While watching CSI Miami recently, as the camera panned past mansion after mansion on the edge of the water, my first thought was "Global warming's going to be a bitch there!".
We've all seen the disaster movies, where some place on earth (usually the USA) bears the brunt of Mother Nature's wrath - getting flooded, or frozen, or hit by things from outer space, or blown away by a big storm, or blown up by a big volcano. And until now it's all just been special effects and wishful (on the part of some!) thinking.
But the fact is things are changing. Up north, Russia and Germany saw their first snowfalls of the season this week. Down here the South Easter has arrived extra-early, with occasional breaks for winter. Storms and tsunamis no longer make major news - they happen so regularly it's merely another country battling to find survivors and rebuild. The weather is no longer predictable. The seasons are no longer regular and steady. From Africa to the frozen (defrosting?) North change is being felt by the communities most in tune with the land. Us city folk? Not so much.. not yet....
In fact it's very easy for us city folk to simply ignore the warning signs of a world shifting. Our food is still flown in from far and wide - there doesn't seem to be a noticeable drop in what we can get when. In our climate-controlled offices, we don't notice that the seasons are any different this year - we don't even know whether it's hot or cold out, sometimes not even if it's day or night. What little we see of the actual weather doesn't give much indication that anything's wrong.
Yet it is. In South Africa, the air quality is a lot worse than we thought. Here in Cape Town, the wind blows our city pollution away (where?)... until a dead-calm day reveals how terrible that layer of smog, smoke and junk in our air actually is. With thousands of cars heading into the city each day, our city-wide "green debt" is huge. Industry may have slowed during tough economic times, but we're still pumping out the crap in scary amounts.
And yes, it's contributing to the shift in the world's climate. Collectively. And individually. None of us stop to think that hopping into the car to drive 500m to the shops is doing damage (to us and the environment). None of us stop to think about that half-cup of perfectly-good water we threw away instead of putting it down our throats or onto a plant. None of us stop to think that our bad habits now are going to make life very, very difficult in years to come.
So what do we do? CAN we do anything or is this simply a cycle of warming up / cooling down that the earth is going through - that we are too "young" as a human race to remember? Is the change in our climate going to wipe us out or whittle us down to survival of the fittest? It's all unknowns, really. We don't know if we're part of a big cycle of death and renewal that the planet needs to survive, or if we're just killing ourselves and the planet thoroughly and permanently through our stupidity.
But this much we do know. Things are changing. Things have changed. We have to adapt - or die. We need to become more conscious about how we live, how we work, the choices we make. Whether it's starting up your back-yard veggie garden (and adding to the world's greenery, your general health and bringing back a bit of balance), whether it's walking or biking instead of driving (everywhere's within walking distance if you have the time.. ;-) ), whether it's investing in a green technology like solar or wind power (stuff Eskom's price-hike plans!), or any myriad of other small and big steps - we need to be stepping. All of us. Before it's too late to bring ourselves back from the brink of disaster.