The fence won’t help
Last Saturday,the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its fourth report on global warming, and there was no mincing of words.
Rajendra Pachauri, the scientist who heads the panel, warned, “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases–China, where they are building a carbon-spewing coal plant per week, and the U.S., the world’s biggest economy headed by the world’s most puzzling president–to finally do something constructive.
Yet, what are our leaders doing? Have they started taxing carbon emissions? Have they finally leaned on those idiots in Detroit to start producing cars with better gas mileage? Have they given any substantial push to alternative fuels? Have they rethought farm supports away from oil-intensive agribusinesses? Have they really even admitted that there is a problem?
But does anybody out there actually believe we couldn’t do better, given even a smidgen of real political leadership? I mean, the ingenuity just never stops here in America when it comes to small consumer goods. Have you looked at an iPhone? You can do anything with one short of uproot dandelions.
It’s a good bet that there are solar panel people out there producing technologies that are nearly as nifty. If only they could get a bigger slice of the corporate welfare pie, we might have something.
Meanwhile, there is Angela Belcher at MIT using viruses to grow batteries. So can anybody tell me why we are not driving electric cars? If General Motors were made to pay for the carbon emissions it engineers, trust me, Angela Belcher would be invited to lunch at the Renaissance Center in Detroit at least once a week.
We gardeners have to get political. I know, most of us are not activists by nature. The world is ugly and uncontrollable, so behind our walls (if we’re really lucky) and hedges and collapsing stockade fences (now we’re talking about me), we make paradise for ourselves.
Self-sufficiency is the gardener’s most striking trait. As every beginner’s gardening book points out, "paradise" comes from the ancient Persian word for "enclosure."
But our many beautiful bulb- and basil-filled enclosures are now threatened on a scale not seen since the end of the last ice age. Our sage enjoyment of our own lives may only last a few more seasons, if we don’t start shouting uncharacteristically loudly, and now.
The IPCC policy-makers’ summary promises that with rising temperatures there will be "complex, localised negative impacts on small holders, subsistence farmers, and fishers." They don’t mention the ornamental growers–maybe nobody at the U.N. is thinking about their spring lily order at present–but you get the picture.
Even if global warming proves to be nothing but fun for us Zone 3, 4, and 5 gardeners–and I have big, big plans regarding Bing cherries–we won’t be able to hide from the larger issues. When places like Phoenix and Atlanta and Athens become uninhabitable thanks to heat waves and no water supply, let’s face it, we are going to spend a lot of time yelling at strangers to get off our strawberries.
I have enough trouble with weeds. Adding climatic refugees to the mix doesn’t strike me as pleasant at all.
In the past, I’ve almost always cast my votes based on some (frequently mistaken) perception of political courage, and never on individual issues.
But as a gardener, I think I have to vote global warming in the next election. While John McCain has broken my heart by saying all kinds of things I don’t think he believes out of sheer ambition, he certainly towers over the other dwarfs on the Republican side who don’t think carbon emissions need to be capped or Detroit ought to rethink anything. On the Democratic side–though I fear it would be a bit like having a second grade teacher as president–maybe the draft Al Gore movement is not so stupid after all.