Archive for April, 2017

Eppur si riscalda

April 23, 2017

Yesterday I joined Santa Barbara’s March for Science.

I don’t understand activism. I don’t see what difference this will make. I live in a state which already voted Democratic, in a Congressional District that is Democratic, my state senate district is Democratic. If I march, whose mind could I change? What difference will it make? To do nothing is unthinkable, but I see no legal options which can be effective.

The march began with speeches. Again I don’t understand why. What’s the point of preaching to the choir? The people who need to listen won’t hear. I don’t understand.

For me the essential issue is the Trump administration’s stance on climate change. Climate change is an existential problem. If not dealt with our civilization and possibly our species will be destroyed. Other people were more concerned about funding for science, education, the arts. I’m all for such funding, but I guess I’m more concerned about keeping the species alive.

The staging area did not seem to hold very many people, but when we actually lined up to march up State St. I could see that there were well over 1000 people. I thought maybe 2000. Noozhawk estimates 3000, and they are probably better at making such estimates than I. It seemed like a lot, but it’s only 1~2% of the region’s population. Sadly small in that light.

There were lots of cute slogans, and the other marchers seemed joyful. I was depressed. I did see one sign which expressed my feelings — it read, essentially:
“I shouldn’t have to be here”
I concur. Why are people in my government not paying attention to common sense? Why don’t they look at evidence? I shouldn’t have to be complaining about such basic incompetence.

This is the same fight Galileo fought against the Church, that Scopes fought against Tennessee. How can we still be making the same mistake?

People chanted “This is what Democracy looks like.” I’ve heard that at other times when I’ve marched. What I felt was “This is what impotence looks like.” We can’t effect real change, but we can march. I was reminded of Tom Lehrer’s comment in The Folk Song Army “But, the nicest thing about a protest song is that it makes you feel so good.” I felt we were deluding ourselves into feeling good.

But I’m not only depressed because I feel incapable of changing the government’s policies. I’m depressed because I feel that it is now too late for any policies to address climate change. Basically all scenarios envisioned by the IPCC for staying below 2°C now depend on science fiction technologies. Technologies we do not have, which we are not working to develop, and all mechanisms we can currently imagine are impractical.

The temperature is now up about 1°C and already we are going to kill off most coral reefs by the end of the decade even if the temperature rose no further. The loss of those ecosystems will lead to massive famine for people who fish them. Places with Mediterranean climates are burning up. The Sierra Nevadas lost ~80% of its trees in the last drought, and even so California got lucky, but the next drought will be worse. We may not be able to handle even 1°C of warming long term.

But we’ll get a lot more than that.

Climate change will lead to famine, and famine will probably lead to war (indeed, it already has), and war may well lead to nuclear war — especially with Trump in command.

One of my friends said to me in the march: “We have to be hopeful, for if this fails what will we tell our children?”

What indeed?