Yesterday a nice couple visited to view the solar panels installed on the roof. They are in the process of negotiating with the leasing company to put almost two dozen panels on their home.
The woman was animated, with a dazzling smile, and a cheery attitude. The husband, not so much. A bit dour, seeming more grounded in pragmatics, but a nice gentleman.
He worried that sometime down the road their roof might need repair, despite it having just been installed a few years ago, and they would have to pay to remove the panels and reinstall them while the roof was fixed. I suggested that such a worry was fruitless, that we can’t even know what’s going to happen tomorrow never mind several years from now.
I didn’t go into the ‘world is ending’ line, though I did mention that one reason I installed solar was that other people seeing them might be encouraged to think about it for their homes.
Thinking about it this morning, I found another analogy. Our ongoing climate catastrophe could be analogized to the Chicago fire, in which Chicagoans are throwing fuel on the fire, just as we are throwing greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere today. And here I come along with my solar panels, which amount to an eyedropper of water to squirt on the fire. Yeah, Chicago is burning, right to the ground.
Another way to look at it considers the climate as a massive, planet-sized flywheel. We’ve kicked it into motion, we’re feeding energy into it, it’s going faster and faster, and its mass and momentum will keep it going for thousands of years. My solar panels are the equivalent of me pressing a finger against the flywheel to slow it down. Not going to happen, that wheel is just going to keep on rolling.
The scientists talk about a three foot sea level rise by 2100, and a global temperature rise of a couple of degrees by then. Frankly, I think they’re in for a rude surprise. A very rude surprise. If not them, then the rest of the world. Scientists have to work out what’s happening as it happens, and they’re finding things are happening which they hadn’t taken into account. Feedback loops within feedback loops, if you will. It’s like that underground coal fire burning in Pennsylvania. It’s been going for years and can’t be extinguished. I doubt anyone thought it would burn for so long, and make the town uninhabitable. That’s where we’re headed with global warming. On a planetary scale.
And still, without hesitation, we continue to pour fuel on the fire. We stand in our home, the only home we have, and watch as it burns down around us, thinking magically that we won’t be burned or killed.
I’m not under any illusion that my solar panels make a difference, nor that the couple that came here yesterday will make any difference with their panels. I can at least feel that I did something, and perhaps encouraged others. But it doesn’t really amount to anything. Chicago fire. Eyedropper.
Perhaps if the United States stopped wasting money on useless wars and put the money to use developing solar and putting it on every house in the country, perhaps that might make a dent. But I think it’s obvious at this point that the U.S. is not going to do that, is not even going to try to deal with the problem of global warming. United States policy now officially determines to make the problem worse by encouraging the development of more fossil fuel resources. Drilling in the Arctic. Deeper undersea drilling in the Gulf and off the coasts. Fracking for gas, which packs the double whammy of increasing greenhouse gasses and wasting our diminishing supply of fresh water. Encouraging the development of tar sands, despite the abysmal safety record, the destruction of forest land, and the gas load on the atmosphere. So we needn’t be hoping for change, not from the government, which is corrupt and blind, willfully so on both counts.
Perhaps I should have said to the gentleman yesterday that he doesn’t have to worry about his roof because, in fact, the world is ending. Installing solar panels is just a way of giving the finger to the people enabling the death of the biosphere, and thus the death of human civilization, indeed, the death of the human species. We have more pity for the doomed polar bear than we do for the doom of humanity.
So yeah, I think that’s about right. My solar panels are my way of giving the finger to the politicians and the rich people and the corporations who are killing my world. Unfortunately I’m getting old and won’t be around to see the end of it all. But I would like to be there for a couple of reasons. Curiosity, for one. I want to see how it happens. But the other reason? I’d like to be there near the end so I could hunt down some of those people and throttle them with my bare hands for what they’ve done.
On the other hand, given their intransigence, greed, and stupidity, perhaps we might be justified in getting a head start on hunting them down and removing them from the equation. That sounds about right. Seems fair. And offers a better chance for saving the biosphere than my puny solar panels. I, for one, wouldn’t mourn the bastards.