Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Musings: Teetering on the Edge

I took my friend Jan Ten’s advice and checked out the comet last night, after delighting in the crescent moon setting to the left of Jupiter in a clear, rosy sky. To borrow his phrase, it’s pretty darn cool!

If you’re like my neighbor Andy, who confessed he can only identify the moon in the night sky, here’s a neat little site that can help you find your bearings among all those brilliant specks in the blackness. The comet, known as 17P/Holmes and now the size of Jupiter, is in the constellation Perseus, near its brightest star.

You can see it with the naked eye, but binoculars dramatically improve the viewing. This is a good time to look for it, too, with the moon small and setting early.

Speaking of Jan, he posted an interesting piece of reportage about humankind’s far-reaching impacts on the world’s natural systems on his Raising Islands blog the other day. Although global warming gets most of the attention, it's only one part of this complex story.

Democracy Now! touched on that hot topic yesterday in its report on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit to Antartica, where temperatures are their highest in about 1,800 years.

The report included this quote from Ban Ki-Moon: "Again, I was told by the scientist that entire western Antarctica is now floating. This is one fifth of total continent, the size of this total continent. If it breaks up, the sea level may rise as much as 6 metres. 18 feet. This is very alarming."

Do you ever get the feeling that things are too far gone, that we’ve already reached the point of no return when it comes to humankind’s errant, self-centered ways and our ability to live comfortably on the home planet?

My own take on things is that all the models will prove to be inaccurate, and once the dominoes start falling in earnest, we’ll see the collapses occur exponentially faster than the scientists — and certainly the policy makers — expected.

I always get a giggle when I hear people talk about saving Kauai or saving the Earth. Both, I’m pretty certain, will endure. It’s our own sorry asses we need to worry about — and all the other critters we’re taking down with us.

Yet still I remain cheerful. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, I have food in my stomach and a roof over my head. After years of languishing in despair over the state of the world and the brutishness of man, I’ve emerged into a place of calm by doing my best to be in the moment.

And that’s not the same as living like there’s no tomorrow.

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