Saturday, March 30, 2019

More on Climate, and Joni

I finished "The Uninhabitable Earth." I know it's a drag for you to come to my blog and be inundated by doomsday prophecies, but I have a few more thoughts on climate change that I didn't get into yesterday.

First, although I firmly believe the world is wildly overpopulated and growing more so, I am NOT saying we shouldn't have ANY more children. Obviously we need some children to continue managing our civilization. David Wallace-Wells, who wrote the book, fathered a child while he was working on it, and he argues that we must not withdraw from the future entirely, but continue to invest and engage in it. Having no children was absolutely the right decision for me, personally, for a variety of reasons -- but I understand that others want children and I think that's fine.

I do believe, however, that as a planet we should be talking much more actively about family planning and population control. Instead, there is deafening silence from our political leaders on this subject. Inevitably our population will be regulated, either methodically by us or chaotically by nature. It's our choice.

In terms of climate, here's what I think is going to happen in the short term. Within the two or three decades I hopefully have left to live, we're going to see more of what we're already seeing: Occasional devastating storms, floods, droughts, fires and other forms of climate disruption, some of them huge and costly in both life and property damage. We will see periodic inundations of our cities, like New Orleans during Katrina and New York during Sandy. (Next on the list, according to Wallace-Wells: Miami Beach.) We may see brownouts as utilities are rationed. We will see greater migrations of people from places where the climate is going to grow truly unbearable, in hotter parts of the world like India, Pakistan and parts of Africa. The degree of conflict we experience during these migrations is partly up to us, isn't it?

In between all that, we'll continue to enjoy our day-to-day lives, and one way or another, we'll adapt -- just as we have been for the past decade or more as climate change was already making itself felt. (And hopefully we'll elect better leaders who will at least try to address the problem.)

I don't want to seem too simplistic, and I know it's easy for me to say from my relatively unscathed perch in temperate England. But what else can we do?

And now for something completely different: Does anyone remember this Joni Mitchell ad for Gap? It came out in 1990. I got to thinking about it the other day and wondered if I could find it online, and voila -- there it was. I love this photo of Joni (by Herb Ritts) -- does she have guitar-player hands or what?

At the time, I tore the ad out of a magazine and laminated it. I took it with me when I moved to Morocco in 1992, and hung it on the wall over my bed as part of a collage (pictures and postcards from family and friends, paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe).

In fact, here's a picture of me with Joni clearly visible. (My legs were banged up from bicycling accidents -- I was an avid, and apparently not-too-careful, bicyclist at the time.) I am sitting on my "ponge," which is what many Moroccans traditionally use as a sofa and/or bed. I slept on that thing for two years! I'm holding a Berber butter churn, which I bought because I loved its submarine-like shape, but I wound up not keeping it -- it was way too heavy to bring back to the states. I gave it to a neighbor.

In fact, the only object in that photo that I still own, aside from a few of the pictures, is the little black kohl bottle you can only barely see peeking in from the left side of the frame. It's on my bedroom windowsill now.

That seems so long ago -- but we were talking about global warming even then!

(Top photo: London seen from Hampstead Heath.)


  1. You look very healthy in that picture but your legs are far too skinny. You are right that post-war western politicians seem to almost treat population increase as a no-go area, even though it is obvious that this is the principal issue of our times. It has affected so many aspects of life upon this planet and is the chief driver of climate change.

    P.S. I deleted the first comment because I spilt some tea on it.

  2. you are far more optimistic than I am. the devastating weather events have been pretty constant in the US at least this past 12 months.

  3. I appreciate your thoughts on climate change. And Joni - what an amazing talent.

  4. Love that picture of you on that tiny sliver of a bed. How many times did you fall out of it? Because I would DEFINITELY have been on the floor a lot until I got used to it.

    Between you & me & Ms. Moon we have cut down considerably on her average # of children, so she should stop feeling guilty about that!

  5. When it comes to climate change, I think we're going to learn the hard way.

  6. I remember those ads for Gap. They were stunning. The one of Joni especially.
    I thought that was a miniature submarine so was glad to hear that you did too.
    I can't talk about the environment today but I think Red is right.

  7. I agree on those points and might add that we need to make sure the children are properly educated too. We won't create a generation that can correct the mess we've made unless they get a good education. There are so many legs to the problem! It's like the philosophy of that old movie I've mentioned before called "Mindwalk". Everything is connected.
    I love that view. I'm glad I climbed that hill and saw it on one of my trips. I love the old photo too! That really is a long time to sleep on the narrow little bed/sofa but I like how you made the space your own.

  8. I've never seen that Joni/Gap ad before. What a surprise that is. Love that photo of you. Really captures a moment, long ago and faraway.
    We live in a fairly mild temperate zone here, but the surrounding mountains burn like crazy in the summers. The rising seas will have a small impact. We worry more about earthquakes and tsunamis.

  9. I have lived most of my life in southern New Jersey at the shore and I’m 74 and I can definitely see climate change. We have a lot of what’s called nuisance flooding after a rain or high tide and it’s getting worse.

  10. I don't find it a drag - I appreciate the serious discussions that you bring to my circle of blog reading.

    Over-population is definitely a huge, basic world problem. And large families (which I'd guess would be defined as a dozen, give or take) are more likely to be found in underdeveloped parts of the world, where, not surprisingly, women have less power over their bodies or their lives. On the other hand, a smaller family in the Western world has more impact than a large family in other regions, generally speaking, because of the resources we consume. There ARE a lot of tangled threads to consider. Now I'm thinking I need to read that book, whether I want to or not! It might help me solidify some of my scattered thoughts.

    You created a beautiful and orderly collage on your wall in that photo. I see that black cat at the right! And Joni Mitchell will be figuring into my Monday post!

  11. I imagine you stayed that lithe (skinny) so you COULD sleep on that tiny bed.

  12. It is always fun to see your photos from Morocco, and yes, that ad with Joni is stunning. Our storms and weather events here have worsened exponentially since my arrival a little over forty years ago. I've thought of leaving but if hurricanes scare me, earthquakes and fires and floods are to be found elsewhere...

  13. I love that scene in Practical Magic when Nicole Kidman is driving and singing along to "A Case of You." Have you seen it? What did you do in Morocco?

  14. YP: I was about 10 pounds lighter then than I am now. My legs were actually pretty strong because I used to cycle a lot -- I think they just look skinny because of the way I'm sitting.

    Ellen: No one really knows how this is going to play out!

    Colette: She's been one of my favorite musicians for as long as I've been aware of her.

    Bug: Believe it or not, I never fell out of it. Humans are pretty good at sensing the boundaries of their sleeping area!

    Red: Undoubtedly!

    Ms Moon: Yeah, they were a series of ads, weren't they? Featuring lots of different people.

    Sharon: I really need to watch "Mindwalk" again! Yes, education is paramount. I think some of the discouraging election results we've seen in recent years can be attributed to people not understanding civics and current affairs.

    Robin: Yeah, I imagine fires would be the big concern in your part of the world.

    John: Interesting that you're seeing it already. In South Florida they have "king tides," which cause all sorts of street flooding -- a similar phenomenon.

    Jenny-O: Yes, the education of women is a linchpin issue when it comes to population control. Educated women have far fewer children, as a rule -- not to mention more personal opportunity. You're right about the resources, but I'd say overall humans still need to have fewer children, and humanity should encourage better planned and more deliberate patterns of childbearing.

    Catalyst: Ha! I probably wouldn't have bought that bed otherwise! It was just a big, dense block of foam.

    E: Well, that's the thing -- it's happening everywhere. We've had both droughts and floods since we moved to England eight years ago.

    Sue: I haven't seen that! I'll have to check it out. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco working on health and sanitation projects -- educating people about hand-washing and disease transmission, and building infrastructure.

  15. Um, Steve, that ponge seems too short for you? Did it fold out or something? Love seeing that picture of you from yesteryear. Your smile is so much the same.