May 15, 2011

Mississippi You’re on my Mind

When you grow up in Minnesota you learn how to spell Mississippi when you’re about 4 years old. It’s almost onomatopoetic. If you’re really a lucky little kid, you get to walk across it at it’s headwaters; Lake Itasca.  Now, the Mississippi is in the news daily. She’s on a rampage. Mark Twain had it right when he said:

“The Mississippi River will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise”.

Oh, trust me, the engineers will keep trying to control Nature. It’s their job to propose more dams and levies, they make their living at it.  Some find it exciting to blow them up or manipulate the floodgates, all part of a grand experiment to test their ingenious creations. One day, human beings may learn that all of our, engineering prowess, technological marvels and clever interventions clearly can’t contain something that was born to be wild. The desire to control the uncontrollable is a fascinating trait of our species.

Headwaters of the Mississippi

Isn’t it a little like a parent raising a child  Just when the parent devises a clever method to control  the little critter, everything shifts; the child changes and all the old strategies and tactics are hopelessly defeated.

Nature presents an ever changing landscape, and our best attempts to control her are similarly rendered ineffective.

Check out these comparative images from NASA’s Earth observatory, before the flood and now.

We're over our heads in denial

Now, we humans are being faced with a rapidly changing climate.  it’s a whole new ballgame with unpredictable weather patterns and violent outbursts arising arising at an alarming rate. Do we have the sober maturity as a species to accept responsibility for our role in this dynamic process of climate change?

I often like to soften the pain of facing what we’re all doing to the Earth with a little music, so here is Jesse Winchester’s classic song for your listening pleasure. Wish there was a better version on You Tube.

Sing along with the words below. His lyrics paint a languid mood, notice their irony for today and allow yourself to imagine how this drowsy pace of life is being disrupted by the damage and destruction these floods are causing.

See if you can feel compassion for the unfortunate souls whose lives have been terribly affected… Now for the tough question: Is my caring and compassion strong enough to change my behavior? When I come face to face with the environmental damage being done to support my comfortable life style?  Does my acceptance of anthropogenic climate change  inspire me to take action in my life, my community or the world at large?

Mississippi, You’re On My Mind

I think I see a wagon rutted road
With the weeds growing tall between the tracks
And along one side runs a rusty barbed wire fence
And beyond that sits an old tar paper shack

Mississippi you’re on my mind
Mississippi you’re on my mind
Oh, Mississippi you’re on my mind

I think I hear a noisy old John Deere
In a field specked with dirty cotton lint
And below the field runs a shady little creek
And there you’ll find the cool green leaves of mint

Mississippi you’re on my mind
Mississippi you’re on my mind
Oh, Mississippi you’re on my mind

I think I smell the honeysuckle vine
The heavy sweetness like to make me sick
And the dogs, my God, they’re hungry all the time
And the snakes are sleeping where the weeds are thick

Mississippi you’re on my mind
Mississippi you’re on my mind
Oh, Mississippi you’re on my mind

I think I feel an angry oven heat
The Southern Sun just blazes in the sky
In the dusty weeds a fat grasshopper jumps
I want to make it to that creek before I fry

Mississippi you’re on my mind
Mississippi you’re on my mind
Oh, Mississippi you’re on my mind

©1974 Jesse Winchester
From the LP “Learn To Love It”

What’s on my mind today is the lack of focus on the relationship between weather events and climate change. Have you heard any main stream media ask the most important question we need to face? Granted, it’s not easy to make a direct connection that climate change is the source of individual outbursts of strange, super volatile weather events, but isn’t it time we began to connect some dots? As my friend and colleague John P. Milton put it:

“It appears humans have an innate capacity to ignore fundamental ecological truths”.

He should know, as a professional ecologist, way back in 1963, he edited a publication for the Conservation Foundation summarizing the proceedings of a scientific gathering including Roger Revelle entitled “The Global Implications of rising Carbon Dioxide in the Biosphere.”

During the past months, rainfall in the upper Mississippi Valley has been 4 times greater than normal, not to mention an abundance of violent storms and tornadoes. With more Carbon Dioxide and other green house gasses in the atmosphere, now approaching 4oo parts per million, the warmer air has a greater capacity to hold water molecules, hence, we get torrential rain storms.

Is it possible these copious quantities of rain and the violent storms are directly related to air pollution and greenhouse gases!? Is it too difficult to see a connection? Isn’t this where a Buddhist approach can enter the equation? Isn’t it time to make a reasonable effort to look for causal relationships?  Seeking to understand root causes would be a really great idea just about now, rather than focusing all of our media attention on the sensational drama and trauma of these “isolated” incidents!

Climate scientists and policy makers knew way back in the late 1950’s our obsession with burning fossil fuels would lead to serious problems down the road. Well, we’re down the road alright. Think about the deluge down under in Australia affecting 715,000 square miles (an area larger than France and Germany combined); think 300,000 square miles of Pakistan under water for a month or more displacing 20 million people. These “incidents” were dismissed in the media news and weather reports by a one liner: “unusually heavy monsoons”.

dismissed as "unusually heavy monsoons"

This article actually does connect some dots. It needs to move from the Grist List to the front page of the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune – then, perhaps we won’t all drown in ignorance, or be hoodwinked by climate change deniers in the halls of congress or the board rooms of coal, oil and gas companies. With so many clean energy options simply begging for politicians and policy makers to support and implement, it’s simultaneously sad, and tragic not to take action.

The good news is that kids get it and they represent the Generation Waking UP! Recently several hundred hardy souls braved the damp and cold to march two miles in downtown Denver to demand that adults acknowledge that the lives of young people matter. This march was one of more than 135 similar marches all over the world.  Here is the founder of the iMatter March at age 16 carrying a powerful message to the ruling class of adults. He embodies clarity and determination:

Here are a few of his legions communicating a very clear message:

The iMatter March in Denver

Ironically, as the founder of the iMatter March, Alec Loorz, was speaking to the crowd in Denver, a dirty coal train rumbled by on the nearby tracks. Delivering it’s load to a polluting, investor owned, XCEL electrical generating plant.

XCEL COAL TRAIN - not exactly "Responsible by Nature" as their ads tout!

And here is Alec Loorz, wearing one of his favorite quotable T-Shirts. Alec is gaining the awareness that we must move beyond a revolution in our energy policies and practices, he recognizes the need for a transformation of human consciousness and spirit. In the meantime, he admires Jefferson’s wisdom!

"Every Generation Needs a Revolution" - Thomas Jefferson

Onward with Courage

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