Managing through some bad news, including a climate change update
by Rob Tiller
Bad news has been coming in fast this week. I usually keep a fairly even keel and manage to look on the bright side. But with hurricane Michael wreaking havoc, the stock market tumbling, democracy on the skids, and my glaucoma medication out of stock, just for starters, I’ve been jangled.
It cheered me up when Sally brought home a new orchid, and I enjoyed taking some pictures of the pristine beauty in the early morning light. I found the work absorbing. In addition to visual imagination, it takes a bunch of equipment and software: a Nikon D850 (full frame), a Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 macro lens, focus rails on a tripod, and a cable release. I sort and process the images in Adobe Lightroom, and tweak some of them with Photoshop and Helicon Focus. I consider the images here works in progress, but I like them, and thought they were worth sharing.
I finally confessed to Sally that I’ve become obsessed with Natalie Dessay. The short of it is I’m in love with a recording of the French soprano called simply Italian Opera Arias, with music by Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi. I recall listening to it some years back, when I was starting to explore bel canto opera, and thinking it was nice enough, but finding her voice a little on the light side.
But for the last several months, I’ve been listening to Italian Opera Arias over and over, and amazed at her vocal facility, the intelligence of her interpretations, and the unique beauty of her voice. Listening closely to the nuances of phrasing and tonal color, part of me is a student, looking to enrich my own musical vocabulary and insight But mostly it’s pure joy. The recording is available on Spotify, Amazon Music, and iTunes.
I was glad to hear on the BBC’s morning newscast this week that they are planning to do more stories about climate change, since it’s a big problem, to put it mildly. The climate report last week by the United Nations’ scientific panel was clear: we’re almost out of time. Unless we act quickly, many of us alive today could see the start of the greatest disaster in the last 66 million years. It’s a break-glass emergency. We need to move quickly, shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy, instituting carbon taxes, mobilizing our research capabilities, and then looking at what else is possible. And to state the obvious, there’s good reason to doubt that our leaders and systems are up to such a task.
The situation is truly terrifying, and it’s hard not to despair. I found it helpful to talk to Jocelyn about this. She recommended 1. taking deep breaths, 2. compartmentalizing, and 3. not getting obsessed. She pointed out that we might find a way out, but in any case we need to live our lives.
I appreciated her reminding me that there are sometimes unexpected solutions to big problems. An example: at the beginning of the 20th century, it appeared that Manhattan would become uninhabitable because of the mountains of horse manure. Many horses were needed for transportation in the densely populated city, and there was no known practical way of managing the piles of excrement. And then from nowhere came a new technology that took care of the horse manure problem: the automobile.
So there may be a new and unexpected technology just in time. You never know what may come next. But it’s foolish and beyond irresponsible to count on it. We need to use every social, political, economic, and technical capacity we have right now, right now.