Thursday, October 29, 2015

Float your boat

When I was young we had a subscription to Readers Digest magazine. There were also many Readers Digest Condensed Books around the house. I read a few of the articles, but mostly I read the humor bits, the joke pages, and the funny stuff after most articles. A bonus when we visited my grandfather was the shelves of old RD in his basement. There were times when I came home from college and as the rest of the family went to bed I would find the latest Readers Digest or two and read all the funny stuff. I usually stayed up late – and couldn't keep my eyes open during the church service the next morning.

Once I was on my own, I also subscribed. But I got tired of the simplistic or saccharine nature of the articles. For a while I read the funny stuff on visits to home, which lasted until Dad got annoyed with what he saw was RD's anti-church stance (I could go into a big aside about the Institute for Religion and Democracy, which is actually wants religion without democracy, but not now).

After that I sometimes stood in line at the grocery store reading as much of the latest RD as time permitted. But it has been a long time since I've seen it in the checkout aisles.

So what brings on this reminiscence? RD sent me a free copy with an offer to subscribe. I threw away the subscription card, but decided to read it anyway. The articles are as simplistic and saccharine as before and there isn't as much funny stuff. But there was one article that caught my attention.

Most of the articles RD publishes are condensations of stuff printed elsewhere. This one was no exception. Since I'm not all that fond of RD I decided I would find and link to the original article. It is The Pentagon & Climate Change: How Deniers Put National Security at Risk by Jeff Goodell, published in Rolling Stone.

The article starts with the predicament at the naval facilities at Norfolk, Virginia. It and the surrounding bases are huge and are critical to the Atlantic Fleet. But the area is having increasing problems with sea water flooding over facilities and roads as sea levels rise. Perhaps in 50 years the whole place will have to be relocated at astronomical expense.

Norfolk isn't the only military facility affected by climate change – nearly all of the Pentagon's 555,000 facilities (I'd be interested in the unit of count) are affected. The issue for the Navy is seal-level rise – say goodbye to the strategic base at Diego Garcia. The issue for other facilities include drought and melting permafrost. Perhaps a threatened military would pull Congressional climate-deniers back into reality. Many of these Congresspeople love the military as much as they hate admitting climate change might be real.

The RD version of the story implies this may indeed be possible, a way forward. If we would just take a few more senators to Norfolk and talk up this angle some more then maybe... The RS version documents how unlikely that scenario is. Congresspeople are as willing to denounce the military brass as they are climate scientists.

The Pentagon is tackling the problem. But they have to do it on the sly. Congress will cross out any budget item with the word "climate." Piers in Norfolk getting flooded? Replace them with higher piers – but tell Congress the old ones were obsolete (which was true) and not mention the new ones are higher.

The RD version of the article leaves out a discussion of the Arctic Ocean. As the ice is melting countries and corporations are jostling for the resources now accessible. But the Navy has no presence in the area and has no plans to have one.

Both RD and RS cover the next topic, only differing in the amount of detail. As the world warms, sea levels rise, and the weather becomes nastier there will be a lot more need for disaster relief, humanitarian aid, and settling of fighting amongst countries and people with insufficient resources. Normandy beaches or the siege of Fallujah are one thing for the military, being the rescue squad for the planet is quite another, especially since many conflicts will be conducted through terrorism. Will the US military be able to handle it? Even if they can, there's this:
As one military analyst has pointed out, the U.S. military is the only force on Earth with the ability to police, process, house, feed and move refugees on a mass scale. But you can see how this picture could turn dark fast — one of the biggest long-term threats climate change poses could be to civil liberties and freedom.
Will these issues get the attention of the GOP leadership in Congress? Not likely.

As for the current thinking on climate change, Rolling Stone offers a look at all that is going wrong around the world and doing so at a rate faster than what scientists had originally estimated. Happy reading!

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