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Six Degrees Celsius

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” — Frederick Douglas.

In some circles of this country, citizens understand that 600,000 billion tons of CO2 poured into the atmosphere since 1750 has shifted Earth’s natural greenhouse effect and set in motion changes in climate. Seeing California, and in particular Mendocino County, as breeding grounds of awareness, I presumed I lived in a hotbed of activism.

Now some people here may know that in New York on September 21st, two days before the UN Climate Summit, a huge citizen march is planned to push world leaders to commit to meaningful change. For weeks various groups I support have flooded my inbox with updates about the march and announcements about’s film “Disruption,” which was made to increase participation.

If flying to New York didn’t generate significant CO2, I would attend the march in a… well, a New York minute. Looking for a way to connect, I clicked on the links for local showings of the film, then did a double take. California had perhaps ten sites, the closest to Boonville being a home in Healdsburg. (The second closest was Arcata.) No problem, for gathering with people dedicated to saving the earth, I would sacrifice the gas to get there. Future generations living free of soaring temperatures would forgive the paradox of my driving.

When we knocked last night at the appointed hour, the couple took a while to respond. No one had emailed them to say they were coming, they said, but we were welcome to join them to watch the film. (I had emailed.) We settled down to a big screen presentation (I thought, ‘energy suck’) of the history of science discovering climate change and saw countless pictures of smokestacks, withered corn, military campaigns, freeways choked with cars and hurricane-flattened coastal cities, places where the poor feel the rashness of the assault first and deepest. Only the dullest of viewers could not understand the flywheel effect of the polar icecaps melting and the oceans heating up, meaning that even if not another ounce of fossil fuel is burned starting at noon today, the junk we have already spewed into the air will continue to heat us up for a generation. Hoping to look optimistic, scientists face the camera with Charlie Brown’s beleaguered expression as he drops the ball yet again.

Sobering. But what makes this activist crazy and paints the future of the world black is that residents, of California at least, were content to stay home and barbeque steaks shipped from New Zealand, while their air conditioners made the dining room comfortable. In these last years, lift a glass of wine to the sunset and prepare for a rise of 6 degrees Celsius and the vanishing of species. Take heart that we alone among the earth’s creatures are immune to the consequences of 250 years of material progress, courtesy of the wholesale torching of ancient sunlight preserved as coal, oil and gas. It will be good to have the bees gone and the trees defoliated. Better to see the view.

One Comment

  1. Jim Updegraff September 29, 2014

    We suffer from a large case of denial and for many a faith that God will protect us from the consequences of our actions. We would rather have our gas guzzlers that think about our contribution to the CO 2 in the atmosphere. Humans are just a life form in the evolutionary process that will be replaced by another life form.

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