Saturday, May 03, 2008

Don't Despair

Strange. All day Thursday, I felt fatigued and like a truck had run over me. I was cold so I walked Apolo to get my juices flowing to warm me up but I could only walk 1.5 miles instead of two or three. The contractors did not show up so I took a long hot shower in the middle of the day. Geez--I couldn't get anything done. I tip-toed through the construction in bathroom number four and found the drawer under the plastic where I hoped would be a thermometer. Sure enough, I had a decent fever. The week before I had attended a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) in Seattle where someone was annoyingly coughing during the whole seminar and I had a women's group meet at my house the next day where at least three of the people were sick. Oh great---3 to 7 days after exposure! I had paid to attend the Second Annual UW Climate Change CLE conference for Friday and no way did I want to miss it. I went to bed early, sweated a lot during the night and woke up feeling comfortable with no other symptoms. This has happened to me at times during my entire life. I'm pretty sure I have a virus that makes other people sick for several days but I get a fever and that's it for one day.

Anyway, I made it to my conference yesterday feeling a little tired but the fever never returned. Every now and then I run into attorneys I used to know from back in the day. Let's see. Lucas will be 23 next month so it has been 23 years since I was in the thick of Seattle's legal community. This woman approached me as I walked into the UW law school. Wow! She looked exactly the same. We had been hired by our Seattle law firm at the same time. For six years we slaved together until I left to have a baby. She left a couple of years later to become a Superior Court judge. While I had babies and raised children, she served on the bench for 14 years until she retired. This woman had had her children early in life--a boy and a girl just like me---and they were in high school by the time she began her career. Her early days had been as a full time parent. During the breaks we caught up on each other's lives. She could not believe that the reason for my oversized belly in 1985 was now a curious young man at the southern tip of Chile. I could not believe she was a grandmother.

Our attention was then fixed on the enormous problem facing us, our children and grandchildren. Global fricking warming. People, it is getting scary. I had not been on the computer since Thursday and the first story I read this morning is that seven people were killed by widespread tornadoes yesterday in Arkansas while we yet again had to sit and listen to how unresponsive our current administration is to this issue. They have denied it and ignored it. Bush's last little speech about the problem was laughable if you actually looked at what he said.

The good news is that Seattle, King County, and our state along with California, Oregon and British Columbia are way way ahead of the game. Our legislation has moved quickly to set strict levels of green house gas emissions. We are moving as fast as we can toward cap and trade agreements. Our land use and growth management restrictions now contain requirements to mitigate CO2. We learned about Paul Allen's South Lake Union development which is being built with green standards. Concrete, steel and wood are being reused. Condos and town homes exist in a self-contained community without the need for cars which is our area's biggest contributor to global warming. Our efforts have much more stringent standards than the watered down milk toast effort of the Lieberman-Warner bill now in the US Congress which is bascially too little too late.

In fact, a big part of the discussion yesterday was what happens if this federal legislation passes which is shockingly weaker than our regional laws. Will the feds make us loosen up our standards? Arnold is in a big court battle with them right this minute over this very thing. California wants stiff car emission standards and the EPA won't let it happen. Sounds like a reason for us to establish our own nation and call it Cascadia! Oops. I better not run for public office after saying such an unpatriotic thing. I mean, to suggest this is right up there with not wearing a lapel pin, God forbid.

Yesterday, my emotions went from hopeful to pissed off and back to hopeful again. Most of the speakers were in agreement that no matter which of the three candidates are elected in November, we will be significantly better off with respect to climate change issues. Bush and his oil cohorts have been a complete disaster. One of the enjoyable moments was listening to one of our Seattle attorneys describe how he is taking on the oil and power companies in a civil lawsuit. Last year, he told us he was just thinking about it--that such a case was an idealistic pie in the sky idea.

But this year, the case is on! His client is the Alaskan village of Kivalina which is being destroyed. The Arctic sea ice which had protected the village from storms is melting at an alarming rate. The village has been battered with wind and water and the shore is eroding. It is falling into the sea. The attorney on behalf of his clients is accusing the long list of power companies of causing the disaster and failing to mitigate the problem once they knew about their substantial contributions to global warming. As a part of the case, he is accusing them of conspiracy. His claim is that the coal, power and oil companies participated in a campaign to deny the existence of global warming, to question the science of it, and to call the role of mankind in it a myth. They promoted the propaganda, knowing it was wrong, in order to protect profits. He wants them to pay to have the town relocated.

Like all of the efforts to confront global warming and climate change, the lawsuit is probably a long shot. One of the questions yesterday reflected my thoughts. Everything we were hearing were baby steps in the right direction. We were proud of our local area's lead to do something--anything to stop the devastation to our earth.

But is all of this futile?

Extremes in temperature are causing drought and wildfires in western states beyond anything ever before experienced. People are breathing the smoke every summer. Extreme precipitation in our mountains has caused floods, multiple avalanches and landslides destroying property and lives. Hurricanes, cyclones, and tornadoes are stepped up a few notches resulting in loss of homes and death. This is the beginning and this is becoming the new normal. Can we reverse it? Can we slow it?

The answer to the question was as follows:

"I hear in your voice despair. There is a fine line between denial and despair. Neither denial nor despair takes us down the path of survival. On behalf of our grandchildren, we must survive."

Update May 6: The cyclone that hit Myanmar after I wrote this has killed 22,000 people so far. 41,000 are still missing. 100,000 have been left homeless and this number may rise to 1 million fellow human beings. Just sayin'!