Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘climate change

Rearranging Fiddles

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I’m sorry to lead off with a fresh version of being a “Debby-Downer” but reports on my radio during the commute home yesterday left me feeling like we are all just playing fiddles and rearranging deck chairs while Rome is burning and the Titanic is sinking.

There were multiple topics that wracked my sensibilities but the kicker was a statement –the umpteenmillionth from climate scientists– that we need to take action RIGHT NOW! to avert global climate calamity, or else.

Yep. We sure do. Meanwhile, all the fossil-fuel-burning cars around me, mine included, just kept driving down the road. Coal-burning power plants kept burning. The lights stayed on. Factories kept churning. Politicians towed their party lines.

Honestly, it sounded like the siren call that should have tripped some magical trigger forcing everyone to stop the runaway train right now. Instantly jump us all back to the early days of the industrial revolution and use present-day knowledge to solve the challenges of replacing old ways with new ones.

Instead, the way we are going, the poorest people are paying the brunt of costs during this gradual intensifying of impactful events going on around the world in the form of heatwaves, drought, fires, and floods.

It just feels so wrong to keep carrying on with normal activity while we are sinking/burning.

At the same time, it also feels wrong to mope about it, so that challenge is available to address in the face of the slow catastrophe unfolding across the world. There are people devising brilliant alternatives for the things that contribute to the climate crisis. We need to grab the threads of these alternatives and inflate the possibilities of change for the better.

Set down our fiddles, leave the deck chairs as they are.

Let’s replace old ways with new ones without waiting for countries and governments to lead us to action.

I’ll be turning down the radio during the stories about global warming for while.

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Written by johnwhays

October 6, 2021 at 6:00 am

Inside View

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Justifiably so, most pictures of trees in autumn are from beyond the forest where the view can include the variety of brilliant colors glowing from entire trees. Yesterday, Delilah and I paused on a walk through our woods so I could capture the view of early autumn from within the trees.

There are plenty of green leaves still attached to branches but the forest floor is already carpeted by a new batch of recently fallen leaves. The onset of fall is first noticeable by the leaves that fall on our trails, before the ones that start turning colors up in the branches.

I find myself needing to put effort toward consciously noticing this IS autumn. The early phases of this transition beyond summer are just as much a part of my favorite season as the later phases when branches are bare and mornings frosty.

Earlier in the week, Cyndie captured her shadow visible on the trunk of a tree that was glowing orange with a spot of just-risen sunlight appearing through the forested landscape behind her.

It may be the last week of September but the grass on our property is growing like it’s still mid-summer. It is becoming common now that I end up mowing grass and mulching fallen leaves all at the same time.

It bothers me a little bit that I am not shocked that 80-degree temperatures are forecast for the next few days.

Just like the fall season IS here right now, so is global warming and all the effects scientists have long predicted would occur if humans didn’t reduce the creation of greenhouse gasses at the rate that has grown steadily since the beginning of industrialization.

Fall colors and hot temperatures are an odd combination for my mind to associate.

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Written by johnwhays

September 25, 2021 at 9:37 am

Really Happening

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It’s happening right before our eyes. The changes currently playing out on our planet are no longer just scientific theories. They are actual events. Record high temperatures. Droughts. Wildfires. Floods. Thawing permafrost. Rising sea levels. Shrinking glaciers.

I’ve tried to mentally prepare for the possibility of any of the first four catastrophes directly impacting our property, but the thing we are dealing with currently is only peripherally related to the wildfires burning in Canada just to our north. Our air quality is so bad the Pollution Control Agency is advising we avoid being outside and breathing the smoke particulate matter.

Measurements are reaching record levels for Minnesota.

We should probably hold more meetings to discuss how we can reduce our carbon emissions to net-zero by some future date. [sarcasm]

I asked Cyndie if we have any idea what to do in the case of a wildfire suddenly bearing down on our location. She said we should paint our phone number on the horses.

I’m sure they would be fine with that if we were able to find any paint and get them to stand still during the highly emotional panic that would be occurring as a fire threat is bearing down on our property.

Even though the dramatic stories of lost lives and property in the recent floods in Germany and China and the ongoing Bootleg fire in Oregon depict the trauma at the epicenter of such events, life at home feels strangely distanced.

Our horses are calm. Their grass is dryer than optimum, the flies are a constant nuisance, the temperatures are getting too hot again, and the smoky air makes breathing less fun, but they aren’t ones to complain. I sense they may still be contemplating whether the situation they now find themselves in –living out their days in comfort and safety with us– is for real, or not.

Based on my assessment of the reality of global climate calamities playing out in plain view right now, I can understand any hesitations they might have about the comfort and safety part.

There should be no denying anymore that the ramifications of human activity causing increased concentrations of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere are already playing out.

It really is already happening, whether people collectively acknowledge it, or not.

Every day that I don’t have to drive my fossil-fueled car anywhere is a tiny victory in my effort to reconcile still living with a carbon footprint that reflects how we got into this climate predicament in the first place.

May we all keep looking for individual ways to do something helpful, or simply stop doing things that are hurtful, long before governments and greater society finally get around to enacting more broadly effective changes.

I look forward to that really happening.

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Speed Perception

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Did the year 2020 feel like it took a long time to transpire? Does it seem surprising that we are past the middle of March already? We all know that time passes slowly or quickly depending on how we consider it, despite the fact it ticks off at the same rate no matter what. It’s our perception that changes.

On my commutes, I find myself surprised by how easy it is to spot a car ahead that is traveling significantly slower than the rest of the traffic. It comes in handy for making lane changes well in advance of needing so to do. Spotting vehicles in my mirrors that are traveling much faster than I am usually provides a lot less time to react.

It is common knowledge that water takes longer to boil if you watch and wait for it to happen.

How fast is the impact of rising greenhouse gases on the earth’s climate? It is occurring right in front of our eyes. We are living it. The thing is, I remember hearing about this threat decades ago from explorer Will Steger‘s first-hand eyewitness accounts of changes in both polar regions of our planet. We know the ice is melting. We know weather events keep getting more intense.

Will climate change take longer to happen because we are watching it? I wish.

Yesterday, I had a meal inside a restaurant for the first time in a year. That was a long time in coming. So long that it exceeded my ability to perceive whether it felt like a long time, or not. It just felt strange.

Let’s hope we are racing at breakneck speed toward a post-pandemic world that includes less poverty, more equality, zero emissions, greater social justice, the end of food insecurities/homelessness/violence/hatred, and reaches record levels of love beaming throughout the world.

That’s something I’d really like to see coming up in my rearview mirror faster than I expected.

I wouldn’t need to get out of the way.

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Written by johnwhays

March 18, 2021 at 6:00 am

Everything Fatigue

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I can totally relate to the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engine suffering metal fatigue last weekend. I’m feeling a bit of everything fatigue lately, although, I do my best to avoid raining debris all over people around me, unlike that airplane in Denver Saturday.

I’m clinging to my thread of sanity with a weary, wavering grip. There is a climate calamity unraveling right in front of our eyes that appears to deserve a lot more change to our ways of life than the slow-responding societies around the globe are revealing any willingness to undertake. Communities are burning, flooding, freezing, suffering drought, or reaching intolerably high temperatures –sometimes experiencing an unlikely combination of the extremes– but I still climb in my gas-powered car and drive an hour to work like always.

It just feels wrong.

It also feels dangerous. Yesterday morning, I had a close encounter that used up some of my limited luck on avoiding a collision on the interstate. I commonly operate in cruise control mode with my car holding the speed and distance related to the vehicle in front of me. A business panel van passed me on the left and then slowed down entering a curve in the highway. My car maintained the cruise speed and caught right up beside the van in the turn as it slowed, at which point he decided to move into my lane.

I hit the brakes and swerved as little as possible, having no time to look to the lane to my right for clearance. My lunch tote on the front seat instantly relocated to the floor below.

It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to honk my horn to alert the other driver to my position. I suspect the assumption was that I had been passed and was no longer a concern. It wouldn’t surprise me if the other driver wasn’t even aware of having slowed at the curve.

The event provided me an unwelcome shot of adrenaline and triggered visions of a fate I flirt with two times a day, four days a week. Haunted by a belief that anything can go dangerously wrong at any time when commuting in traffic, I’m feeling the fatigue of having tolerated the risks of this trip for too many years.

I’m fatigued with the pandemic, its death toll, and everything related to coping with the ever-present threat of spreading the virus.

I’m even growing fatigued with our latest jigsaw puzzle. We picked one with way too much solid black background that is cut entirely of one primary classic puzzle piece shape: four arms, a knob on each end, two cutouts on each side. The only variation is the size and shape of each of those features.

It is very possible I will give myself permission to give up before placing every piece. That just depends on whether searching for the barely perceptible features of each completely black piece distracts me from the other angsts nibbling at me and releases the blessed endorphins when I stumble upon ones that fit.

Endorphins do wonders for fatigue.

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Virus Mania

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It’s as if there is some sort of pandemic or something. The coronavirus is everywhere. That invisible little bug that half the people think is being way over-hyped while over a million others are dead from and hospitals are being stretched beyond capacity is not magically disappearing in the way some hoped.

Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

Radio on-the-street interviews capture a scary number of people who complain they are tired of the pandemic and frustrated with officials who are struggling to mandate protocols that can limit the spread. Not the proudest moment for the human race.

Staying home all the time is too hard. Really? How hard is it?

What if we had to practice avoiding others for a whole year? I don’t know. Maybe try imagining how hostages who are held for four times that long muster the ability to cope.

We have the promise of vaccines to look forward to, so the beginning of the resolution of the pandemic is within sight. It would be nice if people could rise to the occasion of not making things any worse than they already are while we work through the process of vaccine distribution on the way to achieving herd immunity.

Try pretending that it isn’t a hoax. Play along with us for a little while, for the good of the rest of the world population.

After it’s all over, maybe all the people who have lost jobs and businesses can be retrained to become firefighters or search and rescue EMTs to deal with the increasing wildfires and flooding hurricanes that global warming has continued to exacerbate while we have been distracted.

Just call me little miss sunshine this morning.

Forgive me. I’m just reacting sideways to the unending reports of GOP and White House lunacy stinking up the remnants of our democratic election here in the U.S.

I trust there is hope for a better day hiding out there somewhere. [Insert joke about expecting to find a pony in here someplace.]

I’ll keep digging. And staying home as much as possible.

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Written by johnwhays

November 20, 2020 at 7:00 am

Beautiful Views

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Despite human industrial activity dumping carbon into the earth’s atmosphere for generations, grass and trees continue to jam carbon back into the soil. Imagine if we had enough forests and fields to reverse the changes our burning of fossil fuels has done to the atmosphere.

Thinking like that is more fun when gazing upon the beautiful views we enjoy than trying to wrap my head around the continuing damage that is being done every day, like driving my car for two hours a day during my 4-day workweek. Working from home on Fridays is a small token toward driving less.

We watched the NOVA episode, “Can We Cool the Planet?” on PBS last night. Seems reasonable to believe that we can cool the planet. The difficulty is whether or not humans will actually undertake the needed steps.

It certainly doesn’t hurt for individuals to strive to do their part, but the solution will require a collective global commitment. Based on the history of the human race, it is hard to picture how such a thing would even be possible.

Maybe an existential threat will be the difference that one day drives a coordinated response.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to plant trees and enjoy our lovely views.

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RS Interview 3

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Yes, there was more. The Relative Something interview with *The* John W. Hays meandered into the subjects of climate change and mental health. Are they related?…

RS: That’s enough of the namby-pamby rambling about pandemics and pets.

JWH: Uh-oh.

RS: What is it about your fascination with the weather every day?

JWH: You tell me?
I know, I know, I talk about the weather a lot. Doesn’t everybody? I mean, it SNOWED here yesterday! How can you avoid talking about that?

RS: Reading what you write, one might get the sense you are not a climate change denier.

JWH: [sarcastically] Well, it still gets really cold here and snows, so global warming might just be a hoax.
Some things in this world change gradually. I have been witnessing the constant increasing trend of fossil-fuel-emission-induced impact for my entire life. There were predictions made 30 years ago about the calamities the world is experiencing. Melting polar regions, rising seas, high-temperature records increasing, droughts, fires, floods, increasing intensity of storms. Honestly, simply seeing a graphic display of the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels during the industrial age compared to hundreds of thousands of years before should be enough for anyone to comprehend the reality. Human influence is changing the planet earth. What is the motivation to claim otherwise? At the highest levels of governance, corporations, and wealthy investors, I propose the motivation is financial. I can’t get my head around how anyone would be willing to risk our space ship for their greed to have more for themselves.

RS: Almost sounds like a mental health problem.

JWH: You brought it up. Dysfunctions of mental health could probably be viewed as the root cause of the majority of world problems. Wait… is stupidity classified as a mental illness? Sorry. Although, for me, education was a huge part of my success in dealing with my depression. My years of dysfunctional thinking were turned around in months after learning what was going on in my mind. Obviously, mental health issues are complex. In terms of addictions, we can educate someone about the harmful effects of smoking, but how many times has that knowledge been useless in getting someone to quit? Same challenge for every other mental affliction, I suppose. There are factors that go much deeper than just knowing. Maybe, more than simply having knowledge, there is an aspect of enlightenment involved.
Our thinking is intertwined with our physical chemistry. Our bodies are manufacturing and distributing mood-altering drugs. Our physical bodies are influenced by invisible forces around us. Moods are contagious. A well-educated person can be intelligent about a lot of subjects, yet be oblivious to how their anger is triggering chemicals in their body and how their angst is triggering people around them. That gap in perception can be narrowed by becoming more enlightened. More self-aware.
Increased self-awareness helps to open up the capacity to become more globally aware. An enlightened view would encompass equal cognizance of both self and others.
I don’t know if it’s obvious where I am going with this, but it has to do with love.

RS: Love seems like a worthy topic!

to be continued…

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Written by johnwhays

October 17, 2020 at 10:26 am

Alternative Route

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I don’t know how long it will last, but on Monday I stumbled upon an alternate route to the “classic editor” I prefer and have used successfully for years prior to the so-called great [cough] “block editor” that became the WordPress default as of October.

Aah, the good old days.

This week we are enjoying an alternative October in the form of very summer-like high temperatures outside. It is strange to have the hours of daylight rapidly changing when the weather is so warm. The two phenomena don’t usually happen together to this extreme. Isn’t it odd to have weather behaving wacky at this point in the history of the planet?

Oh, I guess it’s not odd at all. Scientists have been predicting this for decades. Gee, if we don’t make significant changes in our reliance on fossil fuels, icebergs in the polar regions will melt, weather patterns of storms, droughts, floods, fires, and temperatures will become more extreme, and geographies and economies will be at risk.

Throw in a model of a global virus pandemic at the same time and you have the makings for a real stomach churner.

I suppose the insidious rise of extreme ideologies in multiple nations around the world touting white supremacy or fear of any diversity at all could be the icing on this growing mess of craziness.

The scourge of social media platforms enhancing the idiocy and ignorance could be viewed as the sprinkles on that icing.

Might there be an alternative route to love and enlightenment awaiting discovery by a collective of seekers?

It seems to me that a fair number of individuals find ways to grasp that golden ring, but can diverse populations of multiple nations ever make the bold leap en masse?

Cyndie and I practice an art of recovery from angst-producing situations that our horses helped to teach us by their ability to swiftly return to grazing calmly after a disturbance. When things appear to be spinning out of control, the vocalized phrase, “get back to grazing” helps us to put things in a healthier perspective.

It’s a way of paying heed to the bigger picture. Playing the long game.

Things might be out of control right now, but we don’t need to dwell in the worst of it all.

What I am wrestling with lately is the challenge of claiming my peace of mind in an immediate moment when so many others are enduring terrible suffering.

One alternate solution I experiment with is to fully embrace my good fortune of knowing infinite love, mindfully doing so in proxy for those who are not able.

To the innocents who have been unjustly confined, to those who have become prisoners of their own hate, to people who are victims of every manner of social injustices, I send love into the world in your honor.

It’s an alternate route that I dream someday might grow to become the main highway for all people of the world.

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Magnificent Days

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We are enjoying magnificent weather this week for the month of September, although in the back of my mind the very summery temperatures echo too well some of the anticipated ramifications of the warming planet.

No floods or fires in our region at the moment. Just high heat (80°F!) and evolving colors in the tree leaves.

Wandering down the backyard hill toward the opening to the labyrinth, the leaves are still primarily green. Beyond that, there are brilliant splashes of gold, orange, and red showing up with surprising speed.

Our growing season seems to be ever-lengthening, but the end of this summer’s agricultural period is undoubtedly near. The declining hours of daylight aren’t being altered by the changing climate and plants don’t grow so well in the dark.

On the bright side, I think my lawn mowing might be done for the year.

Yesterday morning at work I received a sweet text from Cyndie letting me know that she heard “Rocky the Roo'” making progress on learning how to crow. She said his call had a definite sing-song inflection that was recognizable as the vague hint toward the ultimate “cock-a-doodle-doo.”

I wonder if the magnificent weather days will be just as mesmerizing with non-stop echos of rooster crowing reverberating across our valley. We didn’t check with any of our neighbors about how they might feel about the prospect. At the same time, none of them have ever asked us if their gunshots, barking dogs, hollering for missing cats, or high RPM farm machinery soundtracks have been any problem for us.

I think it a feature, not a bug, of living in the country.

Where pretty much every day is magnificent, no matter what the sounds.

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