Friday, September 17, 2010
Bronados and other unexpected climatic events
So last night, a Tornado touched down (but did it really actually?) in Brooklyn. And if it wasn't scientifically a Tornado, or didn't technically make a landing, it sure as heck looked like one! (if you don't usually click on my links, please, for your viewing and humor generating pleasure, do click on the one in the sentence prior--it will make your day and bring you back to reminiscing re one of my favorite duos-Ashton Kutcher and Sean William Scott).
Although this bronado (shout out to Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic for his way appropriate/awesome name for the tornado) is a strange and rare event in New York, and such flash storms as the one last night that include hail, rain, winds up to 70 mph (sorry Staten Island, that must have sucked) are few and far between--it all begs the question: With the plethora of seemingly terrible climatic events over the last 5+ years, is the world doomed to experience more serious weather related catastrophes in the future? Or, au contraire--is there simply more immediate and pervasive media coverage of each event, making it seem more unusual, awe-inspiring, and terrifying than its predecessors?
I would venture to say that it must be a combination of both. Serious catastrophes have been happening for as long as the Earth is old, and for all of recorded Human history (drought like events throughout the East that led people more towards Western Europe from Mesopotamia way back when, a devastating volcano in Pompeii, Italy, Tsunamis in Asia, Earthquakes in China and Latin America, Hurricanes in New Orleans, and to bring it back to close the circle--Icelandic volcanoes [apparently volcanoes like to erupt in countries starting with the name I]). But what has increased over the last few years? Let's think about it.
It is possible that climate change has a heavy hand in all of these recent tragedies. Actually, I'm pretty sure that our emitting of gases that have shifted the way the Earth retains heat and sunlight have most definitely impacted the nature of weather and climatic events. But to what extent--nobody really knows.
It's too hard to track this data historically for a long enough period of time! I mean, just the other day, a marine paleontologist (yes, they really exist), decided that he probably proved that a bunch of comets hit the earth thousands of years ago around the ice age because he found tiny microscopic nanodiamonds in an ice layer in the arctic. No really. It's true.
Pretty cool eh? Right. But the point is--if those comets sparked the ice age (one of my favorite movies, not just one of the most interesting and perplexing times in the history of the Earth's weather cycles) then, climate change is unpredictable historically on account of random events such as invasive rocks hitting the Earth!
So--we can't really tell how much we personally as Humans have impacted the Earth. But we can postulate and gather a lot of significant data, and see enough extreme change since industrialization to realize that, although we may not be as powerful as an inter-space comet, we're pretty freakin' destructive. I'd blame it on our intelligence and our brains--our blessing and our curse.
But back to the more important topic--The Bro(oklyn) Tornado. That sh@# was crazy! I'm glad I had to stay at work late. But for those who had to weather the storm, I'm sorry. I'm sure it was terrifying. Really. But I have to say, from the way things are looking, it's not gonna get better in the coming years.
For some reassurance re New York, who is learning to become more prepared for a more "aqueous" city, go to MoMa and see this exhibit. It rocks, and makes me feel a lot better about Human potential and our ability to use our brains to save our race. (It's kind of fun to write like a doomsayer sometimes, apologies.)
But, to argue another point--I think the media and the presence of the internet and mobile internet have made natural disasters and odd weather events even more terrifying and odd. On the one hand, the mass media has amplified everything and made things seem quite extreme...on the other hand, media has enabled more awareness and more social action. Organizations like Digital Democracy have leveraged media attention and new technologies in media in order to help those affected by disasters, especially in Haiti. This is quite cool indeed.
But the whole point of this post is this: everything must be taken in moderation. There is no one side to explaining the increasing (is it?) presence of natural disasters. We are exposed in different ways to more climatic events thanks to media coverage from around the world. This both helps and hinders. There is an information overload, and a call for empathy that many may not be able to digest. However, whether or not climate change due to humans is causing these disasters, or whether media is making them more apparent, or its a combination of both, or simply the Earth's natural cycles, we should all take care to learn more about the context of what we learn.
We all need to take more responsibility for our opinions, and back them up with more knowledge, more information, and better formed arguments. Knowing how to peruse new medias and topics of relevance is one thing--actively understanding the news and why certain things happen when they do, and learning about all sides of the story is a whole other level of awesome.
Integrity and innovation are my two favorite words. Have integrity with your opinions, ideas, and share them. You never know who you might start a conversation with, and how it will impact their lives and our collective futures.
Posted by erica at 3:46 PM