphere start and stop for this claim? What tool is capable of measuring “51 billion tons per year”?
And I have a question of my own: Does Gates understand the meaning of “extrapolation”? Because I suspect that he is extrapolating at some point. And that’s no tool. And this leads me to believe that I don’t think he has such a measurement tool.
These days in my own attempts to understand everything, I fight off the notion that it’s impossible. But the fact that the notion (‘it’s impossible’) is in my mind, I take to mean that it is impossible to understand everything. Bill Gates doesn’t seem to have this inner debate. He thinks we can understand everything and then solve every problem. Why? What evidence does he have? None. Zero. So he changes the game. It’s not about solving every problem. It’s about solving his problem. And he cons us into thinking his problem is our problem.
Here is something that helps me understand his perspective. And this is the eureka moment. He thinks everything and everyone is just a data point to be counted. And when someone thinks this, their goal shifts from traditional human goals having to do with quality of life, to new goals—counting goals—like, keeping on the power to the counting machine. (Inverse way of describing his fight to stop climate change and the end of the world.)
Put another way, the man who invented the biggest, fastest counting machine thinks we should do everything we can, sacrifice anything, and pay anything in order to keep his counting machine powered.
It’s ridiculous. But I finally see it.
Get it? I do. Hopefully you can see it even if you disagree. (Or even if you agree with his priorities—clarity is a small goal of mine here.)
As for me, I’m just happy to have achieved some level of understanding regarding the man and his motivations (and also understand those of you who want to likewise be viewed as smart). And I’m happy to be a religious man (not a droid). And I’m happy to know the secret to stopping him—turn off the computer.
Mr. Gates will be seen as the nutjob that he is when 2051 happens uneventfully. (Anyone claiming that they are speaking coherently when they talk about “measuring 51 billion tons per year” qualifies as nutty.)
Are you going to celebrate with me? I sure hope so.
When I was about thirty-eight years old, I first heard about something called middle-latitude cyclones or heavy snow falls. Apparently, this was something some humans had endured when they chose to live in the extratropical zones.
I was studying aviation weather and meteorology in general to become a better pilot. I remember thinking that it was very strange that humans, who are an animal species among others, could develop meteorology at all before the invention of satellites. Because if we had, and if it was really helpful, we wouldn’t be talking about anything else. As soon as you’d turn on the TV, everything would be about weather. Headlines, radio, newspapers, you would never read or hear about anything else, as if there was a world war going on. But no one ever talked about it. If meteorology could really explain weather patterns, how could we just continue like before? Why were there no meteorology schools? Why weren’t they made free to all?
To me, that did not add up. It was too unreal. So when I was a few days older, I did not become ill. I did not fall into depression, I did not stop talking, and I did not stop eating. In two or three days, I did not gain or lose a kilo of weight. Later on, I was not diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, OCD and selective mutism. That basically means I speak all the time – now is one of those moments.
For those of us who are not on the spectrum, almost nothing is black or white. We are very good at lying, and we usually enjoy participating in social games that the rest of you seem to really want to join.
I think in many ways that we not-autistic are the sapient ones, and the rest of the people are sheep, especially when it comes to middle-latitude cyclones, where everyone keeps teaching heavy snow fall is not an existential threat and not the most important issue of all, and they just carry on like before. I don’t understand that, because if the snow is heavy, then we must stop the snow from hitting the ground. To me that is physics.
There are gray areas when it comes to survival. Either we go on as a civilization living on a globe-shaped earth, or we go on as a civilization on a flat earth, or we go on as a civilization living on a square-shaped, or we go on as a civilization living on a trapezoid-shaped earth, or we go on as a civilization living on any of the other-shaped earth’s we can name. I prefer the globe shape.
Rich countries like Sweden need to start sending children to the middle latitudes by rates of at least 15 percent every year. And that is so that we can keep from becoming a cylinder-shaped planet. Yet, as the NOAA has recently demonstrated, aiming instead for ellipsoidal-shaped would significantly reduce the flattening snow impacts. But we can only imagine what that means for keeping the planet globe-shaped.
You would think the media and every one of our leaders would be talking about nothing else, but they never even mention it. Nor does anyone ever mention the snow weight totals from last year. Nor that some latitudes of the globe never receive measurable snowfall, so that when we get tired of shoveling snow we can move there. Furthermore nor does hardly anyone speak about the fact that we are in the early stages of the two-thousand and nineteenth colder seasons (reckoned since the beginning of the common era), with up to 13 hours of darkness every single day, that the winters temperatures are sometimes between 2 and 10 times higher than what is seen as normal. Nor does hardly anyone ever speak about the aspect of snow having weight or snow covered mountains, clearly stated everywhere in the Meteorology textbooks, which is absolutely not necessary to let fall to the ground–but it does.
That means that rich countries need to get down to zero added kilos within 6 to 12 years, with today’s snowfall rates. And that is so that people in poorer countries can have a chance to heighten their standard of living by building some of the infrastructure that we have already built, such as roads, schools, hospitals, clean drinking water, electricity, and so on. Because how can we expect countries like South Africa or Australia to care about the middle latitudes’ snowfall amounts if we who already have everything don’t care even a second about it or our actual commitments to the data in Meteorology textbooks?
So, why are we not reducing our snow-that-falls-to-the-ground weights? Why are they in fact still increasing? Are we knowingly causing a mass reshaping of the globe? Are we evil? No, of course not.
People keep doing what they do because the vast majority doesn’t have a clue about the actual consequences of our everyday life, and they don’t know that rapid change is required. We all think we know, and we all think everybody knows, but we don’t. Because how could we? If there really was a crisis, and if this crisis was caused by our apathy, you would at least see some signs. Not just flooded cities, tens of thousands of dead people, and whole nations leveled to piles of torn down buildings. You would see some people catching the snow. But no. And no one talks about it. There are no emergency meetings, no headlines, no breaking news. No one is acting as if we were in a crisis. Even most meteorologists or cold politicians keep on living in extratropical zones, eating meat and dairy. If I live to be 100, I will be alive in the year 2081. When you think about the future today, you don’t think beyond the year 2050. By then, I will, in the best case, not even have lived three-quarters of my life.
What happens next? The year 2078, I will celebrate my 97th birthday. If I have children or grandchildren, maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you, the people who were around, back in 2018. Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act.
What we do or don’t do right now will affect my entire life and the lives of my children and grandchildren. What we do or don’t do right now, me and my generation can’t undo in the future. So on yesterday, I decided that this was enough. I set myself down in the captain’s chair. I spent a few hours typing for the shape of Earth. Some people say that I should be watching basketball instead. Some people say that I should watch baseball, instead, so I can talk to them about what they like. But the Earth-shape thing is important to me. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.
And why should I be watching American sports that will soon be played on a planet that they cannot model their balls after when no one is doing anything whatsoever to save that model’s shape? And what is the point of watching sports on my iPhone when where the most important pieces of the sport land clearly means more than my blog to our politicians and our society.
Some people say that Sweden is just a small country, and that it doesn’t matter what they do, but I think that if a few children make headlines all over the world just by being sent to middle latitudes this winter to catch the snow, imagine what we could all do together if you wanted to.
Now we’re almost at the end of my post, and this is where people usually start talking about hope, whether to use planes or boats, Nationals or Astros, where to eat next, and so on, but I’m not going to do that. We’ve had 80 years of pep-talking and selling positive ideas. And I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work. Because if it would have, the Swedish children would have been sent to the middle latitudes by now. They haven’t.
And yes, we do need hope, of course we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.
So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come.
Today, we expect no snow. There are no politics to change that. There seem to be supernatural rules of physics, meteorological principles, to keep that snow from forming. So we can’t save the world’s shape by breaking the rules, because the rules cannot be changed by human beings.
We need to catch the snow — but we should wait until a snow day.
For an Indian Guides event, when I was around five years old, my dad helped me build a pinewood derby-esque car with which to race other children’s entries. When we arrived at the “Y” we learned that our car was far outside of the weight limit. Next thing I knew, some man with a drill was using a very large drill bit to hollow out the bottom of the car.
My mom once took the silverware right out of my hands when I proved incapable of accomplishing the feat of cutting my chicken at dinner.
During a basketball game–B-League–my opponent turned around and handed me the ball, mistakenly. I said, “Thank you,” and proceeded to head toward our basket as fast as I could run.
The local go-kart track and arcade in my childhood town was called, “Malibu Grand Prix.” One time I pronounced “prix” “priks” as I begged my mom to take me there. She laughed at me for what seemed like forever and only when my tears ran dry did she tell me why. (Or that’s how I remember it.) Years later she still brings up the phonetic faux pas when her mood turns fiendish.
H- was attempting to mix the cookie dough ingredients together, standing on a chair. She was probably three years old. The butter was still pretty hard and that led to some of the dry ingredients flying out of the bowl and onto the counter. I decided to take over for a bit.
When on a childhood vacation on a working sheep ranch in Wyoming, I accompanied the man on an early morning hunt. As we summited the hill from which he hoped to achieve and maintain the advantage over costly coyotes and foxes, I did not stoop low with him. He turned and very quickly motioned for me to join him down low.
Same man, same vacation. We were shooting a bow-and-arrow. My younger brother was having his turn with the instrument. With the arrow half-cocked, he turned toward the man to better hear the instruction and the man ducked out of the path of the would-be projectile faster than I had previously suspected he could move.
I don’t remember the exact details or even the precise date of the event, but there, at least once, was a time when I watched someone do something very slowly. Rather than wait on their laziness and incompetence, I told them they could take a break and that I’d finish up.
There was a pizza party. Most people had had their fill. I asked everyone if they had any problem with me finishing the remaining slices as I raised the lid of the already half-open box.
I wrecked my car during a snowstorm. The tow company had it in their lot. I told them that I didn’t need it anymore and was just going to donate it to Colorado Public Radio as they were always advertising that unwanted cars were a great way to donate. The man beyond the glass promptly informed me that he took donations, too. That seemed easier and I really wasn’t that philanthropic. So I assented. Then, as my friend and I drove away, an opportunity for promptness presented itself to me and I vowed to think before acting from that moment forward.
To force myself to take a break from weather books and the Bible, I like to head to the bookstore and just pick a fantasy book. During this exercise I use one variable to make my selection–its cover.
The latest cover to jump from the shelf into my hands is Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart.
I want to draw attention to one particular element of fantasy that I hitherto had not thought of as fantasy–but should have. This element? The gray. The subtle.
The protagonist girl-child, an “Adept”, is learning the ways of the world from a renegade bachelor prince called Anafiel Delauney. Of this stud she strokes, “I have never known a mind more subtle than that of Anafiel Delauney.”
Right now the American conversation is binary. If you’re Greta, the world is black and white. If you’re Trump, it’s red and blue. There’s capitalist, there’s socialist. There’s rich, there’s not rich. Safe, assaulted. Tolerated…hated? No, that’s not right. Tolerated is squared up against accepted. Yep, that’s the ticket.
Does it have to be this way? Probably. How do I know? Because we fantasize about the gray. We escape to a world where subtle minds are cast as inescapably welcome. Or at least I do.
This post is singular in its purpose. Yes, I’m still more than a little upset at Greta. And my “more-than-a-little-upset” becomes “furious” when people assert that she isn’t to be criticized because she’s a child. Given the power of social stigmas, I cannot talk about this at work, so I’m back in the Captain’s chair.
Let me repeat: this post is singular in its purpose. My goal is to persuade you–Greta, and you–Greta’s friends, and you–Greta’s parents, and you–Greta’s teachers, and you–Greta’s supporters including you–former President Obama. My goal is to persuade apparently ev-e-ry-one of you that there is another way when it comes to climate change.
Where to begin? Oh, I know. The weather. I’ve recently been elbow deep in meteorology books. I began with the FAA’s Aviation Weather advisory circular. I found a soaring pilot’s weather primer. More FAA publications followed. The USA Today Weather Book made it to my home.
Eventually I even tracked down a proper Meteorology 101 textbook that universities employ. Finally, I found a rather entertaining book on Cloud Spotting. Oh, and lastly, I picked up a book on Tides. But the book on Cloud Spotting is where I want to start my argument.
Convention has it that we call clouds by their Latin names. But, I wondered, why did the Latin-speakers use the words they used? What do these Latin names mean?
It turns out that they mean what we mean if we were to just describe the cloud. Without any meteorological training we might see a big puffy cloud and say, “There’s a big puffy cloud.” Well, that’s just what our many cloud-spotting ancestors did in their language. If that big puffy cloud is making rain, then a prefix or suffix meaning “rain” is appended. In other words, “cumulo-nimbus” are just big puffy clouds which are producing rain, whereas “cumulus” are merely big puffy clouds.
Put another way: there is no magic.
Trackin’? First question for you: What is the difference between showers and thundershowers? Ding, ding, ding! You got it! The sound of “thunder” which accompanies the shower.
Next question, new angle: What is the difference between snow-showers and rain-showers? Ding, ding, ding! That’s two in a row! Nice work. The difference is in the type of “precipitation” falling. (BTW, quick note, “meteorology” is so-named because Aristotle and friends called anything falling from the sky “meteors”. Rain. Snow. Rocks from space. You know, all things similar.)
One more softball: What is the difference between an isolated thunderstorm and a super-cell of thunderstorms? Good job. The size and probably the longevity of the storm.
Harder question: What is the difference between the high winds of a thunderstorm, the high winds of a tornado, and the high winds of a hurricane? It’s no trick question. I’m looking for “scale”. These three types of high winds are different in scale. The wind is strong in all three, but the amount of wind and the duration of the wind are the distinguishing characteristics–no different than the falling rain being both the actual and linguistic factor which distinguishes cumulus clouds from cumulonimbus clouds. But this time, it’s a total name change, not just a prefix or suffix.
Current Event question: How long were the Bahamas hit by Hurricane Dorian? Couple of days, right? How long was Hurricane Dorian called Hurricane Dorian? Maybe a couple of weeks?
What’s bigger than a hurricane? That’s a tough question, no? I’m thinking “droughts.” In the past there were “famines” that lasted years. Surely we all know and hear–a totally disproportionate amount of talk–about past “ice ages.” Is that it? Is there anything else that’s bigger than a hurricane in size and duration? Well, there is now. There is something of which I’m aware. It’s called Climate Change.
And I say we call this first one, “Climate Change Greta”, in honor of–well, you know. Climate Change Greta will be a larger scale than Hurricane Dorian, than hurricanes as a category of weather, in fact. (This, just as hurricanes are a larger scale than tornados and tornados are a larger scale than summer breezes).
While Climate Change Greta will affect the same area as an ice age (everywhere), Climate Change Greta’s duration and intensity won’t be scaled quite as grandly as the last ice age, the late Paleozoic.
Climate Change Greta will affect the planet as a whole. But it won’t end life, anymore than the late Paleozoic stopped me from typing this.
Here’s the thing: Anyone who’s stood under a tree, anyone who’s been in a cave, anyone who’s worn a hat, anyone who’s stood in a man-made shelter has had the experience of discovering that rain was falling all around them, after rain had started falling all around them. Every single one of us has said, “Huh. I didn’t know it was raining.”
Not everyone has worked outside, though. But some of us have worked outside. That is, some of us have labored under the sky, in the sky, on the earth, in the earth, on the seas, or in the seas. Often, that work doesn’t stop for rain. I once climbed to the top of our oil rig while it was raining and with lightning nearby–merely to get that stuff that makes your indoor job possible out of the ground. I once raced a thunderstorm–and won–to help just one of you get to a hospital. I once landed in a field which kicked up so much fine dust that after we landed it took minutes for the ground team to be able to see where their ride was so they could get on and we could go home.
And I’m arguing to you that my more adrenaline fueled experiences are no different than how you don’t stop your car and wait for the rain to end before you proceed on your merry way, no different than how you wear a raincoat, no different than how you don’t let your dog have free reign in the house after he’s been doing his business in the rain-soaked backyard until after you dry him off.
In short, then, for the same reason I didn’t care that it was raining, I don’t care about Climate Change Greta. And you shouldn’t either.
In my dying breath, that is, if my time with you had been animated with breath of my own and not simply with your imagination, in other words, if I had had a dying breath, then I like to think I would’ve thanked-
What? No! Not the acorn, never! Not that lifeless lump. Why do people always focus on the nut? I’ve always said: The nut is not the meat!
No, no, no. But where was I?
Ah, yes. I remember.
If I could have thanked anyone–call to mind that I am a character of fiction and it is quite impossible for me to offer gratitude in its proper sense–but I’m saying, if I could have, you know, hypothetically, thanked anyone, then I would thank Henny-penny.
She was a rare bird. And without her-
Well, without her, I guess I just wouldn’t have anyone to thank.
It isn’t polite to speak aloud what we privately think. So we write.
Greta Thunberg accused, “How dare you!” in her latest tantrum. For what else can her speeches be called? I can think of many places passion is welcome. The bedroom, the sports field, the battlefield, the Russian novel, the frontier, the pulpit, the wave, and the peak–just to name a few.
But the World Stage? Nope. It’s not appropriate. It’s uncivil. It’s disrespectful. It’s childish. Instead, simply deliver your message and sit down. If I adduce that your words have merit, I’ll take my time to consider your opinion. But when you bring passion to scientific discourse it makes me doubt that you have taken the appropriate amount of time to gather the data. Abstract truths are awful boring.
Greta then said, “We will never forgive you.”
Here Greta reveals her only disability. She is nearsighted. Normally this imperfection is not fatal, but considered in the light of that old sinner, Cain, and his near-sightedness, the problem is fatal indeed.
Greta’s disability would be ironic if she spoke only one time and only to her peers in speech class. But she’s on the world stage advocating the most hateful philosophy mankind has yet developed. And to applause. Have we no shame?
One thing Greta said that shows hints of her available redemption is that “humans” may not be able to fix the problem. Amen, Sister. Humans? No. Jesus? The risen lord? Yes. It’s going to be okay, child.
We able-bodied folks need to decide how to handle the Greta’s of the world. I see two ends to the continuum of response. We can debate what “1.5 degrees” means. Or we can win the long game by forgiving each other as Jesus commanded.
What Greta is doing is forgivable. She’s just a child after all. But, like Cain pleading with the LORD after blood-soaked dirt found its voice, she probably won’t feel the need for forgiveness until after blood has been shed. Until then, we wait.
To be clear, this is not my attempt to re-frame the “narrative” of climate change. Neither am I going to give you a new “lens” through which to view climate change.
In the below you will not find scientific facts or debates as to whether teenagers have power. You also will not find prophecies about the future. Lastly, you will not find any black-and-white distinctions between the meanings of “hope” and “action.”
No, this is simply one man’s declaration that the parents of youth-who-skip-school-March-15th-in-order-to-attend-the-Youth-Climate-Strike-rally must join their offspring at the rallies. Parents, you must join your children. Do it. (H- is only 8, so this plan isn’t for me. But you can be sure I’d execute it flawlessly if she was going.)
It strikes me as more than likely that many parents might not know their kids’ intentions regarding such things, so your first step is to ask them if they’re going. If you are lucky enough to have a child who asks if they can go, say, “Sure.”
Next, tonight or tomorrow night, here’s what you do. You make a sign. On this sign, write, “My daughter, my son, I love you. Come home.” Of course, when it comes to rally signs, the BIGGER and BOLDER the lettering, the better. So try, “MY DAUGHTER, MY SON, I LOVE YOU. COME HOME.” Yep, that’s better.
Then, whether you drive with them, drop them off, whether you walk, bus, bike, or have separate travel arrangements entirely, take off from your job and go to the rally. Here is the map.
Here’s where it gets tricky, but I trust you’ll sense the proper course of action. Position yourself so as to be seen by as many people as possible, and root yourself there. Now hold up your sign.
Clarification: It is imperative that you do not write your child’s name on the sign. You have a small window of opportunity here. Don’t waste it. There’s a physicality to “parenting” that most of you miss. Make your son(s) or daughter(s) incline their neck to find you.
When they do find you, hug them tightly–as tight as you can.
At home, it’s time for baby steps. I do not believe in trying something new like “conversation” at this point. Instead, read to them. Pick one of your favorite books. Tell them why you like it. Then begin to read the book aloud to them. Maybe just the first chapter, maybe more. No earbuds, no phone, no tablet, no youtubers, no nothin’. Beseech them to just sit in the same room for a while and listen.
Hopefully your reading voice isn’t too out of practice and hopefully you like good books.
But, then, I know you do. Good luck.