Living on Borrowed Time

Hello on a mid-to- late Saturday evening or night,

Today time was spent helping one of my surrogate children get a new puppy. Not surprisingly, it is the same surrogate that brought a kitten into the house a few summers ago. So in continual rain, the drive was made from the acre to Elmira, New York, a little over two hours, to pick up a little black cocker spaniel puppy. My first dog at my grandmother’s was a black cocker spaniel named Penny. Some of the earliest pictures I remember in my life were feeding that dog. I also remember that she was incredibly sweet and mild mannered.

The rain and early darkness made for a little stress on the drive and on the way home this little fluff ball both pooped all over Ashley; fortunately, I had thought to bring a couple towels. We were more than 20 minutes back on our little over 2 hour ride back when that traumatic event occurred. The next exit led to cleanup and a towel going over a railing into a ditch. About 40 minutes later the food eaten before we picked her up was also up and all over Ashely. This is not appreciated, and I pulled over to a gas station and bought tissues to manage the latest gastronomic mishap. However, puppy feel asleep after that and with the exception of fog, rain, and occasional high-beams, the remainder of the trip was rather uneventful. On the other hand, I struggled a bit with my own gastrointestinal issues, but nothing showers and washing machines could not manage. The second issue for about the last 36 hours has been the sugar level, but I upped my Metformin so hopefully that will assist. Three straight reading above 200 does not make me happy.

More importantly, I want to reflect on the report released by more than 10 government agencies about the issue of climate change. In spite of its release on the day after Thanksgiving, which has angered some people, I would like to believe it has, and hopefully will, cause a variety of people from every walk of life a sense of pause. Certainly, the terms of global warming, climate change, and such are ideographic in nature. I also know that some of you will ask what I mean by this. Ideographic terms are terms or phrases that have been tossed around, for better or worse, and now have a host of things, again both positive and negative, associated with them that when employed bring the entire gamut of thoughts, understandings, and most importantly, emotions with them. This is the most straightforward way I can explain such, but if you want to consider this more deeply, look up Michael McGee, one of the foremost scholars in this area. John Lucaites and Michelle Louise Condit are two more profound scholars in this area.

We are consumers and we want to believe our consumption is without consequence. It does not matter what it is, we want it now; we want convenience and we want to live our lives with the ability to be spontaneous . . . and we would rather not be bothered with any such requirement to consider the cost, at least generally not beyond the present amount that is from our wallets or purses, our checkbooks or our credit cards. The long-term is a different consideration and we generally prefer to not be bothered with the hypothetical as we want to call it. I am not sure we can call it hypothetical any longer. I am. Not sure how long we have honestly been beyond the hypothetical, but I am quite sure it is longer than most of us wish to admit. As I live far enough away from the coast, I do not think I have a great deal to worry about, but then I did not think where I lived on a hill high above the Susquehanna River that I would ever have to worry about water in my basement, but I have learned, in spite of the French drain, and the swale in my yard, the significant hill that goes up long beyond my back yard cannot manage all the water the clay-based soil collects when we have more than 13 inches of rain in a few days. Or then after saturated soils, anymore water will just roll down the hill, and that is where I am. What I know is the water table seems to be higher than one might have thought. In addition, this is not the first time we have had such rain in the last decade. I did not live here during the previous down pour and saturation, but I did live in Bloomsburg. From a distance, (and the distance being closer than I might realize) I have witnessed two devastating floods in the Baltimore area where people have lost their lives. What has happened in California in the last decade is unprecedented, and, again, I have know people who live in those areas. In the latest and most tragic fire in terms of loss of life, I have colleagues who teach at the University of California-Chico as well as a very special person I was blessed to meet the summer I was in the wineries in the Placerville area. I was in the Battery Park area of NYC following SuperStorm Sandy, as it was called. I know people in the Dominican Republic who have had to worry about the hurricanes that have been stronger and more frequent in the past few years. If you think carefully about the list of events here, there is really no place in the country that has not felt some greater degree of Mother Nature’s wrath in the not-so-distant past.

While I am aware that everyone on either side of the aisle has something that state in this argument or discussion, there seems to be a bit of a Pascalian wager at work here. Again, if you are not sure what I am positing here, it is worth looking up. Pascal was a 17th century French mathematician (Oh those mathematicians, Dr. Kahn!!). What I am implying here is that what if the newest report is the most dire of consequences? Does that mean there are no consequences for what we do? Daily life should tell us that sort of belief process is seriously flawed. What are the consequences? How can we determine without doubt what might happen. Certainly our ability to extrapolate, which is what we do to some degree with our daily weather reports should provide us some degree of understanding, and by extension concern. I am beyond frustration with a leader who is content with the response, “maybe he did; maybe he didn’t.” May we are responsible; maybe not. What sort of imbecile is content to kick every important can down the road for the next person to manage. This sort of logic (or lack thereof) is akin to if I do not get caught then I am not wrong. Perhaps we need to send a really large Shop Vac to Washington, D.C., and much like raking the forest or having a King Kong sized Roomba, we need to empty out the White House and suck up all the dust and trash that seems to be accumulating. I know that is strong language, and to some extent, I apologize, but the logical process coming out the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will have consequences that I believe are beyond catastrophic. I remember Lydia saying regularly, “Michael, it will be a catastrophe.” Ironically, she said this most about the weather. I wonder what she would say about some of this. It is interesting that she was a strong, economic conservative when it came to monetary policy, and she was proud of her Republican registration. On the other hand, she believed strongly in the protection of the environment and was not afraid to speak out strongly about that. It makes me smile when I think about putting the “I voted Obama” sticker on her back in 2008, without her knowledge. She chased me around the yard. But I digress, The Art of the Deal seems to be anything but. I have read the book, but I found it boastful and full of hyperbole (imagine that). I have done some follow up concerning the significance of the book and what I find interesting is the co-author, which is really the author by most accounts, has given some of the royalties he has received to the National Immigration Law Center. How ironic, again!

The point is quite simple: whether or not you buy into all the conversation about climate change, when all the significant countries of the world, save one, have signed on the Paris Climate Agreement, when the great majority of science demonstrates there is a change in temperature, ocean levels, the depletion of the Arctic ice cap, and other measurable issues; when carbon emissions have been shown to be a problem in terms of greenhouse gases, why would it not be reasonable to respond in a manner that would create at the very least a slowdown of this incredibly serious problem? This is what has been on the radar of people since the 1960s. Certainly there has been fits and starts, but the Paris Climate agreement, after America bailed on the Kyoto Protocol, was something certainly be an important part of. Certainly, I am sure that not every part of it is palatable, but we have a responsibility as one of the most economically prosperous and largest consumers of energy on the planet to do something of substance. To pull out of that agreement as one of the most powerful and industrialized countries is beyond embarrassing, it is unconscionable. This is where I find what Congress has done also beyond comprehension. The Republican Party has fallen lockstep behind this sort of ridiculousness. Again, before you think I buy into everything, I do not, but to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater does not usually work. One only need to look to the French Revolution, as I noted in a recent blog. I believe we are in for our own Reign of Terror with what is happening in the executive branch of our government.

Again, I do not say these things haphazardly or lightly. In fact, it pains me to say this, but let me offer some other points that I believe take the very fabric of who we are and throw them into question. First, for the President to try to politicize the military is fundamentally against what our military has been back to the revolution. The military is for national protection; it should not be employed for the President to use to merely carry out his political agenda. That is what dictators do. I know some will question that, and probably with validity, but to try to speak with the military in a phone call and use them for political purposes in that conversation is wrong. I believe the tear gas that was used over the weekend on people seeking asylum is also beyond what I ever hoped I would see our government do. To allow military force at the border is a sort of martial law, in my opinion that is both dangerous and unnecessary. It does, however, fall in line with question both the Justice Department or the Intelligence Agencies when they do not give someone the information they want. It is in line when you call out the judiciary and get a response of the SCOTUS Chief Justice that supports the federal judiciary. Again, the reason I raise these issues is there is a pattern that seems to be occurring that fundamentally undermines how our democracy works. Once you lose democratic values and principles, what do you have? Franklin Roosevelt, the President elected four times, but who said that should never happen again, noted, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” So many of my students note they do not really like politics or they do not know enough to vote. While I was pleased to see the percentage of 18-25 year olds voting go up by double digits this a few weeks ago, I can appreciate their opinion about not liking politics. They have good reason to not like the way we are managing our political house at this time. The lack of decorum, civility, and self-centered manner in which many of our elected leaders acted should not be appreciated. In terms of the second point, not knowing enough is not acceptable. It is our responsibility to know what is happening. This is what Roosevelt is referring to in his note about the importance of elections.

While there is certainly more I could write, but I think it is enough for the moment. What I know is I believe we are on borrowed time, and that make the time we have precious. To squander it is arrogant, selfish and stupid. To not prepare and change is to play Russian roulette with one empty chamber instead of one bullet. I do not like those odds. I will leave you with this as we head into this season of Advent, this season of preparation. I think we need to consider what it is we might want to prepare for.

Thank you as always for reading.

Michael

Author:

I am a professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and the director of and Professional and Technical Writing minor, a 24 credit certificate for non-degree seeking people, and now a concentration in Professional Writing and Digital Rhetoric. We work closely to move students into a 4+1 Masters Program with Instructional Technology. I love my work and I am content with what life has handed me. I merely try to make a difference for others by what I share, write, or ponder through my words.

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