Almost two years ago Paradigms Bend was created as a vehicle for my own independent research as to whether the climate was changing due to man's activities, natural forces, or a mix of the two. Since then, hundreds of research hours have been invested, and despite the considerable noise made by deniers, I am absolutely convinced humans (and in particular Westernised nations) are a major contributing factor to the world's changing climate. I certainly put myself on a hard path when I decided to tackle this subject, but I was not content to be told what to think by news articles or by those who commented on them - whose remarks ranged from 'global warming is a hoax' to 'these are natural cyclical changes being blown out of proportion by alarmists'. It's easy to want to believe those things - especially when the truth is anything but comforting.
Less than two years ago, none of the mainstream articles said anything about changing how we consume, or that this was even needful. Green energy was mocked as an ideal completely insufficient to the Western and emerging markets' escalating needs; while the suggestion by the UN to reduce our meat consumption to cut carbon emissions birthed yet another conspiracy theory that told Joe Public the government planned to strip him of his hard-earned cash over a fictional threat, propagated by scientists. Those scientists shared their findings to an unbelieving public who didn't want to hear their bad news, so they learned to avoid the messages, carrying on without even a thought towards the possibility there might be danger ahead. Those who heard the warnings understood things might be bad, but consoled themselves the Earth would be able to sort itself out without us having to do anything. After all, what could we do, a little race of beings - to an entire planet - it couldn't recover from?
In 1992 there was a terrible barn fire at Mohawk Raceway in Ontario, Canada. 69 horses died in that fire. I can tell you what happened on that awful night, I wasn't there, but I was friends with one of the trainers who lost his horses, who had to listen to them die. One of those horses was one that I had become very attached to, when I saw the fire was front page news on all the newspapers the next morning, I bought a paper. Reading the article on the way back to my car I saw his name in the list of the dead and I stopped in the middle of that freezing, wet car park and cried, my tears mixing with the rain, the paper hanging uselessly at my side. He was gone. My beautiful, sensitive friend. Burned to death.
The barns on the then backstretch of the track were enormous. Made of metal sides and roofs, they were about 100 meters in length. Before the fire brigade had even left their station, those who lived on the backstretch were already up and running into the blazing barn to save the horses who were screaming in terror. The barn rapidly became a raging inferno, so many liniments and oils, blankets, stacks of hay and bales of sawdust saw to that. Risking their lives, these heroes ran in and out of the barn saving the horses they could. But the fire was so vast, so hot and so noisy it took too long to get the animals to a safe distance. Tragically, the horses were so panicked as soon as they were heading out of the fire and towards the cool night air, they jerked their heads, reared up and pulled away, running straight back into the barn, before anyone could stop them. Every single horse stabled in that barn died. When the fire was finally put out and the grief-stricken grooms and trainers went into the charred remains of the stables, they found one horse in every stable. Even if their gates were open, not one horse was found lying in the shed row as though it were trying to escape. They identified the bodies, each in their own stable.
Why would an animal do this? Why would it run back into the very place it was being saved from to die a horrific death? Because to them, I was told, their stable is their home and their safety. They believed if they ran back and stayed in their stable they would be safe. Everything else was so terrifying that to try anything new seemed worse. The parallel of this mentality to the way we view the threat of a changing climate seems striking.
The world's climate is changing - across the US and parts of Africa endless drought prevails, where vast swathes of crop and grazing lands have dried out, right down to the emptying aquifers underneath them, while in other parts of the world torrential rain has submerged cities under several metres of water. Record high and low temperatures have been made and broken repeatedly within the past six months, mirroring the rapid spread of tick and mosquito borne illnesses - even into regions which have never seen them before. Now the news talks about the steady increase of the cost of food and fossil fuels, and unless the rains come back next year, the picture is dire for the long-term. Is it still a conspiracy? Are the UN and the world's governments really trying to make money out of this 'fictional' situation? Rather, the cost to FEMA alone from all the climate events which have devastated parts of the US in the last years has been in the billions; the cost to local governments to provide drought aid to farmers has brought many of them to the brink of bankruptcy. Farmers must face the terrible reality of having to choose which innocent calves and cows to slaughter because there is not enough food to feed them. Can it be possible the farmers are killing their own livestock to make us pay more for meat - or are they slaughtering them because the climate has changed, taking away the crops and grass he needs to feed his animals, his very livelihood?
Humans are polluting the planet at an unsustainable rate and are irrevocably changing the balance of the ecosystem which has sustained our species over several hundred thousand years. It seems we are like those horses in that burning barn. Heroes are trying to pull us out and save us, but we are too afraid of the unknown so we dig in and remain where we are. And like those poor, tragic horses whose bellies exploded from the heat and were found with their guts spilled out on the ground around them, we think we are safe.
But we can choose to be brave and courageous, to face an unknown and completely different future to the one we expected to be before us. We don't need to hide from the truth, which is contained within the frightening darkness stretching endlessly in front of us. That unknown darkness is not our enemy, it is our salvation. Run to it...and live.
Originally published on Paradigms Bend Oct 12 2012