Tagged: environment

On The Exalted Teaching of Native American Buffalo Carcass Use and Anthropocene Anxieties

In the realm of par exemplar scenes of heavenly and harmonious human life on Earth, hardly any surpass the Native American’s total use of the American Buffalo carcass. Seriously. From grade school through college, no teacher of mine could avoid using this example to illuminate my classmate’s and I’s young, dim minds while lifting up the poor Native Americans as the truly perfect earth-inhabitants, despite simultaneously being the unfortunately (and remarkably) trusting foes of the white man and his futuristic ideas of prosperity.

I mean, the fat from the buffalo was even used exhaustively. And all the bones! Even the organs were put to good use!

(I say the following soberly for affect.) Their total use of the buffalo carcass was amazing, simply amazing.

Here’s my question: Why isn’t the West’s growing and seeming total use of the Earth viewed as just as noteworthy? Isn’t the use of coal and other fossil fuels (and now wind and solar and more) a perfectly matching analogy, down to the quark? If not, then what’s your problem with the analogy? That your own mind lacks the ability to process the scale of “time”?

Maybe you would call my attention to landfills? So we have landfills today. Didn’t the Native American have to set aside some part of the buffalo before attending to it? One thing at a time, like?

Or maybe it’s deeper. For instance, do you, when you imagine these conquered gods besides their bloody victims, picture that they developed this lofty and perfect total use of the buffalo carcass in one post-hunt pow-wow? Or do you give it some time to develop into the behavior that teachers exalt today?

My intention here is to use this comparison to reveal that your problem with life is that you’re afraid that we’re inventing problems too difficult for us to solve, in our quest for prosperity, while acknowledging that on a small scale we perfectly solved our problems.

Put shorter: You believe we can’t solve problems.

In a word, you’re depressed.

It’s not that I’m not wrong for using everything I can get my hands on to gain whatever perceived advantage there is in this life. It’s that you’re simply depressed and hopeless.

Look around you. Focus. Life goes on. You can’t stop it. Neither can I. So chin up. Put your oar in the water. And cut the Henny-Penny crap.

I Didn’t Care That It Was Raining

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.

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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.

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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.