Thursday, January 22, 2009

Musings: The Real Revolution

The world was devoid of color, except grey, and green, of course, when Koko and I went walking in that dull stretch between night and dawn. But just about the time we crested the hill and ran into my neighbor Andy, who recently had knee surgery, everything turned soft pink in anticipation of the sunrise.

And then orange streaks flashed out above the crimped slopes of the fluff-topped mountains and something I’d never seen before appeared in the sky that had the color and shape of a rainbow, but the texture of clouds. It never ceases to amaze me that if you just look and pay attention, you’ll always see something different, even in familiar scenes.

It didn’t take Andy and me long to dispense with pleasantries — “How is your knee?” “Better.” — and get down to talking politics.

‘You’re always going to be disappointed,” Andy said, “because you’re never going to get the world you want. Maybe you need to lower your expectations.”

I’ll admit I’m an idealist; I really do believe it’s possible for people to live cooperatively, without violence, and in harmony with nature, although I don’t have any expectations of seeing that happen in my lifetime.

Still, isn’t there’s something to be said for setting the bar high?

Yes, Andy said, but while we still have a long way to go, let’s not forget that things have been improving.

While Koko appreciates Andy’s head scratches and dog biscuits, I appreciate his historical perspective, and today he talked about the many ways the U.S. has changed since the last time it was united, which was around the intense patriotism that accompanied WWII and the post-war years.

It was good that people began to challenge the blind obedience to government that such patriotism inspired, he said, and the resulting upheaval in the ‘60s is still playing out today. Conditions in the U.S. have changed dramatically in the last 40 years, he said, and generally for the better.

He doesn’t believe there’s widespread disillusionment and disenchantment in the nation, and Obama’s election, and the response to it, is evidence of that. People, Andy said, are generally pretty satisfied and content.

Perhaps a recognition of that is what prompted Katie Rose to state in her blog yesterday: “You want Zapatismo? You gotta have a viable revolutionary movement first. And like it or not, we're a long way from that right now.”

Still, political and social change are possible without a full-on revolution. My sister who lives in Colorado said that many of the groups that formed there as Progressive Democrats to get Obama elected have decided to stay together and continue their work as activists. And in a right-wing state like Colorado, that’s a good thing.

Meanwhile, when you look at what’s happening in the real world, the natural world, as opposed to the contrived and artificial world of politics, that’s where the real revolution is under way.

At the risk of being accused of engaging in apocalyptic fetishism, to borrow Katy's phrase, I can’t help but notice that some serious, largely irrevocable shifts are under way that promise to affect all our lives — especially us Island dwellers — more deeply than any man in the White House ever could.

Reuters reported that a massive Antartic ice shelf is poised to collapse due to global warming:

Loss of ice shelves does not raise sea levels significantly because the ice is floating and already mostly submerged by the ocean. But the big worry is that their loss will allow ice sheets on land to move faster, adding extra water to the seas. The U.N. Climate Panel, of which [glaciologist David] Vaughan is a senior member, projected in 2007 that world sea levels were likely to rise by between 18 and 59 cm (7 and 23 inches) this century.

But it did not factor in any possible acceleration of ice loss from Antarctica. Even a small change in the rate could affect sea levels, and Antarctica's ice sheets contain enough water in total to raise world sea levels by 57 meters.

So is anybody noticing? Well, Jan over at Raising Islands has culled the bits of Obama’s speech that speak to global warming and related concerns. And he had an excellent column earlier this month on Hawaii’s non-response to the threat of rising sea levels.

A friend also sent me a link to a story on how a marine expedition off Tasmania had found new life forms previously not described in the scientific literature — and also that most reef-forming coral deeper than 4,200 feet in the area was newly dead.

"It is terrifying that even the deepest and most remote places on the planet, corals found more than a kilometer under the surface of the ocean are showing signs of stress and may have been killed by climate change," she [marine biologist Ghislaine Llewellyn, program manager of the Oceans division at the World Wildlife Fund in Australia] said.

Quietly, largely out of sight and unnoticed, the revolutionary forces gather.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of change, Barack Hussein Obama looks different than the previous 43 presidents. How many presidents spent their formative years in Hawaii and Indonesia?

Anonymous said...

i hope the sky does not start falling 24/7 like on island breath

Anonymous said...

Looks to me we have one chance at this. We lost 8 years under the Bushwhacker Admin. Time we couldn't afford to lose.
We really need to move ahead on being self-sustaining. The one tremendous asset we have is not being physically connected to america.
Obama is usa's last chance