My perpetual almanac says January 24 (or was it 25?) is Saint Paul’s Day, and if the weather on Saint Paul’s Day be fair, the weather in the winter to come will also be fair. The sun shone this morning, but now the day has turned grey again…what can this mean? And do these almanacs really mean anything with Climate Change?
According to the Washington Post, this past week a majority of U.S. Senators (98 of 100) voted yes on a proposition that climate change is real. A majority, but fewer Senators voted that climate change is manmade. Even fewer, including six Republicans (Lindsay Graham of SC, Kelly Ayote, and Susan Collins among them) voted that humans are making a significant contribution to the poisons in the atmosphere thought to be affecting climate change.
This is all fine and good but even if all the propositions above are true, what does it mean? The leading users of coal: China, India, and the U.S. all have huge and expanding populations that require more and more energy. Where is this energy to come from? I know the “greens” who love electric cars (which consume electricity generated by coal or something else) will say wind and solar, but wind and solar can’t make a dint in the production of energy for a huge population, especially where that population is expanding.
So I finished the Empire of Cotton, a great book, although population growth and meeting the needs of an ever-expanding population were not the most salient issue Becket covered. It’s oh so boring for some, but the huge increase in the world’s human population since the beginning of the Industrial Age is the elephant in the room. Yes, workers in many parts of the world were exploited when child labor and 14-hour workdays were the norm for the working class. However simultaneously, the growing population was fed and clothed and the length of life of the average human being increased during the same period.
Economists call what they do a ‘dismal science.’ Because no matter what humans do to make things better, they seem to mess up as much as they fix. The human population grows and industry expands to feed and cloth it, polluting the countryside in the process. Interest groups focused on their narrow area of concern, be it the plight of polar bears or the wealth of African-Americans often don’t accept that the larger picture is complex.
Years ago, I had a friend from Burundi, who had attended prestigious schools in Paris (Sorbonne) and the U.S. and was quite knowledgeable about the problems in his part of Africa, share with me his irritation with Americans and others, concerned with elephants, but not with the people living in Africa. Although much of that has changed in the past few years as George W. Bush, Bill Gates, Bono and others draw attention to the issues of disease and war in Africa and make an effort to improve lives, much remains to be done.
Since the tonsured and very orthodox Franciscan monk visited me last Sunday, I’ve been thinking a lot about Hell, or “HE double toothpicks” as some say it. The historian Elaine Pagels, I think it was she, wrote that the concept and the word predate Christianity. Apparently, the Chaldeans invented “Hel” along with the ‘keys to the kingdom’ that the goddess Sophia or her ilk carried until Peter got hold of them. I could have challenged the brother, but didn’t. I don’t like a fuss with a guest in my house, plus it isn’t worth the rise in my blood pressure.