Friday, January 20, 2006

Anecdotal Evidence

earth out of balance
beautiful as it is now
there's hidden danger

point of no return
gaia's author breaks the news
predictably bleak

in a hundred years
for hundred thousand more, what
life on fevered earth

butterflies have warned
permafrosts melt, like glaciers
the new disappeared

osama speaks out
his warning much weightier
than a butterfly's

I had entirely different post about this ready, which now comes after this photo. But I really wanted to sum up my experience in haiku after reading the following material.
We've noticed reading some of our favorite blogs that winter just isn't behaving like winter this year. No snow. Too dry. Too warm. Things blooming early. Bees out looking for nectar in January.

These are all anecdotes of something, but what? What does one unseasonably warm winter mean? Should we extrapolate from these stories to something about global warming? We've seen enough weird winters to just shrug it off, chalk it up to just one of those things and forget about it. Is any of this news?

On Thursday, an Osama bin Laden tape was released, and we were reminded of the terrorist who pulls every string on the planet. Of course, that must be news. Right? Osama bin Laden spoke. We must listen. Maybe even be coaxed to give up our rights. Live in a state of perpetual fear. But on Thursday we also read a piece by David Ignatius in the Washington Post that asked a different question about news:

"One of the puzzles if you're in the news business is figuring out what's 'news.' The fate of your local football team certainly fits the definition. So does a plane crash or a brutal murder. But how about changes in the migratory patterns of butterflies?

Scientists believe that new habitats for butterflies are early effects of global climate change - but that isn't news, by most people's measure. Neither is declining rainfall in the Amazon, or thinner ice in the Arctic. We can't see these changes in our personal lives, and in that sense, they are abstractions. So they don't grab us the way a plane crash would - even though they may be harbingers of a catastrophe that could, quite literally, alter the fundamentals of life on the planet. And because they're not 'news,'the environmental changes don't prompt action, at least not in the United States."
We are living in a time of great ecological and environmental change. Some have suggested that the damage we have inflicted on the planet has finally gone too far, and we have reached the point of no return. We may in fact be staring at the beginning of the end of civilization, as we know it. Steven Tindale from Greenpeace said, "The earth may be doomed. Certainly the news from the natural world over the last year has been unremittingly bad: the oceans acidifying and less able to absorb carbon; the permafrost melting and giving up its methane ... All these things suggest that the positive feedbacks may have kicked in; we may have crossed the threshold." Yet, somehow, this information is not alarming enough to get any real news coverage. How that is possible, I really don't know.
David Ignatius wrote,

"So many of the things that pass for news don't matter in any ultimate sense. But if people are right, we are all but ignoring the biggest story in the history of humankind. Kolbert, from the NY Times concluded her series last year with this shattering thought: 'It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.' She's right. The failure of the United States to get serious about climate change is unforgivable, a human folly beyond imagining."
But wait. There was an Osama bin Laden tape released on Thursday. The news people can't really be expected to talk about butterflies, can they?

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