Monday, April 16, 2007

Every Age Is the Age of Despair

I've been researching global warming trends of late. But mostly it's a depressing litany of drought, extreme weather, especially in Australia and North America, heat, and rising sea levels. And of course we moved from Ohio--pretty well situated in the next twenty to fifty years in the global warming sweepstakes thanks to the Great Lakes as a supply of fresh water--to Austin, which because of drought is in the 'probably screwed' category.

It is easy to despair. I see no sign of major change in people, or in me, in the face of possible looming catastrophe. Kurt Vonnegut made it clear that he felt humanity was unlikely to change. How can anyone who has hostages to the future, that is to say, children and young people they love, not at least worry? Yeah, yeah, I know, despair is defeatist. We are supposed to fight. I am doing some things. Looking into solar power, even considering a cistern. I guess I'm saying I can do things, but that doesn't stop me from feeling things.

I remind myself that mankind has a long history of expecting the end of the world. I tell myself I am underestimating our ingenuity. My friend Geoff Landis said practically that to me about five years ago.

The scariest thing? I am so happy in my day to day life, living as if this will all never change. Here in Austin I am quite happy. Happier than I've been in years. The temptation is to stop worrying.

The right thing to do is to find a balance. But I guess if I were a balanced person, I probably would have chosen a saner profession.


Blogger Karen at Pen in Hand said...

Maureen: I share yours and the late Vonnegut's pessmism to a degree, but you know what gives me hope? Cigarettes. Or, more precisely, seeing how, in my lifetime, the general attitude turned, and people's habits turned as well. Not everyone's of course, but enough to make a big difference. All successful movements need critical mass, and the anti-global-warming needs it, too. It needs journalists and grass-roots warriors and maybe it needs polar bears to become extinct. I don't know. But I know it's possible.

April 16, 2007 9:52 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

I think that we as a species/culture are procrastinators, and there are probably evolutionary reasons behind it, but anyway-- we know how to put off major decisions and changes until the last second. I am fully confident that we have not only the ability to stop global warming, but to reverse it, within my lifetime. However, I don't think we feel the pressure enough to do it. It won't be until your average first world citizen is told that they have to shower only once a week or something similar before the pressure will be on, and then you will see serious action.

Sadly, millions will probably die unnecessary deaths in 3rd world countries before that happens. The big numbers are abstract enough that I can sleep at night.

But I read enough about the growing Green movement in design and engineering that I am confident that much smarter people than me are already starting on the problem. I dunno. I have great hope. I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that I have to die at all, so I guess I don't have much time right now to worry about how it's going to happen.

April 16, 2007 10:40 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

I totally feel you on this. We can do things and feel things at the same time, and sometimes the things we're doing are different from the things we're feeling, but I think the green movement is catching on and will become a more socialized thing over the next few years. At least I hope so, despite feeling not so different than Vonnegut did about humanity.

April 16, 2007 11:44 PM  
Anonymous Austin Kleon said...

The same thought has crossed my mind: Ohio to Texas...drought, famine...

What's really kind of funny is that Meg is going to school at UT to get a master's degree in green building...from what we've been told, there's quite a green initiative going on in Austin.

We shall see

April 17, 2007 4:49 PM  
Blogger David said...

I try to console myself with the thought that we're never lucky enough to get the actual end of the world.

You read Bruce Sterling's Heavy Weather, right? You're in the safest place in Texas.

April 18, 2007 3:25 AM  
Blogger lucette said...

Have you read Elizabeth Kolbert's book? Field Notes on a Catastrophe. It's depressing but bracing (and fascinating; I especially liked the stuff about ancient climate change).
And then to counteract that you could read Kim Stanley Robinson's trilogy about climate change:
Forty Signs of Rain
Fifty Degrees Below
Sixty Days and Counting
which show characters dealing positively with climate change, etc.
I really liked the 1st two; the 3rd, which just came out, was a little disappointing, as later books in a series often are. But still interesting.

April 18, 2007 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Austin does indeed have a lot of green building resources. I've spent about the last three years researching, designing and now building (hands on) an environmentally sound house.

One thing I've learned from the process is that the building trades are full of people who do things a certain way and are not about to change.

Even those who claim to favor green building frequently don't have a clue. I got into an argument with my architect over the fact that Austin is a hot, humid climate. There is a technical definition and Austin meets it. He just could not believe it. Argh!

I'm curious what your wife learns about getting builders to do what is right as opposed to doing what they have always done. There are practices that are mandated by the building codes in certain places that are just wrong.

One of the funny things is the building programs on TV. They are filmed in the northeast and things that Norm Abrams hands down as gospel do not necessarily apply to other parts of the country.


April 23, 2007 3:09 AM  

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