In a struggle to be happy and free

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New decade thoughts

We’re just two weeks into a new year and a new decade. I’m not about to regale you with all my new year resolutions, because I have none. The change of a number on the calendar doesn’t make me any more likely to make successful changes in my life. In fact, I hold the very thought in disfavour because if you see the need for a change, you should make the change rather than wait for the end of the year to do it. Why wait?

What has me thinking is not the change of the last digit of the year, but the second last. The 2010s have given way to the 2020s. What’s coming?

I’ve been thinking a lot about climate change. I was going to tell you what I think will happen if we continue along the road of lip service to the changes we need to make, and also what will happen if we get down to business and make the changes we really need to make. But frankly, there’s no need to lay out two scenarios because we’re not going to get down to business. Individuals feel inertia in their habits, and the more people you consider, the larger the inertia gets. This is before even considering that our current way of doing things is very profitable to many people. As a result, they’re actively putting the brake on changes. As a result, change is slow.

With our foot-dragging, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing. I’m not sure, but the rate of increase may be increasing as well. The weather is growing more severe, climate is changing, seas are rising. The pleasant inter-ice-age climate in which we developed civilization will soon be over. There will be fewer comfortable places to live and less arable land. Less arable land means less food. Wars will break out over food and water, squandering the precious resources remaining.

A century from now, things will be very different than today. I just can’t decide how different. Either civilization will regress, leaving behind the highest technology we enjoy today, or civilization will completely collapse. Either way, population will drop significantly. I’d suggest the worldwide population will drop by half, with large cities being the most affected. Whether this is a best-case, or a mid-way between the extremes, I can’t decide.

By 2250, I would be absolutely stunned if the world population is significantly greater than 20% of what it is today. And it won’t get better from there. Unless we discover an easy and energy-efficient way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in a deep-time durable form, there won’t be any coming back from this new normal any time soon … and ‘soon’ is geologically speaking. It’ll take millions of years for natural processes to bring the carbon dioxide levels down. The question is whether we can develop the technology to do it ourselves before we lose the technical and manufacturing means to put it into action in a meaningful way.

I would suggest that biggest impediment to taking action today is the average adult’s inertia. Things seem okay so people go about their business. Although most people are in favour of reducing their nation’s carbon footprint, they are not so enthusiastic when confronted with the bill. I really think a few things have to happen before people change. In no particular order, everyone over 40 has to age and die. People currently younger than 40 have far more skin in the game and were therefore more willing to make a greater sacrifice. Also things have to get worse. To my amazement, there are still deniers out there. All but the most hard-core will come around when things get much worse and there’s no denying the truth. At that time, the tide will carry those hard-core, regardless.

It’s our habits and what we consider problematic. No one I know would think of not recycling. At the same time however, most people I know don’t consider the carbon dioxide created by a trip via aircraft. This has to change and it won’t while the older among us are still around. I do wonder how much it will change as you young age, however. When I was very young, the first energy crisis struck. We all learned to turn lights off when we weren’t in the room. A small thing, to be sure, but the young don’t worry about even this any more. And by young, I mean anyone under 30.

I’m thinking things will have to get much worse, far past the point of no return (if we’re not there already) for people to change their habits.

So severe climate change is coming. In my mind, there’s only one question. Will it damage civilization and set technology back a few centuries? Or it destroy civilization and set technology back a millennia or two? Either way, a lot of people are going to die and everything is going to be a hell of a mess for a very long time to come.

So tired…

I’m in the home stretch. This week is my last week of classes for the term. When I leave Friday, I won’t be back until January 7, when I start the second term.

When I left school today, I came home, ate, and promptly slept for an hour. I wouldn’t say the day was hugely demanding, but still I slept. Yesterday I slept for two hours. The only explanation I have is that I sometimes push against going to sleep but I haven’t been entirely unreasonable about that. Reassuringly enough, some of my classmates and even a few in their second year brought up how they’re feeling the same way, entirely without prompting from me. None of us seem to have any explanation for it.

20191203-103745 iPhone8 IMG_2451.jpg: iPhone8, back camera @ 3.99mm, 1/2700, f/1.8, 25 ISO
The Willowbank upper campus was a picture-perfect winter wonderland today.

Perhaps learning and physical activity is just demanding. At least I hope that’s it because I have no other explanation!

As much as I want a shorter Christmas break, I will certainly take the time to rest and make sure I’m ready to attack the second term next month.

Baseball

I can’t be sure it was grade five but it feels like it was.

Some of my classmates and I decided to play baseball at recess. The large yard beside the school was occupied by most of the children doing various activities so we went to the smaller empty yard in front of the school. How I got to be the pitcher, I don’t remember. Given the small size of the yard, I had to stand uncomfortably close to the batter and I didn’t like this at all. The best thing I could think of was to turn around after I threw the ball. At least I wouldn’t be hit in the face.

The one of the class athletes took the bat. Now I was even more afraid, especially given that we were using a hardball. I pitched and quickly turned. There bat cracked and a split second later, all I could see was white. I don’t recall when I realized it, but the ball hit me square in the back of the head. By the time my vision returned, I was off to the side of the yard, perhaps six metres away. One of my classmates likened me to a Timex watch because I took a licking and kept on ticking. I was still dizzy though I seem to have managed to walk to the side of the yard, perhaps with help, without falling.

Back in those days, if you had a mishap and remained conscious, weren’t bleeding too badly, and had no broken bones, you were all right and the game continued. I seemed okay and I recall we didn’t even tell any adults. Why would we? The game did continue but without me.

The only after effect, and I can’t even be certain that it was related, is for the next 20 or 30 years, I would occasionally have my vision fill with white and clear a few seconds later. I would also get partially dizzy and have to stop moving to avoid falling. This would happen with varying frequency but it never happened more than once every month or two. By the time I was 16, I was worried about what would happen if these ‘whiteouts’ ever happened while I was driving, but they never did.

I don’t think they happen any more, but I can’t be totally sure. I do recall more recent similar occurrences where I feel a bit dizzy for a few seconds, but I don’t lose my vision. These happen even less often.

Surely there is nothing to be gained by pursuing it now, but I really do wonder what effect it had. With all the recent talk of how head injuries and concussions are far more serious than we realized, I’m certain it did affect me but I can’t be sure how serious it was.

I wonder how things might have been different if I had decided against baseball that day, long ago.

Don’t cheat the Empress!

I’m almost finished reading Robert B. Abrams’ The Colosseum: A History, which is a pretty good book, especially since I managed to purchase the Kindle edition for $1.99. In it I came upon this gem of a story that I had never heard before:

The third-century emperor Gallienus, upon learning that a jeweler had sold the empress counterfeit jewels, punished the man by ordering him thrown to the lions. The terrified charlatan was led into the arena, where a cage was wheeled up next to him. But when the cage door was opened, a capon strutted out. The crowd roared with laughter. The emperor’s herald proclaimed that the trickster had been tricked. Then the benevolent Gallienus let him go.

That jeweler got off easy. Cheating people is bad enough, but who cheats the emperor’s wife? Not smart.

Seth’s Candy Diet

The bestselling novel of 1961 was Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent. Millions of people read this 690-page political novel. In 2016, the big sellers were coloring books.

Fifteen years ago, cable channels like TLC (the “L” stood for Learning), Bravo and the History Channel (the “History” stood for History) promised to add texture and information to the blighted TV landscape. Now these networks run shows about marrying people based on how well they kiss.

And of course, newspapers won Pulitzer prizes for telling us things we didn’t want to hear. We’ve responded by not buying newspapers any more.

The decline of thoughtful media has been discussed for a century. This is not new. What is new: A fundamental shift not just in the profit-seeking gatekeepers, but in the culture as a whole.

Seth Godin,
The Candy Diet

This crushes me with sadness. Where will it lead? Where does it end?

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