My wife Debra insisted this morning that I load up and watch with her a TED (Technology Entertainment Design) Talk that Al Gore made earlier this year, February 2016. Al explains why he is optimistic about addressing the climate crisis, if we all jump on board right now. The last few years I have watched hundreds of documentaries, including countless TED Talks, however this one is indeed special.
So call me loony, but with Debra, I did watch Al Gore’s latest TED presentation, 25 minutes, and I gained positivity:
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about this crisis? Please leave your comment at the end of this blog entry.
Yes, I know that I have brought up on this blog the worst case scenario more than once, to try to do my part in waking up a seemingly-hypnotized public. This year’s TED Talk by Al starts off with the updated reality of the catastrophe, and how we need to mobilize immediately. After this frightening wake-up call, the next two points he brings up are very, very positive, and I hope everyone watches his explanation.
I need Al’s dose of accurate optimism. Two things I am most concerned about:
First, scientists have known for a while that there is a 40-year lag between dumping carbon in the atmosphere, and the end result. In other words, the increased heat we are experiencing now came from the carbon that was released in about 1976. The worst carbon pollution, from the past few decades, has not yet had a chance to have its hellish consequences. If you would like to read more about this lag see: http://www.skepticalscience.com/Climate-Change-The-40-Year-Delay-Between-Cause-and-Effect.html
But second, my biggest worry, is that most of the general public does not seem to understand what a revolution in the sciences. Unfortunately there is no one word that sums up this paradigm shift, but some of the words for it are: complexity theory, emergence, the Butterfly effect, systems theory, nonlinearity, self-organizing, feedback, chaos theory, fractals, etc.
Even Aristotle lectured about this idea. With the advent of computers, scientists gathered clear evidence that self-organizing feedback loops are extremely significant and influential. Inital conditions, even very slight ones, may have enormous consequences. Many of us have heard of the “Butterfly effect.” I hope that you know that the Butterfly effect is literally true and has been shown to be correct by the evidence. Yes, the flap of a butterfly wing in Brazil can eventually lead to changing when and where even a tornado arrives in Texas. Of course it is impossible to predict which butterfly may influence which tornado.
You may read a quick summary of emergence theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence
You may read a brief description of Butterfly effect here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect
A nice article about Edward Lorenz, the professor who developed the Butterfly effect: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/422809/when-the-butterfly-effect-took-flight/
The logic behind the Butterfly effect is that when a feedback loop is altered, even incrementally, this can cascade into major changes. One of the most pessimistic thinkers about the climate crisis, author Guy McPherson, has identified dozens of feedback self-reinforcing loops that can be triggered and make the climate crisis worse, in a non-linear and chaotic way. This is the so-called runaway climate crisis that we are sometimes warned about. McPherson famously believes that it is already too late to stop.
My impression is that because dealing with the climate crisis involves such a dispute with business leaders, that scientists have focused on what is highly likely to happen, such as the approximate increase of sea level rise in the next few decades, etc.
However, for me, the most scary part is that if humanity continues to insufficiently address the climate crisis, more and more positive feedback loops can be triggered. Think about driving late at night on a highway near a cliff. You spot what might be black ice on the road, and it would be wise to stop business as usual. Unfortunately, it is as if humanity has spotted black ice and seems to be driving even faster. If our imagined vehicle does hit black ice, and we begin to spin toward the cliff, then this chaotic feedback loop may become all too plain, but by then we may be learning too late.
There is such a thing as too late
Back in 2012, I climbed a little ladder for our cat, Bongo, who was playing in our loft in my writer’s studio. For some reason, these steps were the only ones I had not put tread on. I slipped, fell, broke my neck and now I am in a power chair. Because of pre-existing conditions, I even have a few more disabilities.
My point is, that many of us with extreme disabilities recognize how even a moment can lead to massive loss. Humanity looks like it is climbing up a slippery ladder, but Al Gore is warning folks about that step, and appears to also bring us hope about a revolution of solutions. The Butterfly effect can work to our advantage, too. Even small actions for our Earth may lead to massive good change, we do not have control over that exact outcome, but we must take those actions.
For example, for about three decades I have meditated. Obviously there are a lot of disputes about the unknown, spirituality, etc. I realize that even something as a good, mindful breath can have a positive effect. Hey, that means we can all be revolutionaries with every breath! And if we ever needed to be revolutionaries, and find other revolutionaries, it is now.
Earlier I mentioned that I had brought up the worst case scenario involving climate crisis. If you would like to read about that rather frightening horror, I even invented a new word for it: Normalgeddon! Click on that word to learn more.
But if you watch only one thing, please watch the Al Gore TED Talk from this year, he has made a great follow-up to that earlier TED Talk.
Thanks Debra! She said about the talk, “Positive, realistic, and not b.s. There are things that each of us can do to help. It gave me the courage and conviction to take action today!” Heck, her action even led to this blog entry. You could say Debra was the butterfly today. Debra has complained to me about how some climate activists dwell on the negative. While I respect Guy McPherson, the worst case scenario would rely on triggering chaotic, unpredictable feedback loops. In other words, it ain’t over yet, Guy!
Other folks believe that something like nuclear power or geoengineering will be the main solution. However, as Al points out, even if problems with nukes are addressed, they are only a small part of the answer. For me, I agree with Al that we need to build global will, and will is a renewable resource. One of my renewable sources of will is my community, especially Debra.
So here is a free, two-and-a-half minute video, about the call a loon, we can actually sound pretty beautiful as we locate other loons, as I did 33 years ago when I first met my wonderful Debra:
Eight years ago, Al Gore gave a TED Talk about new ways of thinking about the climate crisis. Thanks, Al, for re-visiting this topic and pointing out hopeful solutions. You may watch his earlier TED Talk from 2008 here:
During this past Summer, I reflected on who my actual audience is. While contemporary readers are welcome, thanks, I believe we need to all be creating for an audience seven generations ahead. Currently, an estimate of how long a generation is about 25 years. Then next year, 2017, seven generations ahead will be the year 2192. That will be a memorable year. That is also the 700th anniversary of the European invasion of this hemisphere.
Let us all take action now so that there is an audience in 2192! Thanks Al Gore for this optimism revolution, maybe there will indeed be an audience.
So are you positive or negative about our future? Will there be a healthy, positive generation in 2192? Leave your comment on this blog entry below, thanks!