Climate Blindness Could Afflict Millions

The poor frog has of course been slandered. A frog will die in boiling water, but jump out of a slowly warming pot.

The homo not-so-sapiens is another story. You can sit a human down in front of a graveyard, and he’ll tell you about eternal life. You can sit a human down in front of a blunder in her own handwriting, and she’ll tell you and believe that someone else did it. And you can put a Marylander in a rising Chesapeake Bay, show him islands sinking beneath the water, and he’ll swear to you that nothing’s changed.

This is from Newsweek:

“Smith Island comprises . . . a stretch of islands . . . where roughly 280 residents live in three small villages about 5 feet above sea level. But erosion nips away at Smith Island’s banks at a rate of roughly 2 feet each year, and a 2008 report predicted that by 2100 Smith Island will be ‘almost completely under water as the Bay’s average level goes up nearly one-foot.’ Which is why, even though Smith Island emerged relatively unscathed after Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development offered Smith Island residents a buyout to move. Most rejected the offer. Some, like Marshall, don’t believe there’s any risk to living on the island. ‘The whole sea-level rise—it’s BS,’ he says, talking loudly over the boat’s motor. ‘I’ve lived here my whole life and haven’t seen a difference,’ he continues, then shakes his head at excavators on barges piling gray stone in front of the refuge’s outer bank. . . . The Army Corps of Engineers estimates that some 3,300 acres of Smith Island land have eroded over the last 150 years. Currently, only 900 acres of the island chain are habitable. . . . ‘The island is going to be just fine. Our problem is we’re running out of people,’ Marshall says to me on his boat in early August. As we head for Ewell, he makes it clear how he feels about media reports claiming Smith Island is falling into the Chesapeake Bay. He asks me if I’m familiar with Public Enemy. Sure, I tell him. He quotes: ‘Don’t believe the hype.’ But, in truth, Smith Island’s story seems to have been written many times over on other Chesapeake Bay islands: . . . Holland Island today is best known nationally for the photograph taken in 2010 of its final house falling into the Chesapeake, another victim of rising seas.”

On the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, and in the Hampton Roads-Norfolk area of Virginia, flooding has already become routine. The sea level will rise, if current trends continue, between 3 and 18 feet by 2100. Already it has risen an inch every 7 or 8 years — 12 inches in the last century. Some 628,000 Virginians live within 6.5 feet of sea level. Paul Fraim, Mayor of Norfolk since 1994, says the city may need to soon establish “retreat zones” and abandon sections of the city as too costly to protect. Real estate agents are discussing the need to require disclosure of sea level as well as lead paint and other defects when selling property. The famous ponies of Chincoteague live among trees killed and grasses weakened by risen saltwater, and will not live there much longer.

Yet, people living on sinking islands in the Bay tell you they see no problem. How could they? They’re humans, and they’ve got climate blindness.

The U.S. military, headquartered largely in Virginia, the world’s largest Navy base in Norfolk, and the swamp-built Capital of the United States in Washington, D.C., face potential devastation directly contributed to by the endless wars for oil, and the consumption of that oil, despite the widespread belief that the results of the wars are distant. Just as ice melting in Greenland lifts water onto the streets of Norfolk, the investment of trillions of dollars in pointless death and destruction not only diverts resources from addressing climate damage but heavily contributes to that damage. The U.S. military would rank 38th in oil consumption if it were a nation.

Try to find an appropriate response to the rising water in Washington, D.C., and it quickly becomes clear that climate blindness afflicts government officials as readily as anyone else, if not more so. The malady can be exacerbated by even a mild case of partisan blindness, to the point where — if President Barack Obama sabotages climate control efforts in Paris as he did in Copenhagen — blame will be placed entirely on others, and then forgotten about. Until we drown.