Weekly Planet: Global Climate Challenges and the Truth | perspective


Last week in mid-May in Vermont, temperatures exceeded 80 degrees. I was still watching for frosts in early May, so the speed of the transition was staggering.

My spinach and lettuce have overwintered under glass and a wide range of cold weather crops (peas, chard, kale, broccoli and brussels) are growing well. I planted seed potatoes and on May 11th all of our summer and winter squash were planted as the minimum forecast temperatures are over 40F for the next 10 days. We watered a lot during a week with dry days until the rain came. Growing our own food is valuable as the global commercial farming system is a multi-faceted disaster that impacts forests and soil quality and generates methane to drive climate change.

With commercial food exports from Ukraine halted, some have realized that it would be wise indeed for the peoples of Africa to return to the rich variety of native foods they have traditionally grown for themselves. We are fortunate that so much can be grown locally in Vermont: most of the vegetables and herbs, as well as milk, yogurt and cheese, and grass-fed sheep and goats. It is also a gift for me to discuss crops with farmers at our local markets, and it is a pleasure to see the thoughtful long-term development of Vermont’s agriculture.

But on a global scale, climate breakdown is accelerating and new climate extremes are being reached everywhere. Nations promised in 2015 to work to keep mean global temperature rise below 1.5°C, but promises have not been met and that threshold could be breached in the next five years. Record-breaking temperatures in South Asia of up to 120°F have made life desperate for millions in India and Pakistan, where few can hide away with indoor air conditioning. Spreading droughts lead to increasing wildfires.

In the US, huge fires near Las Vegas, New Mexico, have blackened more than 465 square miles (300,000 acres) so far. It was a Forest Service-mandated arson that spiraled out of control in a region experiencing extreme drought. NOAA’s May 3 drought map shows large regions of severe to exceptional drought in the western United States, while Vermont and the Northeast remain spared for now.

Today, very little is under our control in either the natural or human world. Let’s step back and start anew with the “truth that sets us free” as the living earth system, after waiting decades for humanity to stop destroying the earth for profit, takes over the climate system. Creation and the living earth system are inseparable from the “truth that sets us free,” even if this is a heresy against human power trapped in lies. Everywhere we look, human society is lost in these webs of lies. These come from politicians, the fossil fuel empire, the consumption growth model of business as usual capitalism that is destroying planet earth, to Putin’s war to destroy Ukraine based on his personal web of lies.

In the world of Vermont, I spent five months saving the West Haven Community Solar Array from bankruptcy, neglect, and theft at the hands of the Clean Energy Collective, a corrupt corporation that stopped maintenance and stole all of the array’s assets. Readers know that truth and integrity are central to business, but deception is easy, as advertising has trained us to accept many levels of deception. But in the climate world, the direct intervention of the living Earth system eliminates these wrong choices. We must wake up quickly, breathe deeply, cast off the social webs of lies, and cooperate with both the truth and the difficult reality that lies ahead.

The breathtaking extreme event at the end of March occurred in East Antarctica. Our politicized COP26 world has believed that the melting of East Antarctica’s vast, thick, frigid ice sheets is centuries in the future. So now we can just keep making money. However, Earth is exploring how to deal with the human threat.

On March 19, a new temperature record was set at Concordia Weather Station on the East Antarctic Plateau, 70°F (40°C) higher than 30-year climatology, only by sending warm air down from the deserts of Australia. Shocked scientists simply said, “If you had told me three days ago that this was going to happen, we would never, never have believed you.” For the first time, a small ice sheet broke off East Antarctica. Overnight we glimpsed a new world where a global sea level rise of 20 to 30 feet is possible from the combined melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets over the next few decades. There is nothing we can do about it other than connect more deeply to the living earth system and immediately reverse course. Antarctica is warming more than four times as fast as the northern hemisphere.

Everything is connected, including the recent political maneuvers by lying politicians to force women to have children they cannot support in order to keep our population of capitalist consumers growing. Lost in their lies and bullying of women, these false Christians cannot even glimpse the truth and love of Jesus that sets them free to act in the name of creation, not human stupidity.

It is better that we step into the sun and connect to the living earth instead. Every spring, the hummingbirds bring us joy when they return to the bird feeder we put up on Mother’s Day.

dr Alan K. Betts lives in Pittsford.


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