What does it take to save the planet?
In “When the ice melts: the catastrophe of vanishing glaciers” (The Guardian, 8 January 2019), the newspaper offers yet another excellent “long read” that is highly informative, but which also compels action. It is an edited extract from The End of Ice by Dahr Jamail, to be published by The New Press on 15 January. It ought to be an instant best-seller
In late 2003, fed up with the failure of the US media to report accurately the realities of the war in Iraq for the Iraqi people, Dahr Jamail went to the Middle East to cover the issue himself. He spent more than a year in Iraq as one of a handful of independent US journalists in the country. Dahr has also has reported from Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. He is now focussing on environmental issues and the way humans are contributing to climate disruption.
In 2018, the Park Center for Independent Media (PCIM) at Ithaca College, New York State, gave Dahr an Izzy Award for his “path-breaking and in-depth reporting in 2017” exposing “environmental hazards and militarism”. The award, presented for outstanding achievement in independent media, is named in memory of I.F. “Izzy” Stone, the dissident journalist who launched I.F. Stone’s Weekly in 1953 to challenge McCarthyism, racism, war and government deceit.
In an age of digital soundbites and sensationalist video clips, not enough people seem to have time to explore in depth, which is why The Guardian series is so important. And since climate change impacts everyone, an easy-to-read, factual, passionate account of the damage we are doing to ourselves is a warning bell that cannot be silenced. Here is a taste of what Jamail’s book promises:
“Oceans are warming at unprecedented rates, droughts and wildfires of increasing severity and frequency are altering forests around the globe, and the Earth’s cryosphere – the parts of the Earth so cold that water is frozen into ice or snow – is melting at an ever-accelerating rate. The subsea permafrost in the Arctic is thawing, and we could experience a methane ‘burp’ of previously trapped gas at any moment, causing the equivalent of several times the total amount of CO2 humans have emitted to be released into the atmosphere. The results would be catastrophic…
Climate disruption is progressing faster than ever, and faster than predicted. Seventeen of the 18 hottest years ever recorded have occurred since 2001. The distress signals from our overheated planet are all around us, with reports, studies and warnings increasing daily. Worst-case prediction made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about the rise in temperatures, extreme weather, sea levels and CO2 levels in the atmosphere have fallen short of reality. Countless glaciers, rivers, lakes, forests and species are already vanishing at a pace never seen before, and all of this from increasing the global mean temperature by ‘only’ 1C above the preindustrial baseline. Some scientists predict it could rise by as much as 10C by 2100.”
In John Donne’s famous sermon, a solitary bell is tolling mournfully. Today, every warning bell is clanging wildly, loudly, incessantly.