Climate change is Officially Official

It’s official, everyone, climate change is real because the senate said so.

The senate sat down and had a little vote this week, and declared that yes, “climate change is real and not a hoax.”

I don’t know. My first instinct when I saw this was to laugh. It seems so silly to me that they had to vote on it, as if they were putting to vote if the sun was real or a hoax.

Once I got past the silliness of it all, I kept reading, and this majority vote isn’t that awesome—don’t get too excited. They voted in agreement on the scientific fact that the climate always changes, not agreeing on the current cause–humans.

The senate is partially right–it’s not a hoax; the climate changes and responds to whatever the biggest “forcing” is. A forcing is exactly what it sounds like; it’s whatever has the most influence on the climate, whether it’s the earth’s rotation, a volcanic eruption, a meteor hitting the earth, or billions of humans. If you were standing and I pushed you as hard as I could, you’d fall to the ground because I was the biggest forcing around you.

Science can be confusing. Trust me, I’m a geology minor, and I sometimes feel like I’m in a foreign country until I learn the language. I prefer to use stories.

The Goodrich Club is the co-op that I live in with 9 humans, 4 cats, a dog and a turtle.

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The house changes a lot, depending on the group of people living there, among other things. All houses change.

Our house has gone through some serious shit in that stretch of time. Many of the things were just out of our control like when a tree came crashing into our house during a microburst.

But humans, not the menagerie of animals, fuck the house up the most.

It’s the legendary foam party that warped the floors and basement ceiling, the gutter that rockets water into the basement because the long drainpipe was run over, the broken cabinet doors hidden in higher cabinets, the molding pots, the rank meat never thrown away in the refrigerator, the years and years and years of stomping feet, holes in the walls from drunken fights like archeological evidence, a neglected leak that drip drip drops into the tool box.

We’re a small group of humans, but we’ve done a shit load of damage over the years. No one feels an enormous responsibility because the house has been this way since the 70s. It’s the GC way. Plus we’re only here for a little while. It’s someone else’s problem.

One day, past and current clubbies abuse of the house will be someone else’s problem. Something will break and change to the point where people can’t live in the Goodrich Club anymore.

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I had my first encounter with people who don’t agree with me about climate change.

It didn’t go the way I had always imagined it—taking a stroll with a climate denier and having an enjoyable conversation while we look at flowers and beautiful things.

Instead, it was frustrating–I got angry; they said mean things.

There were two people involved. A man and a woman.

This was their argument: “I know the climate changes—it’s a natural thing, but I just don’t believe humans are involved. Plus, no one can actually know what’s going to happen in the future. If something is wrong, I have a lot of faith in technology.”

He had a point; no one knows what will happen in the future.

Scientists and mathematicians can get pretty close with these things called projections–the IPCC defines it “as any description of the future and the pathway leading to it.” And they don’t just use an Ouija board and hope for the best. They use math, computer models, and a lot of time to be sure.

These models aren’t perfect; the predictions aren’t set in stone. We’re constantly acting without knowledge about the future. I don’t even know what the first day of classes in my last semester of undergraduate is going to be like, or even what I’ll eat for dinner, but that lack of future knowledge doesn’t mean I won’t go to class or eat food.

Even if the future of climate change is unknown, we should still walk on the Earth a little lighter, just in case those projections are right.

My main point when I was talking to them was putting the human into the story. At first, it seems impossible that humans could change something so big and powerful like the climate. When looking at data of Earth’s past climates, the climate has always changed for a lot for different reasons. But those past causes aren’t applicable right now; the only factor that’s influencing climate currently is humans.

This is important because if we are the ones making things change, we have the power to reduce our influence and hopefully insure a better future for humans living on Earth. And for me, this is where human emotion comes in. No one will care about climate change if they don’t know how that change is going to feel. When something we love is threatened, we fight for it and protect it.

When I mentioned human emotion, compassion, and just being nice, they shot me down. “Human emotion has nothing to do with it.” This hurt a little because I had explained that The Climate Pickle was my way of sharing stories and bringing the human into the debate, but they told me, very directly, that it was pointless.

Ouch.

I was mostly frustrated because I really tried to listen to them and see their take on the matter, but when I tried to show them mine, they weren’t open to even listening. When you boil climate change down, it’s not about believing. It’s about being a good living being, and caring about other’s suffering because one day you could feel that suffering.

I read a super interesting article that wraps up how I feel about this experience. The Pope believes climate change is “mostly man made,” and regardless of the mostly responsible, he recognized that “man…has slapped nature in the face.”

Feel the Burn

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I think about awareness a lot, as I’m sure you have noticed. We zoom through this world only seeing our thoughts whizzing by, caught in a tumult of the past and future but rarely do we see what’s in the present moment.

This idea of awareness is crucial to yoga.

As a fun fact, I’m actually a certified yoga instructor. Before I came to Albion my freshman year, I sat in a spacious yoga studio with bamboo floors, dim lights and ivory curtains for hours a day for two weeks. We learned about the roots of yoga from ancient history to Ashtanga yoga that branched into Vinyasa to slow burn.

We were taught the language of sanskrit; I remember when I’d speak sanskrit–Adho Mukha Svasana–the sounds and inflections were a whimsical dance. One of my favorite days was when the bone guy came to class. He showed us that flexibility, when it all boils down, is dependent on your bone structure—you can only bend as far as your skeleton will let you.

When I don’t stretch and release the tension in my stiff and crinkly muscles, it’s hard to move. It feels like my bones swelled in size; I’m no longer fluid. I’m grumpy because I can’t bend over. I have to constantly shift around, awkwardly arching my back in the tiny confines of the school desks, trying not to hit my neighbor in the head, or be that one kid who knocks all their papers off the desk in an eruption of rustling paper.

And sometimes my IT band in my right leg gets so tight, it pulls and presses on my sciatic nerve, and boom, my leg gives out and I’m on the ground.

I decided to sit down to do a yoga practice in my room this week. I shoved my beanbags to the side and scooted my table away, so I had some space for my legs and arms, helicoptering them around me to make sure everything was out of reach.

I sat up tall with my legs stretched out in front of me and folded over them.

This hurt. I didn’t even realize how stiff I was—my quads felt like metal rods trying to bend. When I practiced consistently, like the summer before my freshman year of college, I never felt my muscles pull and burn like they did this morning.

Later in the practice, I started on my hands and knees. I placed my forearms flat on the floor and pressed them into the mat as I tucked my toes under and lifted my butt and hips into the air. This is called dolphin pose–Makarasana.

Needless to say, this was uncomfortable, and ridiculous. If I walked in on myself, I’d be rolling on the floor laughing. Sanskrit makes it sound graceful, but sometimes I’m not. I persisted anyways. I pulled my right leg into the air and held this position for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only 45 seconds. I shakily put my right foot down, and held my left leg in the air.

My muscles were quivering and burning as if they were trying to burst out of my skin. They, and I, felt alive. I was aware of my muscles that sometimes slip my mind. There was not a single thought in my head that wasn’t rooted to my quaking body. I was here. Present.

Ramble Around

Kate passed me another postcard. “This one is from Dovedale; ‘The Rambler’s Paradise,'” she told me. I held the small rectangle in my hand.

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“What’re ramblers?”

“They’re so awesome! You’d love ’em. They were these group of people that lived without property lines. They didn’t buy into it, so they wandered, mostly in nature and sweet places like Dovendale. It’s also just the name for wanderers—they rambled around and stuff.”

Kate kept passing me more and more postcards from her trip to England to see her family. But my mind was still stuck on ramblers.

I liked the idea. It sounds freeing to be able to go wherever the fuck you wanted and not have to worry about all these invisible lines we’re stepping around and on.

Unfortunately, the life of a rambler wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. They would be attacked, chased out of areas, yelled at, and generally hated.

We draw so many lines, erasing them, redefining them, scribbling them, and worshiping them. It puts us in a little box. An invisible box, yet it’s rigid. Any sort of rigidity has its downsides.

I think about the lines in the world a lot. The invisible lines drawn like chalk on a sidewalk. Fences guard and protect land that’s owned, off limits. The lines that define each state and country, some are tense and humming with hostile anticipation, some are friendly and easy to step over and on. What happens because of these lines?

We end up separating ourselves from wilderness and wild things; this separation makes going to nature a privilege, not a guaranteed right.

When I pay attention to my surroundings, I do see wilderness everywhere, but it’s a different kind, it’s the shadows of that real, wild, intense wilderness that we place behind National Park gates. The main thing, for me, that’s different between the shadows and real experience is wilderness does not draw lines. That tree is for whoever wants to climb.

Kate passed me another post card. “This one is from Dovedale; ‘The Rambler’s Paradise.'” she told me. I held the small rectangle in my hand.

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More like Global Cooling

It’s fucking cold in Michigan and all over the Midwest. Memories of last winter are sticking to the bottoms of our boots like snow being tracked through a house; it’s that feeling you get when you step in an icy puddle with socks on–damp and unpleasant.

But this bitterly cold weather isn’t from the polar vortex this time. Last year was a weirder thing. The air that circulates around the North Pole literally shifted way down south. This time it’s just weather and air currents, doin’ their thing, pushing the cold air down.

This cold air brings me to my next point, something that I saw on the social media sphere. My friend Lauren posted an article on Facebook about how the global temperature is still rising. Global warming hasn’t stopped even though we’re all freezing our booties off.

And someone commented, “I personally find it hard to believe any warming happened in Michigan last year!”

Here’s a little clarity.

When the Earth’s temperature rises, it causes all the weather patterns in local areas like the Midwest, to start pushing towards the extremes. And as the temperatures continue to rise, those extremes will start to drop away like onionskin so enjoy the snow while you have it.

I personally find the term “global warming” misleading. That’s not to say it’s inaccurate, it just leads to some confusion. Climate change is more accurate since a warming globe causes the climate to change–it gets at the changes, the results.

Even though we have negative wind chills, climate change is still happening.

Inhale and Exhale

Back in Michigan, the air is a crisp 18 degrees, slipping under my jacket and scarf, stinging my eyes into slits, and nipping my skin like tiny, sharp mouths.

Home.

Florida was warm and wonderful. The sun was toasty and pleasant, the seawater left a salty sheen on my lips, and my ghostly skin gained a little bit of pigment. But I missed my home.

Michigan isn’t always a wonderful place to be, and I used to fantasize about getting out as fast as possible. Now, as the months rush by, closer and closer to my graduation, I feel some doubts about leaving. New experiences are good—they are necessary. I just have to carry this place with me wherever I end up.

The world we live in is on fast forward. I always feel pushed to think about what we need to do tomorrow, the next day, in two weeks, in three months, in one year, in six years, in a hundred years. This pushing leaves a lot of room for doubts. It also fosters a lack of awareness for the present moment because I’m caught in the cyclone of my thoughts.

When this happens, I try to take three deep inhales and exhales, noticing how the air tickles and chills my nostrils on the inhale, and how the air is warm on the exhale. I feel my lungs fill, ribcage expanding.

Then I widen my focus, tuning into all the different senses around me. What do I feel, what textures are around me? What smells lace the air? Are there any sounds near, far or inside me? Can I taste what I was just drinking or eating? What exactly can I see around myself?

A Neglected Relationship

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn is the latest book I’ve been reading. It’s a philosophical conversation between a gorilla, Ishmael, and this other human dude. Awesome.

Their conversation is about the world–how things came to be this way.

This book gets at the question I ask the air and myself all the time: why do we destroy the earth? It goes beyond just hippie-dippie bullshit of recycling and hugging trees—why do we destroy what we need to live?

Because humans view the world as something to be conquered. Often times, aggressive, war language is used to describe our relationship to nature or wilderness: subdue, control, contain, deplete, drain.

We don’t view ourselves as a part of the natural world. It’s over there; we are over here. Animals are in the wild or are kept as pets–tamed, domesticated, controlled.

We are animals too. 

We think we are king of the hill, and no one can take that away. But climate change is threatening our dominion on earth because the earth could become uninhabitable and humans have to accept the fact we should’ve shared, or at least thought about, letting other creatures on the hill with us.

Change is scary, though. From small things like going off to college, to losing your friends that graduate, to your parents getting a divorce, to a break-up, and big things like war, civilian unrest, and a changing climate. It’s the fear of the unknown.

The thing that helps me the most in times of change and uncertainty is to Inhale and Exhale, to breathe. Breathe in, and breathe out, trying to root myself to the present moment, the things, smells, textures, tastes around me.

It pulls me out of my own head where thoughts can turn into a drowning torrent of stress and doubt and made-up scenarios in seconds. Sometimes the current of thoughts is numbing and simply unseeing, unaware. When I draw my awareness back to the present, away from the murky future or scrolls of my thoughts, I suddenly notice what’s in front of me.

If I never noticed the natural, wild things around myself, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog or touching mushrooms.

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Land, Ocean, Everywhere

I’m a land dweller.

Florida has been really delightful. It’s challenging my idea of what nature I find the most valuable because I’m a lady of the trees, flowers, exploding ferns, not briny waters and scary sharks and alligators and crocs.

FullSizeRenderThere’s also beauty here. Lots of it. My mom’s condo backs up to the intercoastal that opens up into the Gulf of Mexico. We’re situated on a little island, Siesta Key, which is home to one of the best white sand beaches.

My mom has a dolphin sense—she always seems to know when the hidden creatures make themselves known. My sisters and I were lying out on the deck, and she yelled, “I think there’s dolphins!” And there they are.

Their gray backs arch out of the water, fins breaking the surface in a rippling wave. They frolic and jump together, splashing in one area, slipping under the water and bursting out again a little ways away. A tail fin will peak out of the glassy surface, looking just likea postcard as the drooping limbs of palm trees and scraggly Spanish moss frame the view.

If you look very closely, you can see the dolphin tail breaking through the intercoastal

If you look very closely, you can see the dolphin tail breaking through the intercoastal

I briefly talked in my last post about how there is so much below the surface that we can’t see. I mean, for fuck’s sake, we know more about space than we do about the ocean. The ocean’s on earth. Right here, a handful of feet away from me.

As a Midwesterner, I often forget about this big ol’ expanse of blue. And, to be honest, the oceans scare me. I don’t swim in them. I like to look at it, but that’s it. But someone else calls that place I forget about home.

Nowhere on Earth to Go

I’ve been ravenously reading post-apocalyptic books, particularly ones that investigate humans trying to survive in a world that is altered from environmental degradation.

Scary, but awesome.

I think the fiction realm of environmental literature is so fascinating. It’s not that they are factual, or predictions, but there’s little grains of our potential future hidden in them like sand stuck in between the sheets of your bed, your toes, behind the picture frame, under the rug.

The book I’m reading right now is called The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. I love this book; it follows the main character, Hig, in a world where 99% of the population has died from a super flu virus and blood disease.

Hig lost his wife, all the people and creatures that mattered to him, left in the wake of utter despair, but he still found beauty in the world.

     The dry pine needles crackled and crunched beneath my boots. Reflected the sun in the shadeless places so there was no relief for the eyes in looking down. Two weeks now, something like it, and the flowers were mostly gone. The fastest spring ever.

In the old cycles the drought would break, the monsoon would come, the snows would sweep in, and the life would come back.

Books like these get me in a weird mood. I’m enchanted by their language but also freaked out by the content. I always get in conversations about what will be “the end.” I say, I don’t know. It could be anything, everything. Some fucked up virus, the earth stopping its reliable rotation, nuclear warfare, Yellowstone’s caldera volcano exploding, a random meteor crashing into earth, artificial intelligence getting too intelligent.

Life is filled with this enchantment of scary shit.

We went to Myakka State Park this weekend and stopped on the side of the road at a bridge that stretched across a freshwater river. The water is gunmetal gray, and ripples radiate across the surface, swirling around the archaic rind on the backs of alligators. Their heads bloomed out of the darkened waters, hardly noticeable. Millions of years to perfect the art of camouflage. One gator, right below the shadow of the bridge, turned its knobby head and was slowly swallowed by the inky waters, fading into murky yellow and green and finally into blackness. A trail of bubbles was left behind.

Alligator swimming in clouds

Alligator swimming in clouds

Fluffy beautiful clouds above, lurking danger below, out of sight, almost out of mind.

A Change of Scenery

I took a few days off writing to relax and get into the swing of being on break– this last semester was gnarly; I don’t think I’ve ever done homework so frequently and often.

I’ve been reading books I picked on my own. I’ve been drawing the pictures I want to draw. I’ve been eating all the food possible.

It’s been wonderful so far, especially since I am sitting on the warm, sunny deck of my mother’s condo in Siesta Key, Florida, with three arching umbrella palm trees framing the bay. The sea breeze jostles the thick, waxy leaves like worn-down sand paper. The sky is endlessly blue like the sea, and airplanes are the fishes skimming the surface.

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Not to mention, I’m sipping on one of my favorite beers, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, with no obligations besides writing about the things I love to write (this blog), and reading about apocalyptic worlds related to climate change and the destruction of the environment.

Pure bliss.

It’s refreshing to be in a different location. It’s also strange. December for me means cold, cloudy, dreary, miserable, snowy, depressed, and family obligations.

But here I am. Surrounded by palm trees, tropical birds, tiny dashing lizards, white sandy beaches and crashing ocean waves. Some of my mom’s friends have already been down here for a while, complaining about the weather so far:

“Oh God, good thing you guys weren’t here two weeks ago, it was so chilly. Downright cold. The weather is starting to get warmer, wouldn’t you say, Terry? Just a little bit warmer. So strange. I don’t know why it’s been so cold.”

Naturally, after I heard this over dinner, I did research. I found Florida State University’s Climatology site, which informed me that, yes, Florida’s chilly winters are, in part, due to climate change–shifting bands of low-pressure systems dropping its heavy cold air onto the sandaled-toes of Floridians.

People, old and young, flock south to Florida like migratory birds to chase the warmth. But the cold is playing tag, and following people south. Michigan is cold during the winter, but Florida’s not supposed to be.