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Letter: Living in a bubble

The frigid temperatures make the emissions from the Maritime Electric stacks really stand out against the sky.
File photo

As I watched the “leader” of the free world walk away from the G7 summit not interested in the least on gender equality and climate issues (a trade war was his only concern and being ‘victimized’ by the rest of the world), my thoughts darkened re: the future of the globe and humanity.

Overly dramatic, you may be tempted to say, but a few stray facts/thoughts that may make you think differently. We are in very deep trouble on this planet Earth and too many of us live in bubbles of our own creation — blithely carrying on as if someone was really there looking out for us, each of us can assume our daily tasks and existences without a care in the world. The bigger picture be damned!

We will, in the next couple of decades add another 1 billion people to an already overcrowded planet. Think of this way of seeing the impact of these new souls.

David Douglas, chief sustainability officer for Sun Microsystems, asks, “What if we give each of these persons just one small gift — a 60-watt incandescent lightbulb?”

Each bulb doesn’t weigh much — roughly 0.7 ounces with the packaging — but a billion of them together weigh around 20,00 metric tonnes, or about the same as 15,000 Priuses. Now, let’s turn them on. If they’re all on at the same time, it’d be 60, 000 megawatts. Luckily, these billion people will only use their bulbs four hours per day, so we’re down to 10,000 megawatts at any moment.

Yikes!

Related story:

Canada to see large shifts in fish habitat from climate change: study

Looks like we’ll still need twenty or so new 500-megawatt coal-burning plants — just so the next billion people can turn a light on.

Does this give us a small insight into the total new resources a billion more people will need!?

So we have fuels from hell — coal, oil, and natural gas — which come from underground, are exhaustible, and emit CO2 and other pollutants when they are burned for transportation, heating, and industrial use. These fuels are in contrast to what R. Lefkowitz, president of Pro-Media and an energy buff, calls “fuels from heaven” — wind, solar, hydroelectric, tidal and biomass power. These all come from above ground, are endlessly renewable, and largely produce no harmful emissions. As Tom Friedmann says in “Hot, Flat and Crowded,” “In the second half of the 20th century, a scientific understanding began to emerge that an excessive accumulation of largely invisible (key word here) pollutants — called greenhouse gases — was affecting the climate.”

Turn on your news, folks, and every day you will get massive rainfall and flood reports, record-breaking temps, droughts of biblical proportions, fiercer winds, more forest fires. Well, those who have been paying a modicum of attention will remember, that is exactly what climate scientists have been warning us for several decades and it will get worse!

Nate Lewis, a Cal Tech energy chemist offers the following analogy: “Imagine you are driving in your car and every mile you drive you throw a pound of trash out your window. And everyone else on the freeway in their vehicles is doing the exact same thing, and people driving Hummers are throwing two bags out at a time. How would you feel? Not so good. Well, that is exactly what we are doing; you just can’t see it.  Only what we are throwing out is a pound of CO2 — that’s what goes into the atmosphere, on average, every mile we drive.”

Those bags of CO2 from our cars float up and stay in the atmosphere, along with bags of CO2 from power plants burning coal, oil, and gas, and bags of CO2 released from the burning and clearing of forests, which releases all the carbon stored in trees, plants, and soil. In fact, Lewis says, many people don’t realize that deforestation in places like Indonesia and Brazil is responsible for more CO2 than all the world’s cars, trucks, planes, ships, and trains combined. And when we’re not tossing bags of CO2 into the atmosphere, we’re throwing up other greenhouse gases, like methane released from rice farming, petro drilling, coal mining, fracking, animal defecation, solid waste landfill sites, and yes, even cattle farting and belching. A herd of cattle belching can be worse than a highway full of Hummers. Livestock gas is very high in methane, which like CO2 is colorless and odorless. And, like CO2, methane is one of those greenhouse gases that, once released into the atmosphere, also absorb heat radiating from the Earth’s surface.

So you see fellow citizens, we do indeed have one helluva mess that is facing our children and grandkids.

You think Trump understands the above facts? Fat chance!

He is actually promoting the worst fuel from hell, coal! His so-called Trump steaks don’t help (joking). Climate change, he once said, is a Chinese hoax.

If we can’t count on the U.S. to be an immediate part of solving this looming existential threat, what chance does humankind have!?

Yes, there is still hope but only if mankind can break out of its bubble and take heed. Some chance.

Charlie Menchions

Sandy Cove

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