Unnerved

Here are some words you really don’t ever want to see put together in a single sentence:

“Arctic Melt Unnerves the Experts”
They go particularly unlooked for as a newspaper headline, which is how they unfortunately presented themselves to me during yesterday’s ritual morning rummage through the New York Times, that laughably absurd exercise in ambulatory unconsciousness in which my desperately sleep-impaired visual cortex sees all the pretty pictures and fun little words swimming around on the page but can make zero sense of them until I fill the 5-gallon sap bucket that passes for my coffee mug full of high-test fair-trade shade-grown organic java and slam its contents into my bloodstream like a howling freight train from Stimulant Hell that makes my nerve endings scream for mercy like the chemically electrified victims of hyper-caffeination they’ve quite thankfully suddenly become.

But you know, you see a headline like that and suddenly you don’t need your body-weight in Costa Rican Reserve to get within a striking distance of competent mental functioning. No sir. Words like that all put together in a neat little row are like a defibrillator for your head. Clear! Gzzzzzt! Good morning, overheated world…

“Arctic Melt.” Well, gee. Gosh. Hello. That’s sort of troubling. Wouldn’t you say? Don’t you think? “Arctic,” after all, is Human for “profound cold beyond all imagining punctuated by snow and wind and ice and scary frigid blue glacial chunks the size of small South American countries all forever frozen like that ten year-old popsicle of a now indeterminate flavor sitting in the bottom of your freezer pretending it’s some disturbingly mummified member of the Franklin Expedition. And what ever happened to those guys anyway?” The Arctic happened to them, that’s what. An unholy ice cube of permanently cryogenic biblical proportions and then some so deep and dark and deathly frostbitten at all times that it swallowed up entire fleets of mighty ships sent to find (ha!) an ice-free passage to the Pacific that actually hadn’t existed for a least a thousand centuries.

Until this year, that is. When lo, it opened up like a big white lotus flower floating on a suddenly no longer frozen sea. And apparently the polar bears aren’t the only ones quite completely freaked out by the inexplicable appearance of water where there used to be an eternal blanket of never-ending ice thick enough to park a continent on.

No. The experts are unnerved as well. And quite frankly that’s a little unnerving. Because the experts are the Ones Who Know. Only now they don’t. At all. They’re sitting there just as wide-eyed as the rest of us are upon finding out that the mythical Northwest Passage isn’t nearly as mythical as it used to be. Beats us, they say scratching their heads and looking quizzically and very much confusedly at their gorgeous full-colored graphs and futuristic satellite photos that could see the hair on the head of a badly frightened sea lion searching frantically for an ice floe. Nope, they say. Never saw it coming. Quite the surprise, really.

Which is the thing to take home from that little headline. The thing to wrap up in purple velveteen, tie with a nice raffia bow, carry to the gate, and present to Momma on the occasion of her much anticipated release from the federal penal system. The experts are unnerved.

And so am I. Because Unnerved Experts are the official indicator that we have entered wholly uncharted territory. That every day is about to become a who-knows-what adventure and not in a good way that comes with its own crumpled bag full of souvenir snow globes and goofy foam rubber lobster claws and the kids napping in the back of the jalopy as you pull over for some Tums at the truck stop before hitting the beach because those boysenberry pancakes you woke up to at HoJos are coming back to haunt like the gastrointestinal ghost of breakfast past. No. Unnerved Experts are the sign that we need to get real serious real fast. They are the commercial break that says “we’ll be right back with more from the Four Horsemen…”

If there was ever a case to be made for Precaution, this is it. Because we have powered up the Frialator and are now dropping the planet in for supper. It might float. Sure. It might. It could. Maybe. Or it might sink and blister and warp and peel and turn all black and smoking crispy and become entirely incapable of supporting even so much as a single cockroach. Or maybe something in between. The Unnerved Experts have no idea. They are clueless and lining up at the MIT bursars office to ask for their money back. So nobody knows. But we do know that either way the stakes are so big we can label them the Fate of All Life on Earth and call it a day and isn’t that really what the Precautionary Principle is all about? Backing away from the deep fryer when it’s not entirely clear whether you’re gonna come up with a delicious plate of haddock and chips or a smoldering platter of uh-oh and oops.

Which is why it was good to see Jeffrey in handcuffs the other day. Because it appears we have to make some noise on this one. A big racket and real soon, too. Because c’mon… even the Experts are now Officially Unnerved, and I am unnerved and concerned by the fact that not enough people are as unnerved and concerned about the Experts being unnerved and concerned as I am. There is a very clear message here and it does not seem to be penetrating the collective cranial cavity as quickly as it needs to. I was foolishly thinking quite hopefully and innocently in what was apparently an overwhelming miasma of stunning naiveté that once it became clear the Experts were unnerved that we would all sort of come to our senses and act like we had a survival instinct and cared about our kids and, you know, tomorrow and all, and so would quite naturally and willingly ask what can we do to hit the breaks quick on this whole wacky carbon thing that we can’t be completely sure about but have a sneaking suspicion is gonna suck like a shop-vac on steroids. Silly me. I thought that we would cool our collective jets once we all saw the Goracle’s movie and the pictures of the weirdly thawing un-permafrost and watched the weather forecast calling for sunscreen in January and heard all the scientists who weren’t on Exxon-Mobil’s payroll screaming in unprecedented unison that the atmosphere was going haywire and they were quickly becoming Quite Unnerved. That’s what I thought anyway. But boy was I wrong.

‘Cause they be fiddling like the suicidal mad men we have no choice but to now assume they are down there D.C. And that’s where it counts. Because you can change all the light bulbs in the world but if your government thinks global warming is a badly written piece of pulp fiction from Michael Crichton and has its head stuck in some kind of intellectual Jurassic dark, the change you were hoping to achieve ain’t gonna come and the Experts will remain all very much Unnerved. Like I am myself sitting here in Vermont on October 3rd and the forecast is calling for 80 degrees by Friday and the basil is still growing and the tomatoes haven’t stopped and there isn’t a frost in sight and that’s great if you want a fresh salad but maybe not so wonderful if you want to live on a planet whose meteorology hasn’t been tossed along with 600 million years of irreplaceable natural history into a blender set on “Pulverize.” Hey Jeffrey! Save me a place on the front lines. I’ll be there just as soon as I can finish putting all my screens back in…

Big Think

See…this is what I’m talking about. This is what I meant in my post of the other day. We gotta think big and we gotta think outside the box. That’s how we’re going to get where we need to go with this whole wacky climate crisis thing. Screwing in a couple of compact fluorescents and making our next car a Prius, while good and necessary and satisfying and righteous, aren’t going to cut the melt-down mustard. Not meaningfully. Not ultimately. Not when anybody who knows anything about climate and atmospheric science says we need a 90% reduction in global carbon output in the next 20 years tops or we’re toast. For that we need to dream and scheme and not just think outside the box but take the box out behind the barn, smash it to splinters, and torch whatever’s left.

We need big thinking. Huge ideas. Like Ausra’s. Think of it. Ohmigod it’s glorious. It shines and beckons like a heated swimming pool in January surrounded by scantily-clad supermodels in the gender of your choice and filled with 25-year old single malt scotch. It makes me quiver in ways and places that are illegal if not at least frowned upon in certain jurisdictions below the Mason-Dixon line. Virtually every single kilowatt hour every single man, woman and child in the entire U.S. of A could possibly need to do every single thing they want to do from watch Admiral Adama find Earth on 60″ of pure plasma glory to make blueberry scones for breakfast, all produced without emitting so much as a single atom of carbon using little more than bunch of mirrors on a forsaken slice of desert scrub just 92 miles square, a plot of land that represents a mere 10% of all the Bureau of Land Management holdings in just Nevada, upon which would happily and sustainably sit (and this is the best and most uncontrollable giggle-inducing part) technology we’ve got today.

What? Are we dreaming? You bet. And this is what happens when we do. We find solutions. We open the bottomless well of human ingenuity and use the limitless creativity we find there to invent cool stuff that does good things that need to be done. We solve problems, like how to store solar heat efficiently enough to power the entire freakin’ country pollution-free on a forsaken slice of desert scrub just 92 miles square. Make it a few miles more square and we can all drive electric cars that we plug into our garage sockets at night. Whoppee! Let’s all go for a nice long drive to wherever whenever. All of us. You, me, and that schmuck driving a Hummer to get his morning cup of bad corporate coffee. Now we’re cooking with gas. Or not, as the case may of course be.

What are we waiting for? Are we stoopid? Insane? Suicidal lemmings being led by the oil cartels and the Exxon-Mobils at their teats over the edge of the onrushing petro-soaked cliffs of doom? Just what is the deal here? Sure, it’s gonna cost a little dough. What that is worthwhile doesn’t? But we can afford it. Or maybe it’s that we can’t afford not to. Either way, if we can find the cash to fund a sad and senseless misbegotten war launched for no reasons whatsoever except maybe some weird pathology a White House psychiatric team could uncover if they had a few years and weren’t afraid to be left alone at the Naval Observatory with Darth Vader, surely we can all chip in to save the entire world and the future of humanity itself. What’s that worth to you, Mr President?