“From one point of view, this 21st century is an amazing time. We have amazing technology and we enjoy the benefits of that technology. But from another point of view it’s a horrible time because we are actually destroying the very basis of our existence and survival – our environment. This is an utter contradiction.” – the Karmapa
If saving a life were as easy as giving up some of your creature comforts, would you do so?
You probably wouldn’t give it a second thought if the opportunity were right in front of you. But for some reason, the reality of climate change remains abstract, unreal, or implausible for most people.
Eyes open or closed, the planet is heating up. According to an article in the NY Times, by the year 2047,
“…for a given geographic area, ‘the coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest year in the past,’ said Camilo Mora, the lead scientist on a paper published in the journal Nature.”
And that means unimaginable human and environmental consequences.
“More than a third of the world’s people live within 62 miles of a shoreline. Over the coming decades, as sea levels rise, climate change experts predict that many of the world’s largest cities, including Miami and New York, will be increasingly vulnerable to coastal flooding. A recent study of 136 port cities found that those with the largest threatened populations will be in developing countries, especially those in Asia.”
I was stunned by these facts as I read “The Coming Storm” in the May 2011 issue of National Geographic while waiting to have my vision checked.
What grabbed my attention in particular was the life of the “char dwellers” in Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Char dwellers are:
“…the hundreds of thousands of people who inhabit the constantly changing islands, or chars, on the floodplains of Bangladesh’s three major rivers—the Padma, Jamuna, and Meghna. These islands, many covering less than a square mile, appear and vanish constantly, rising and falling with the tide, the season, the phase of the moon, the rainfall, and the flow of rivers upstream.”
Yes, these islands are constantly disappearing. And so char dwellers are constantly moving – as often as once a year or more. Since the islands can suddenly disappear, they are prepared to move in a matter of moments. They create highly portable homes that can be taken down, moved, and put back together at a new location in a matter of hours. They live with their suitcases at the foot of their beds. The char dwellers are the epitome of resiliency and adaptability.
I find this a hard topic to tackle.
I have friends who enthusiastically advocate distance travel in all forms. They relish their frequent flyer status. They blog enticing tales of exotic encounters. They center whole blogs around adventure and travel.
They are good people. I don’t want to hurt their feelings. I certainly don’t want to be judgmental. But, I also can’t deny what appear to be the facts.
My curiosity about the impact of flying was sparked by a comment on my post Minimalism vs. Moderation. The post encouraged readers to take the Ecological Footprint Quiz. After taking the quiz, Pavel Nosikov observed: