Friday, 5 February 2010


I've been thinking about my dissertation topic. I want to write about climate change from a human perspective. It's so entangled in politics right now that we're really loosing sight of the potential impacts and of the experiences that people might have as a result of climate change. Aside from fears generated by scare-mongering tactics and Hollywood films or pundits seeking to expand their fifteen-seconds of fame, there are the predictions that may not be as cinematic, but might be equally (or more) traumatic for those who face them. What am I talking about? Displacement as a result of climate change induced weather or sea-level rise or resource depletion. There are even things that aren't linked to climate change, but are tied to ecological and resource issues. I think we should stop arguing about the percent to which these scenarios are likely to occur and start to think about plans. I bet the US still has plans for what to do if Russia launches a nuclear attack on it and that seems unlikely to happen these days. So let's come up with some plans for what to do so we can be prepared and hopefully we won't ever have to execute the plans. If the climate isn't really changing, if the planet isn't in fact warming, I think that would be a great relief to all, especially the scientists who are getting these horrific predictions.

I'm looking into where to do my research, pick one case study because that's all time with afford me. One place to go and have a look around, to try to document and piece together a picture of what a place is like and how it was be for those who live there once it's gone. There are several places I can choose from, I think, but will they all stand up to the test of whether that change is a result of climate change? I don't know. And I suppose we won't really know until it's gone and it's twenty years later and we have the historical data to analyze. Still, whether it's climate change or not, it's happening, and if a particular example is not a result of climate change, will it still hold up as an example of what will come a result of climate change?

I'm thinking about places like Kirabati. There's debate as to whether the rising sea level it is experiencing that threaten to swallow it whole are a result of climate change. But whatever the cause, the threat exists.

I've been thinking a lot of rising sea levels. I can't really imagine what it looks like. I've seen the images, the Ed Mazra's powerpoint presentations of the receding coastlines of Florida and New York. I've seen it other places as well. It's interesting. It gives a new shape to the world. But no where does it sink in more for me than what a rise in sea level means than on the islands. If you live on an island that's pretty low-lying and the sea rises, it comes from all directions, presumably, around the island. The island is only so big and you can only retreat so far inland before you find the other side. So you move in land as far as you can and the sea comes up from in front and behind. And you're up to your ankles in it. And then your knees. And then your waist. And it rises until all land disappears. All around you is water. You can only see water. And it's not a small bit of river you can cross, but rather an ocean. This is my dream. This is the image that is haunting me.

It scares the hell out of me.

I've never felt comfortable in the ocean. It's too vast and powerful for me. My place on the land. So to be in an ocean with no hope of land, or even to be waist deep in an ocean, with land under your feet but no way to climb out, is a terrifying scenario. What does it feel like to live in one of these places and know that occurs and it's predicted to get worse? Do children have nightmares about the sea swallowing them up? Are there legends that predict this will happen? Are they instructive? What does it mean to the people it most immediately affects? I'm curious and terrified for them.

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