"To be too certain of anything is the beginning of bigotry." -- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Friday, September 15, 2017

What's Important?

     I've taken several trips lately, spending a lot of time behind the wheel of my car, which has offered me plenty of time to think about things.

     Given the news, it's hard not to think about the current political turmoil. But the fact is, political turmoil has been with us for our entire history, so what's going on today is nothing out of the ordinary, nothing particularly threatening. Things were much more fractious in the mid-1800s, in the 1930s, even in the 1960s.

    So why do we think we're so divided when we all (or most of us) get along just fine with our neighbors, and local politics is generally boring and run-of-the mill? If you watch the TV news, you are bombarded with controversy, because controversy is what drives ratings. The news loves controversy, encourages controversy, and will manufacture controversy if it doesn't already exist. But most of what's in the news is not important -- political maneuvering, celebrity posturing, sports competitions. The news -- and those who influence the news -- know that if you want to get attention, you start an argument.

How can you argue with that?
     But if we step back -- well, I'm in my car, so I'm only stepping back figuratively speaking -- I think we should focus not on the ephemeral news, but on what's most important. And by my measure, what should most concern us is what is most likely to kill us. Here, by my sights, are two of the threats in our current social climate that are near the top (along with a postscript). I'll save the most deadly issue for next time (with another postscript).

     We've just suffered two major hurricanes. Now we all know there is no direct link between global warming and any particular storm. But come on. It doesn't take a genius to connect the dots.

     My house is 300 feet above sea level, so I won't be directly affected by the rising waters caused by global warming. But the heat waves, crop failures, wildfires and increasingly violent storms might kill my children or grandchildren.

     If you're not sufficiently scared about the problem take a look at The Uninhabitable Earth, which paints a horrifying picture of what is already happening. The piece also confronts some frightening issues of the future, including the possibility that deadly bugs and bacteria trapped in the Arctic ice will be unleashed on humankind as the ice slowly melts.

     This view might be an exaggeration . . . I hope it is! But as I say to climate-change deniers: If the global warmists are wrong, the costs are minimal. All we lose are a few coal mines, and we get cleaner air in the process. But if you deniers are wrong . . . our grandchildren will drown, burn, starve and suffocate to death.

     Don't you think that the news -- and our politicians -- should be more concerned about global warming than they are about who's insulted by Donald Trump's latest tweet, who's riding on the presidential plane . . . or who is coming or going on DWTS?

     The other existential danger that we face has been in the news lately, but the issue now seems to be treated more like business-as-usual. Another incident occurred just yesterday. North Korea. Its leadership is flexing its nuclear muscles, testing atomic bombs, launching missiles over Japan.

     But North Korea is not the only nuclear threat. Remember the arguments over a potentially nuclear Iran? President Obama negotiated a treaty. We can only hope that the Iranians are honoring their part of the agreement, and that President Trump will hold up our end of the bargain.

     There's also Pakistan, another nuclear power. Pakistan is not exactly the most stable country in the world. Then there's the possibility that Islamists or some other rogue group will get their hands on a nuclear weapon and set it off in a major city. Maybe even before global warming will kill us, we will be exterminated in a nuclear holocaust. Of course, we've been living with threat this our whole lives. But just because it hasn't happened doesn't mean it can't happen.

     These are two big issues that we can't afford to ignore. I'll bring you the biggest, the deadliest, next time. But meanwhile, here's a postscript. According to The Week magazine, some 32,000 Americans die every year from falls. Guess which age group suffers the most?

     I don't know what the politicians can do about the problem. But there is something we can do. And you know what it is: Install grab bars in the bathroom. Get rid of throw rugs. Install more lighting on stairs and entrances. If the politicians can't keep us safe, at least we can do for ourselves.


Rian said...

"But just because it hasn't happened doesn't mean it can't happen." How true... Having grown up in New Orleans, we knew we'd be in trouble if New Orleans was ever a direct hit from a bad hurricane, but *it hadn't ever happened*(and we lived through many a hurricane). BUT THEN *it did*. That certainly changed my thinking forever.
Do I believe in global warming? Yes. Do I believe in climate change? Yes. Do I believe that we can do something about it? Maybe... it sure won't hurt to try... given the consequences if we could, and we didn't.
Now when it comes to thoughts of politics, nuclear war, racial unrest (including getting rid of all things relating to the South/Confederacy), and problems of our aging population, I agree that the last seems to be the only one we have any real upfront control over (IMO).

RI1 said...

I don't believe in Global Warming but I do believe in Climate Change. When the weather channel was discussing the severity of Hurricane Irma, they stated the last time a storm of this proportions hit was in 1925. So, that negated any thoughts I had about Global Warming. The weather changes and humongous storms have ALWAYS been around. Can we do something about it? I don't know for sure but it certainly helps. As least it clears up air pollution and water contamination.
As far as nuclear attack, nothing has changed for me because I remember the 'duck and cover' episodes we used to endure when I was a kid.
We've always lived under threats, terrorism and other calamities. I don't see it getting better. I just see us being better prepared, as in food storage, solar power, generators etc.
These past two weeks, I've been hit with two events that have forever changed my life and my mode of thinking:
1. Hurricane Irma was headed straight towards Sarasota, where I just bought a condo for $163,000 cash and $7,000 cash in closing fees and spent $8.500 to furnish it. All of that money and investment, regardless of insurance could have all been taken away from me in an instant. Needless to say, it didn't happen, thank God BUT it was a very good lesson for me NOT to put any credence in material possessions.
2. Hubby and I were affected by the data breach from Equifax. So, lesson learned from this experience was that all the effort we put into having spectacular FICO scores are also meaningless. So is having money in the bank because it can be stolen in the blink of an eye.
In other words, I learned these past two weeks that absolutely nothing is valuable, necessary or important.
The only thing that seems to sustain hubby and myself is our belief in God. I can't even believe in my family anymore because my own two grown adult children have not spoken to me, since November 9th when they found out I voted for Trump. No grandchildren. No communication. No visits. No phone calls. NOTHING. Can you imagine? After being a mother and father to them for 39 years?
Thank goodness, hubby and I have a dog. At least we can buy loyalty and love every 15 years or so. To say I am jaded, would be an understatement.

Anonymous said...

I think the idea that we human beings can change the weather or control anything else is ridiculous. We can't even control ourselves.


DJan said...

I say it often these days: "Thank God I'm old." I don't think I'll be around for much more than one more decade or two, and although I follow the news fairly closely, I don't allow myself to get up in arms about it. The only thing I have any control over is my own life, my own world. I've managed to keep a light ecological footprint on the planet and try not to worry too much about things I cannot change.

stephen Hayes said...

I've no doubt that our descendants will curse us for not taking action on climate change while we could. Another example of Nero fiddling while Rome burned.

Tom said...

Stephen, no doubt you are right. DJan, you have the right attitude.

tahoegirl.blog said...

Great post, Tom. We need to try and do what we can ,all of us individually, to help stop global warming or there won't be an Earth left in 50 years or 200 years. We can all try to be more conscious of how much waste we produce and many other little things that DO add up.
The nuclear threat is really scary as North Korea's leader seems crazy. And this is nothing like the 1950's or early 60's with getting under a desk for a drill. This is a very real threat in our modern world. I have no real answer in my own little world but it is still something I acknowledge for what it is.

Debby said...

At age 63, I can tell the climate has changed. My family was always "into" the weather because of my dad's job, so I remember. It is hotter than it used to be. Now where I differ, is I still believe (and could be wrong) that our Earth is always changing and we are just in one of those changes.

If I am wrong, then the measures taken to help with man-made climate change will help some. Here in California, our gas is supposed to go up .70 a gal soon. (gradually) We are at 3.00 a gal in some areas. I just wish there was another way, for politicians to pay for cap and trade instead of gouging us seniors with more taxes.

Anonymous said...

If something doesn't kill us, something else will.

Tabor said...

We are on the edge of some terrible and dramatic challenges. I am not so complacent as you seem to be. We have millions of starving people and huge areas of drought and flood. The ugliness is just ahead.

Anonymous said...

Climate change is real. I wonder what, if anything we can do about it at this late date, but we should do what we can. So much of the unrest in the world is directly related to climate change and the negative impact it has. If people can't eat or find clean water, they will move to somewhere they can, or forcefully take it away from others. It is happening, and to deny it is naive. But, The earth itself will be fine... it's humans and other animals that will disappear.

Laura Lee Carter said...

All of the problems of this world are created by one thing: overpopulation. And yet, almost nobody wants to embrace that fact and STOP HAVING KIDS! Our need to constantly create more like us will be the end of us. We are untrainable in this regard and it will be the end of us.
Human being are now a cancer on Mother Earth.
I love the bumper sticker: "Thank you for not breeding." YOU ARE WELCOME.

Still the Lucky Few said...

Unfortunately, Tom, you nailed it! It's more than I want to read about, this morning! The little piece about the bugs and bacteria trapped in the Arctic ice, and soon to be released, is the stuff of nightmares. But, when I hear about North Korea, all I need to do is remember my generation, as children, crouching under our desks, practising the 'end of the world' scenarios sure to unravel as a result to the 'Cold War'. So you are right—it was always bad.

Rita said...

I disagree that local politics is generally boring and run-of-the mill. It's important that people be involved in government at all levels. City council, school board, they're all important. Look at the city of Seattle leading the nation on increasing minimum wage.

Barbara said...

Excellent post. I agree completely. Global warming - we know this is true. Like you said, the worst that can happen is we have cleaner skies. Yeah. As Martha used to say, That's a good thing. Nuclear weapons. We've created a monster and we just have to hope we can keep it from the hands of the Big Bullies. Safety First - Don't I know it. I haven't tripped in quite a while (knock wood) but I have learned to wear safe shoes and keep my home paths clear.