April Showers Soon?

April showers bring May flowers, right? I think it might be interesting to find out how much that has changed with climate change.

We do have a great impact on the Earth. It’s not hard to see if you are willing to look. But let’s not look at the typical stuff.

I remember seeing a study (not sure if that’s the proper term here) that showed the impact that mankind has had on the oceans since the advent of science. Approximately 500 years is the timeframe we’re talking about. It started out with a video showing a wide variety of undersea life from the early 1960’s. I believe it was footage from Jacques Cousteau. When you compare that with today it’s astonishing how little is left.

There are lots of people who take vacations or do scientific work in beautiful places with beautiful undersea landscapes and it’s not hyperbole to use the word beautiful at all. Yet compared with 50 years ago it’s almost like an undersea desert as about 80 or 90% of the undersea vegetation is gone. We don’t notice it because it’s so vast in comparison with land and I think there’s that feeling that this is an enchanting alien place. We don’t live there so it’s exotic and we’re grateful when we encounter the foreign beauty of this truly vast place.

So if 50 years ago we had 10x undersea vegetation, today we have somewhere around x. Some would say we have x/2 or 1/2 times x. Please bear with me on the algebra. Consider a pie with 10 slices 50 years ago. Today we have probably 1 slice or less. And I haven’t even mentioned the animal life at all, but you probably know that animals do eat vegetation in some cases. If the undersea animals have less to eat that necessarily means that there will be fewer of them in the long run.

Here’s something incredibly huge though: If you compare the amount of undersea vegetation from 50 years ago versus 500 years ago at the dawn of what we call science, it’s very much bleaker.

If we had 1000x around the year 1512, then we had 10x in 1962 and approximately 1x or x today. We don’t live 500 years, so we don’t notice. But let that sink in (and let’s say that I’m off by a factor of 5! – that’s still a devastating loss) – 1000 of something became 1 of something in the last 500 years, except multiplied millions of times! The oceans were literally teaming with fish and animals and vegetation 500 years ago and in 1962 you would have been heartbroken if you had seen the change over the 450 years or so. Again, you wouldn’t notice because you don’t live that long. But even with as little as we had left in the ocean 50 years ago, when we compare it to today that’s even more devastating. And it looks like the change is accelerating.

If I’m not being as clear as I could be just think about changes you’ve seen in the area where you live. If the area where you live hasn’t changed much, think about something you’ve noticed big changes in over your lifetime.

My life in San Diego County (mostly) has helped me see incredible change in this area. When I was a child there was a huge billboard on the side of the freeway that said, “Encinitas, Flower Capital of the World”. I don’t know if it was absolutely true that Encinitas was the flower capital, but I guarantee that it was one of the biggest flower growing towns for it’s size anywhere. There were greenhouses everywhere and my parents grew carnations in our large backyard. Later my dad grew roses just a couple miles across the freeway to the east. There were avocado trees in abundance and lots and lots and lots of flowers being grown there. If you have bought a poinsettia in many parts of the Unites States during the last 40 years or so, chances are pretty good that it came from Ecke’s in Encinitas, California.

Most of the greenhouses -90?- are gone now. Most of the avocados -80%?- are grown elsewhere. There are a lot more houses than there used to be, just like a lot of places in the USA. Big, big changes have come.

We notice this change because we live through it and we live with it. In the 1980’s I don’t recall having Saturday traffic on Interstate 5 in North San Diego County. Now we’ve had it for a couple decades, but people who didn’t live here before have no idea that you used to be able to take a nice long drive on the freeway going north or south and your travel would be “smooth sailing” as long as there wasn’t an accident. It’s rare to have a Saturday without traffic after about 10 am on Interstate 5.

Those who have lived here noticed the change and those who are newer to the area have no idea what it used to be like here. Just like under the ocean, except that no humans of whom I’m aware make there home below the ocean permanently. So, not being native to the ocean world, we miss things like huge changes that would be obvious to the naked eye if we were residents of the ocean floor or thereabouts.

So the first problem is that we don’t even notice. But you can look at old Jacques Cousteau videos and make some comparisons. You can look at some scientific data. We’ve been pretty good at measuring things, but most people find that stuff boring. So another problem is not caring enough to notice or want to notice.

And today we have people who are AGAINST people simply making reports of scientific measurements. They accuse those of doing the measuring of having an left-wing agenda.

Here’s a basic problem with that thinking: if I am measuring something and I report the findings, I’m simply doing that. I’m not the one judging the findings in most cases. That sort of thinking and evaluating is left to others.

How can a measurement that is merely a description be considered political? I mean, outside of totalitarian and despotic states?

If you measure my height and find that I’m not quite six feet two inches and I used to be six feet too inches, all you did is measure. If I get upset because I’m used to being 6’2″ and I accuse you of having an agenda to make me look bad, aren’t I just being a big baby? Maybe I have shrunk just a little. There’s nothing wrong with your measuring tape. There was nothing wrong with the measurement when I was at my peak. I just prefer to think of myself as 6’2″. In the good ol’ USA I have the right to think of myself as 6’2″ and caucasian. I can even think of myself as coming from another planet or that an alien speaks through me and I send his messages out on Twitter.

But having the right to think a certain way or to think a certain thing does not make that thing objectively true. And wishing I were still 6’2″ when I’m probably 6 1 3/4″ now is just a wish. It’s not objective measurement.

Let’s stop pretending that objective measurements are anything other than what they are – descriptions of reality.

You have a right to not think that way, but let’s not make laws based on that type of thinking.

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