By Bob Ostertag
April 1st, 2020
No one knows for sure how much global greenhouse gas emissions have fallen with the coronavirus pandemic, but it is within reason to think that it could hit 40%.
According to the United Nations, a 40% reduction is what humanity has to achieve by 2050. And there are credible climatologists who have been forcefully arguing that the UN goal was far too conservative, that we needed to get to 40% much faster.
Well, we have done it in a few days.
It turns out we could do it fast.
Of course it won’t last. When economies ramp back up so will emissions. But while we are here, take a look around: the empty streets, motionless cars, shuttered factories and grounded airplanes. This is what a reduction in greenhouse somewhere on the order or 40% looks like (with present-day technology). This is what we have to make sustainable.
To be fully honest, a greenhouse gas reduction of 40% is at the outside of the probable range of where we are right now. Twenty-five or 30% is more likely. So what we see in the world right now, this very day, might not be drastic enough to reach even the UN emissions goals.
The silver lining is that every species of life on earth except for humans is celebrating. Not just the polar bears, but everything banana slugs to monarch butterflies. Certainly the coral reefs are celebrating. The global pandemic of greenhouse gas emissions that has them all fighting for the lives is letting up at least momentarily. Humans are the only ones not invited to the party.
The pandemic is almost as if the earth was giving humanity a giant collective spanking: “I don’t care who is responsible! All of you, go to your room! Now! And don’t come out until you can behave properly!”
Tragically, as is so often the case when punishment is meted out collectively, those who have done nothing bear the brunt of the punishment for the actions of a few. In this case, that would be those of us whose lifestyles have depended on massive carbon emissions.
Robert Ostertag’s work cannot easily be summarized or pigeonholed. He has published more than twenty albums of music, five books, and a feature film. His writings on contemporary politics have been published on every continent and in many languages, beginning with his work as a journalist covering the civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s. His books cover a wide range of topics, from labor unions to the history of journalism to estrogen and testosterone. He has performed at music, film, and multimedia festivals around the globe. His radically diverse musical collaborators include the Kronos Quartet, John Zorn, Mike Patton, transgender cabaret icon Justin Vivian Bond, British guitar innovator Fred Frith, EDM DJ Rrose, and many others.
Check out an excerpt from his forthcoming book: Facebooking the Anthropocene in Raja Ampat: Technics and Civilization in the 21st Century
Forgive me for being such a poor correspondent during my year around the world. The daily kaleidoscope was so relentlessly compelling I found it difficult to collect my thoughts, much less write them down. At the end of it all I have arrived in Berlin, an island of sanity in a crazy world.
More precisely, I am in the naked gay sunbathing section of the Tiergarten, Berlin’s large city park. Green grass, green trees, blue sky, a lovely blanket of calm everywhere, lots of naked men lying in the sun. Families with little kids walking by. The easy mixing of naked gay men and kids on their way to get ice cream bothers no one. Beautiful Berlin.
The only men not lying motionless are me and two others just to my left. One of these is in a motorized wheel chair. He has a disorder which makes it impossible for him to control his movement, and is flailing around in the chair. The other man is the flailing man’s caretaker, who is dspoon feeding the one in the chair. The man in the chair is naked. His caretaker, clothed, has brought him here so he can be naked in the park with the rest of the guys. The condition of the man in the chair is so severe that it is hard for him to swallow, and the quiet tranquility of the park is periodically broken by his loud and urgent choking when the food goes does the wrong way.
I am doing yoga.
At last I can think.