While I don’t remember the exact wording, the complaint generally goes something like this: “The reason I don’t buy this global warming crap is that EVERYTHING can be blamed on it. Big storm? Global warming. Drought? Global warming. Plague? Global warming. Bad breath? Global warming. It’s overdone – it’s not believable.”
It’s one of those that sounds kind of reasonable on the surface. Global warming sounds like the perfect issue to use to hammer all your conservative friends with when they don’t support action on it. “You didn’t vote for action on global warming, and NOW look – California’s on fire!”
So, let me break this down a little, and if you’re a conservative, and you think I’m just going to rant about how the knot between my shoulder blades is due to global warming, bear with me a minute here. This is a bit of a history lesson, but there’s a purpose to it.
Human history and human culture have both been shaped by a number of things, and a lot of it can be traced back to food and water. In the deserts of Timbuktu, there is a tradition that if someone -anyone – comes by your tent, you offer them tea. A news team went out there to do a story on the salt mines, and ran across to salt traders who invited them in for tea, and then one of them took off into the desert on a camel with a bunch of empty canteens – they had used the last of their water to give tea to the crew (without the crew asking) and he was going off a couple miles into the desert to get more at a spot he was pretty sure would have some. There wasn’t debate on whether this would be done, it was tradition.
Christmas is another example (and I’ll tie these together soon, I promise), at least as it’s celebrated in the northern hemisphere. We’re not actually sure when Jesus was born, but we ARE pretty sure that it wasn’t December 25th. The celebration, however, got merged with pagan midwinter celebrations. The lights, the celebration, even a lot of the carols harken back to that connection:
When Christmas’s tide comes in like a bride
In holly and ivy clad
Twelve days of the year, much mirth and good cheer
In every household is had
The country guise is then to devise
Some gambols of Christmas play
Whereat the young men do the best that they can
To drive the cold winter away.
That last line says a lot – it’s a reference to the old English tradition of holding a great festival of lights and fire to call the spring with heat, and to drive the winter away, and it was held that it was very important to do so. “Oh, do not tell the priest our plight, Or he would call it a sin; But – we have been in the woods all night, A-conjuring summer in!”
Take Easter – eggs and rabbits have nothing to do with the Resurrection, they’re all about fertility.
The list goes on and on, and then you come to phrases like “there’s lots of good fish in the sea”, and strawberry festivals, and traditions like eating a turkey on Thanksgiving, or the stories of Paul Bunyan.
What’s the common thread here? Climate. Climate is the air we breath. In some parts of the world it’s hot and dry, others, hot and moist, others it’s cold and dry, others it’s generally dusty. How about the water we drink? Is it so precious to us that we take it as a matter of course to offer it to any guests, because someday WE might be in need of water ourselves? So precious that we don’t even THINK about not offering a drink to strangers? It’s not in my culture, because there’s lots of water around. In my culture we have a great festival of lights in the middle of winter.
How about turkeys on Thanksgiving? That’s a climate-related tradition if ever there was one. There aren’t any turkeys in most of the world, but there were when settlers arrived in New England.
Look at our alcohol: We get wines from the Mediterranean, and beers from England and Western Europe, Russia is famous for Vodka, Ireland and Scotland for Whiskey, Mexico for Tequila, Japan makes rice wine, the American southwest has perfected corn-based whiskey from an old tradition of moonshining.
All of this depends on climate. Our climate determines what foods are available, how much water we drink, what the shape of our society looks like, when we hold celebrations, what actions we revere, what we consider to be strengths and weaknesses in our fellow humans, what our houses look like, what our transportation looks like (how about dogs for transportation – think you’ll see that in Ecuador?), whether we have root cellars, what clothes we think are stylish or traditional, what livestock we value, what stories we tell our children. Climate is involved in everything we interact with in our existence on this planet, and it is everywhere on this planet
And this planet’s climate is changing. This isn’t just “climate change”, it is global climate change. That means that the climate is changing in every portion of the planet, and THAT means that every aspect of the world in which our civilizations and cultures have formed is also changing. Bigger storms, hotter heat waves, wetter floods, drier droughts – all of this is forecast, and accurately so, but the thing that can be hard to wrap our heads around, in this age of technology where we are divorced and detached from the land our food grows on, and we can get around so many problems presented to us by the world, is that at the root of it all, our entire existence is centered on the planetary climate.
I don’t think morning breath can directly be blamed on climate change, but when you keep hearing about how climate change is responsible for this, that, and the other thing, keep all this in mind. Think of it as someone turning a table over – you cannot reasonably expect all, or even any of the articles on the table to simply hover where they were as their support is removed and flipped over.
Sometimes it will be subtle, sometimes it won’t, but the climate is changing, and that means everything anyone on this planet has ever experienced is also changing.