In his origin story, Superman is sent to Earth from his doomed home world of Krypton by his father. Baby Kal-El’s rocket streaked away from a bright green dot as it exploded violently, hurling chunks of radioactive materials through the cosmos. He survives this planetary destruction and the extinction of his race because Jor-El, Superman’s father, was the only scientist on that world able to recognize a terrible change in the planet that resulted in its self-destruction. You see, the Kryptonians needn’t have died out. Clearly between the rockets, and Phantom Zone projectors, Bottled Cities, and a million other MacGuffins that writers have used over the decades to produce Kryptonian allies and adversaries for the Man of Steel, it is evident that their race needn’t have faced essential extinction. If only the people of Krypton had listened to the scientific evidence of their impending doom and self-imposed death, they might have survived.
A good writer might even spin a yarn about how the Kryptonians likely had the technology to prevent the destruction of their planet, if only they’d taken the science more seriously. (In fact, Kevin Anderson did just this in his novel Last Days of Krypton.) Superman, however, is science fiction–a wildly popular science fiction mind you, but a fiction nonetheless. In the world of fact and actual science we are facing a similar doom, indeed, one of our own making. There are no MacGuffins waiting in the wings to help us evacuate our pale blue dot. And many seem to think that the matter is up to debate, just as the fearful and closed-minded scientists of Krypton did.
You see, back here on planet Earth, there is irrefutable evidence of upward trends of ocean temperatures and noticeable melting of antarctic and arctic glaciers that will undoubtedly raise sea level globally. Some scientists have recently reported that this process is, for many glaciers (like the West Antarctic Ice Sheet), irreversible and that the sea levels will eventually rise something to the tune of 200 feet once the ice has melted. To put this into perspective, a low lying city like New York will quickly find itself under 16 stories of water, and while this will likely make those corner penthouses an even hotter commodity, it’s really going to mess up your morning commute…and the long awaited Second Avenue Subway line is going to need renovation early. To add a spin on the fiction of Krypton, it is not one lone scientist rebelling against a closed minded status quo…it is the consensus of scientists waving their arms calling attention to the problem.
In an interesting reversal of the fictional debate that occurred on the planet Krypton in our public discourse on the matter of climate change–most scientists agree that not only is the change real but also that it is largely caused or accelerated by man-made factors. There is an incredible minority of scientists who claim one of two preposterous positions: all the science isn’t in yet or there isn’t enough data.
In 2014, the Obama White House produced a report which was backed by NASA scientists stating that we are feeling the effects of global warming now. Not in the some dystopian future, but for the past three years. That same week, Representative Marco Rubio stated, while throwing his hat in the ring for his failed Presidential run, that he doesn’t believe in man-caused global warming and went further to state that he only sees a threat to the economy.
I suppose that Mr. Rubio didn’t then and doesn’t now think that having Wall Street literally under water will harm the GDP. The issue here, as John Oliver so brilliantly put it in This Week Tonight, is that this isn’t a topic that is up for debate. It isn’t about opinion. The overwhelming majority of scientists–those guys we trust to build our smart phones and headache pills–are in 97% concurrence that we have caused if not primarily contributed to the problem, and that we can take steps to protect ourselves. The fact that this conversation is being framed as a debate rather than a discussion of quick, effective, and viable options (that might actually bolster the economy) is mind boggling. Of course, when we put it into the perspective that most states’ legislatures see it fit to move the time of sunrise for half the year, it becomes pretty understandable that politicians would start running on the ego trip that they can nay say the disappearance of massive glaciers in less than a life-time as a natural phenomenon, just-cuz.
In the current administration, you’d think the business minded President Trump would see the opportunity to bring new business into the country by developing American propriety industries and sciences. Instead, one of his first actions when taking office was to wipe all mention of climate change and environmentally minded policies from the Obama administration from all government agency websites. So, as expected, Trump has proven not only an enemy of Civil Rights, and possibly popular sovereignty, but also to the very Earth itself. He also claims that there isn’t enough information or data and that all environmental regulations do is hurt the economy.
Even though you can chart the depletion of the Ozone Layer via chlorofluorocarbons CFC, halons, CH3CCl3 (Methyl chloroform), carbon tetrachloride, hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and methyl bromide with the prominence of refrigerators, air conditioners, fire extinguishers, aerosols, agricultural fumigants, as well as foam and as solvents for cleaning electronic equipment–yes let’s talk about how there isn’t enough data over time. Let’s discuss how our imaginary system of money is more important than concrete, corporal changes to the environment. Perhaps the hole in the Ozone Layer over Australia is also a matter of debate…let’s ask a few Aussies under the breach to go out without sunblock in the summer for a day between the hours of 9AM and 4PM and see how they respond.
That same dangerous sun could be easily harnessed with solar paneled roofs, highways, and, well everything. Everthing with massive surface area could be solar paneled and we’d never run out of energy. Contrary to popular misconception, when its cloudy out solar energy can still be absorbed. After all, flowers don’t die on cloudy days and you can get burned on the beach when its overcast. The sun is powerful, reliable, and ever-present. Gallileo put it best “The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.” Our priority should be finding ways to harness the sun and, perhaps, the friction caused by the millions upon millions of vehicles that run over roadways on a daily basis. If we were able to commit to a 10 year space program and succeed with undeveloped technology, we should be able to succeed in that amount of time with mostly existing technology. Rather than naysaying the limitations and the drawbacks ,we should be expending energy trying to overcome them. It makes far more sense to harness these kinds of energy rather than adding toxicants to the environment that not only cause a mess, but cause death. Tesla seems poised to make roofing tiles that gather solar power…perhaps theres a way for existing companies to subsidize the installation of these panels and arrange buy-backs and billing of energy used (for example, if you generate more energy than your house produces you get a check, if you use more than you generate you get a bill).
We know that many of our industries release harmful and poisonous byproducts into their surroundings. These pollutants have been causing health problems for years in people in the surrounding areas. Why is it so hard to imagine that the Earth’s health would also be adversely affected? It shouldn’t be. It’s perfectly consistent and logical. In that vein, how long do you wait before you see a doctor or go to an emergency room? Fears about the economy are not logical in the face of such a threat, and we need to seriously start reconsidering our priorities. Folks tend to forget that economic systems are even more man made than the climate change problem, but in reality far less substantial. Those who lived in countries where currencies have been consolidated can speak to that.
Meanwhile, there is much money to be made, if that’s really a primary concern to the survival of our species–and indeed the survival of every species on Earth–in developing, manufacturing, installing, adapting, and maintaining systems that keep up our society while making for better stewardship of the Earth. Creationist style scientists are best served taking notice of the important wording there…arguing against this phenomenon and deferring to God on this is in actuality bad stewardship. Look what you will do with the gift of creation.
At the end of the day, we have free will. As individuals, as a collective, as a society, and as communities it is our own decision as to how we approach this imminent doom. While many argue that preventing further change will be highly disruptive to our systems of money and societies, it can be more than argued that a rise of 200 feet of ocean water level will probably not do so well for your real estate investments either. The New York Times is reporting “miles of ice” falling into the sea, yet others claim there is room for debate…or worse yet that climate change is a hoax. The folks looking to obscure this debate certainly have something to gain—but their gains are short term and short lived–and they appear to be as maniacal and uncaring for the lives of millions as Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor in Superman: The Movie. Lex Luthor is in the White House, as he was in Superman II.
Trump is putting shortsighted profit and pride before the greater good, and setting a bad tone globally. Unfortunately, we don’t have the benefit our Jor-El’s foresight or his only begotten son. There is no Superman coming to save us. He won’t be flying around the Earth and turning back time, snapping the glaciers in place. That would be the simplest solution, to have some savior or deity come and fix everything.Concerned people have to roll up their sleeves. Realistically, we have to clean up our own messes. We can debate about the sets of footprints in the sand after we do the work.