Get Used To It

A reader said to me the other day, “You’re stuff’s getting dark lately.” She was right; it has. I don’t know what to do about that, given I define the mission of this site as calling it as I see it. Right now, it looks dark. If it’s any consolation, it’s worse if you live with me. Adrienne says she doesn’t want to hear about it anymore. I have to go find someone else if I want to have those conversations. (Actually, those “conversations” are starting to turn into monologues.)

So here we go again and let’s see if we can find some reason to chase the clouds away. It won’t be easy. What’s sticking in my mind is a piece New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote a week ago about the leaders of the G-8 nations failing to take any action on the Darfur genocide at their recent meeting.

Mr. Kristof ran through the reasons for inaction – that more people die annually of more soluble problems, that perhaps we should apply our efforts where we will get the most significant results. A fine argument, if the industrialized world actually did anything significant to combat malaria or AIDS, but our efforts are not commensurate with what is needed. Our efforts are not even commensurate with what we spend on say, pet care.

The factor Mr. Kristof failed to note is that what’s happening in Darfur is spurred in a large part by global warming. More people are fighting over less and less arable land as the desert encroaches. The Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian genocide all had a number of political factors in their making, but none were about lack of farmland.

So while George W. Bush may express skepticism about global warming, his aides are careful not to let him fall into a trap. If he takes the kind of decisive action on Darfur that Mr. Kristof and others urge, then he’s set a precedent and Mr. Bush is wary of setting precedents, at least where positive actions are concerned. Worse, alert people might point out that he’s doing more for the victims of global warming in Sudan that he’s done for the victims of global warming along the Gulf Coast and even though he will never run for office again, it just doesn’t look good. The legacy and all that.

So, how’s this not dark? Two ways. One, Al Gore gave a great speech about how we have the means to do better, right now, in curbing our emissions of greenhouse gases. He understands what James Hansen is talking about when he says we have less than ten years to turn global warming around. The time we have is time for doing something and we have to use that time wisely. If we do start to turn things around, then there won’t be as many other Darfurs.

The other point is that even with our best effort in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, more terrible things, like Hurricane Katrina and the drought affecting North Africa, are happening and more will happen. The good news is that our response to these situations does not need to be lame, as it was with Katrina or savage, as has been the case with the janjaweed militias in Sudan.

The bottom line is, we need to drastically reshape our society. We in the industrialized world cannot keep on as we have been. We need not shed our necessities, but the stupid stuff, the video games and game shows and all the excess will have to go. At the same time, we will have to open our borders and our hearts to people from all over the globe. This applies specially to me and people in my neighborhood, where the effects of global warming will be less severe than other places – at least during my lifetime.

In my own life, my resistance to things I don’t like is mostly based on mental stubbornness. I have to sit and ask, “how bad could this be?” if “this” is the thing I don’t want to do. How bad could it be to have millions of refugees streaming into our nation? Pretty bad, although better than having famine sweep across our land, as it will elsewhere.

As we pull back from our hyper-energized early 21st century, we’ll probably discover older virtues, like compassion, sharing, mutual aid. Maybe we’ll rediscover that virtue is its own reward. Maybe we’ll realize how lucky we’ve been all along and how lucky we’ll still be compared to so many others.

© Mark Floegel, 2008

One Comment

  1. Trish
    Posted 7/25/2008 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Ironically, shining the light of truth requires us to be dark from time to time, eh? Thanks as always for the post, Marco.

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