Sunday, December 6, 2009

Time Magazine Opinion Piece (Disguised as a News Story)

The December 14 issue of Time Magazine has a major editorial, A River Ran Through It, disguised as a news story.  It focuses on glacier melting in the Himalayas.  I say that because the author, Bryan Walsh, includes such statements as these:

“If global warming goes unchecked, the Himalayan melt will certainly get worse.”

“Whether the warming will continue is largely up to us.” (I guess he is referring to Time Magazine readers.)

Referring to the upcoming Copenhagen summit, Mr. Walsh says expectations are low, “…in part because of sluggishness on the part of the US Senate…”

According to the article, the basic problem is that glaciers, along with monsoon rains, feed the rivers and thus provide drinking water and enable agriculture for an expanding population in undeveloped regions of the world.  The glaciers must melt to feed the rivers, but, if the melting is not replenished by winter snow, the number of years of available ice is limited.  Of course glaciers have been melting since the last ice age and the idea that humans can control the rate of such change seems extremely arrogant to me.  Well, at least this posting is clearly identified as opinion. 

The article does point out that not everyone agrees that there is a problem and that many agree that there is a lack of data due to restricted access to the region.  One scientist, however, who has dedicated his career to study of these glaciers, argues that, “The debate is over.  We know the science.  We see the threat.  The time for action is now.”  Another scientist thinks that heavy soot from local diesel fuel and wood burning may be a significant factor in the melting of these particular glaciers. 

The article also points out that the populations in the under-developed areas served by melting glaciers are expanding.  So, while nobody really cares about CO2, everybody cares about water and food.  And that is the basic problem which seems to be largely ignored because of a quick jump to a diagnosis and action plan that is very likely to reduce rather than increase the supply of these essentials. 

Probably most of us could agree that a stable water and food supply is already a major problem for an expanding world population and that it will only get worse as long as the population continues to expand regardless of any global warming effect.  In developed countries with packed grocery stores on every corner and fresh cold and hot water available on demand, it is hard to realize the magnitude of the problem.  We who are relatively wealthy may be able to afford to emphasize organic gardening, local non-factory farming, and reductions in the rate of economic development to reduce CO2 generation.  I suspect that feeding the rest of the world is going to require fertilizers, insecticides, CO2-generating factory farming and petroleum fueled distribution of food and water in a big way.  Global warming might even have a beneficial effect by increasing the land available for agriculture. 

Here are a couple of interesting links about population growth.

Percent of population over 65 by country shows which countries are “developing.”

Interesting UN Population Facts (Just ignore the subtle pro-abortion, oops, I mean pro-choice slant.)

1 comment:

  1. I saw that Time Mag piece in a doctor's office and thought to myself, no wonder I don't read Time. Very shoddy. Then again, I remember that a few months before 9/11, Time had a cover story called "Summer of the Shark!" So they've been making things up for a while now.

    Perhaps part of the appeal of end-of-the-world fantasy, whether the source of the destruction is divine, as in a gotcha rapture, or man made, as in global warming, is that it is incredibly egocentric, heightening the significance of one's life above all ancestors and descendants.