I just watched PBS's Secrets Beneath the Ice, a report of research in Antarctica examining what our world will look like when the planet's temperature rises the predicted five degrees over the next hundred years. Scientists are finding strong evidence that sea levels will rise in the neighborhood of sixty feet as the ice shelves of Antarctica and their sister glaciers melt. Which means our coastal cities will be partially submerged. It means the salinity of the sea will change drastically. The higher temperatures will also mean changes in vegetation, summer temperatures, and other habitat changes.
Global Warming is real, but still unpredictable. We don't know for sure what is going to happen. And since it's probably totally out of our control (if we were to stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere the temperatures will still rise at this point) and we fear what we can't control, we just act like it isn't happening. But it is. And it will change the face of the earth in my children's lifetime.
Climate change is not a new topic for me. Trying to live in a way that mitigates its effects, like riding my bike and turning off the lights and hanging clothes out to dry, are not new behaviors. They feel neither wholly effective nor foolish, just part of being a responsible human being. But after watching this documentary (having also recently read most of The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery) I'm left with two unanswered questions: What does global change mean to me as I try to live a meaningful life? And what does it mean in terms of how I raise my children?
If rising sea levels is a given, for instance, what do I want to do with my life? What gifts and tools do I want my children to have given that this world now and the world to come in their lifetimes will be totally different than the world throughout human history? Surely the basics remain the same: love, compassion, understanding of interconnections, responsibility. But do those basics change in the face of a different planet? If, for instance, the world is as warm as it was during the age of dinosaurs yet contains nearly nine billion people, how will that change the way humans live? How can I raise my children to be wise, loving, calm, yet prepared?
I don't know. No conclusions. Just thoughts and questions. I'm curious what you think.