Friday, 7 December 2012

Climate Change? What Climate Change?

So here we are again. And yet another international conference (In Doha) on climate change destined to end in futility. It began with the rep from The Philippines pleading for action to ‘stop climate change’.  But who on earth can do that? Like death, climate change is inevitable.


Life has changed quite dramatically since the first ‘Earth Summit’ in Brazil in 1992.  At that time the stance of the industrialized world was clearly that ‘our way of life is not up for negotiation’.  In 2003 and 2006 unprecedented heat waves in Europe killed thousands. In 2004, three years after a partial endorsement of the Kyoto protocol, a major tsunami in the Indian Ocean killed 300,000 people. 2005 brought Hurricane Katrina.

In January 2010 Haiti suffered an earthquake of catastrophic magnitude; the death toll was estimated to have reached at least 250,000. In March Chile’s quake measuring 8.8 was said to be the 6th largest ever recorded by a seismograph; in April that year an eruption in China measured 7.4. In 2011 the Japanese tsunami triggered a meltdown of nuclear power plants. Natural disasters have engulfed countries in South America, on the Indian Sub-continent and sub-Saharan Africa, many not widely reported by Western media.
But October 29th 2012 will turn out to be a significant date in the lexicon of climate change. This was the day a visitation of shock and awe literally rained down on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States of America.  Hurricane Sandy hit at the very heart of the most advanced nation in the world, one which in the main has inflexibly turned its face against the notion of global warming/climate change.

Sandy now renamed ‘Frankenstorm’ because of its sheer size, spanned 1000 miles, with a potential storm surge that threatened 60 million people. The storm, the worst to hit the area in a generation, exposed the vulnerability of communities and Western countries, even with their early warning systems, unprepared for the increasingly furious venting of Mother Nature. Climate experts warn those of us who live in the affluent West to expect more of these kinds of storms followed by flooding.

Since the Brazil summit, we have had several warnings plus some direct hits, but we seem to remain impervious to our experiences. The ravages of climate change do not discriminate in terms of race and social global elite and the rest. It touches the accumulators and the dispossessed; innocent as well as the guilty; the richness of Hollywood and the NewOrleans; the sophistication of the Western world as well as the simplicity of parts of Africa and the Indian Sub-continent.

Recurring experience shows that we are becoming more and more vulnerable to extreme weather conditions where structures constructed as ‘defence’ cannot withstand the forces of Mother Nature or ‘acts of god’. All we need to know is that when erratic, unprecedented and adverse weather patterns not only wreak havoc on far off communities around the world but begin to arrive with increasing frequency on our own doorstop, then something is going on; something which constitutes a threat to our livelihood and wellbeing.
           
Terrance O’Connor, a psychiatric social worker, relates a story perhaps apocryphal, about an incident that occurred in psychiatrist Frieda Reichmann-Fromm’s practice in Germany. A patient who presented with numerous and irrational fears was successfully treated after three years. A few weeks after the treatment ended, the patient, a young Jewish woman, was picked up by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp.[1] We do not need experts to tell us that something in our atmosphere is poisonous and not conducive to wellbeing; that something is going on within our lives, in the world and with the earth that is not in our long term best interest, we know, we feel it in our bones.

A ‘perfect storm’ is an expression used to describe an event where a rare combination of circumstances will drastically aggravate a situation. In spite of the unprecedented circumstances that turned Sandy into a devastating destroyer, the ‘perfect storm’ or ‘the fire next time’ is still to come.


[1] Terrance O’Connor, Therapy for a Dying Planet, IN Roszak et al’s Ecopsychology




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