Sunday, February 22, 2009

Moving to Higher Ground

Odds are if your great, great, great, great, (…all the way back to caveman days) grandfather heard a rustle in the grass in the night, he assumed the worst. Good bet there’s a predator out there, better take evasive action. Not to have taken immediate action in the face of insufficient information in this case would probably have meant you wouldn’t get to be his great, great, great, (…all the way to now) grandchild.

Much of our history involved this sort of thinking: reacting quickly to perceived danger instead of waiting until all the information was in. By the time our primitive ancestor waited for a lion in the night to reveal itself in full attack mode, he would have been lion dinner. And, we are descendants of those intelligent wary individuals, who, when they erred, did so on the side of caution.

Though we are a lot more intelligent, more capable of discerning and combating real danger, we too benefit from this precautionary faculty that some say is hard-wired into our brains. If we hear a rustle in the air that it (the air itself) is warming up, backed by an avalanche of data leaning in that direction, the better genius of our nature would tell us to take preventative action. Skedaddle or die. Waiting impotently for leaping lions and a solid month of 100 degree days in New York State is not who we are. That foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, not great minds that passed into future generations.

So it with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision this week to raise “…equipment such as pump motors and circuit breakers from 25 feet below sea level to 14 feet above sea level” (from (Bloomberg: City must adapt to global warming now --, Feb. 22, 09) in New York City, we evidence that ancient faculty for prudent caution has not deserted us. The new report, “CLIMATE RISK INFORMATION NEW YORK CITY PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE FEBRUARY 17, 2009 says “Climate change poses a range of hazards to New York City and its infrastructure. These changes suggest a need for the City to rethink the way it operates and adapts to its evolving environment.”

I note this story about Mayor Bloomberg’s actions because it is the first time I have read about a major political figure doing something so concrete about the threat of Global Warming. Bloomberg is not wrangling with his staff about whether or not that ‘rustle’ of climate change heard throughout the world means we should wait until Earth becomes a Venus: he’s moving city equipment to higher ground. By the way, the mayor has also been gearing up New York City in many other ways, assuming the worst about Global Warming and also trying to mitigate those threats. Taking evasive action.

Instead of staring dumbfounded into the night, paralyzed by the great inconvenience of dealing with the climate change threat, the mayor of our state’s largest city is acting in the best tradition of a species intent on surviving.

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