For the last several Saturdays, I’ve made a point of visiting the Raleigh parks that I did not already know well. There are several pretty lakes and miles of trails close by. When inspiration strikes, I take some pictures. But mostly I just walk and look, look and listen, listen and breathe deeply. It’s good for the lungs and the head.
This Saturday I drove north a little farther, to Falls Lake. It was mild and overcast when I arrived, but gradually cleared up. I did some hiking and took some pictures, including those here. I also enjoyed driving the long and winding country roads with Clara in sport mode.
That afternoon there was word that 195 nations at the Paris climate conference had agreed on wording to address global warming. It’s good to know there’s acceptance among world leaders that global warming is real and humans can and must act to address it. Unfortunately, they only agreed to CO2 reductions amounting to half of what is widely accepted as necessary to prevent rising sea levels, droughts, more destructive storms, and widespread food shortages.
In other words, absent further progress, we’re still screwed. But there’s still a chance that we won’t utterly destroy human civilization and much of the rest of the natural world. Perhaps we’ll have a major technological breakthrough, like practical nuclear fusion. Fingers crossed.
One thing barely being discussed is population control. The population of the planet has quadrupled in the last 100 years. I guess this is politically sensitive. But really, isn’t overpopulation a big part of the climate change problem? If we don’t figure out a way to control population growth in a humane way, aren’t we likely to see it unfold in a horrifying way (desperate people fighting for survival against each other and perhaps us)? Viz. the refugee crisis unfolding right now.
This week was full of anti-Muslim fear and panic, with calls for addressing terrorist threats by extreme measures, including monitoring mosques and barring all Muslims from the U.S. Even more moderate voices saw no alternative to escalating the war against ISIS and other radical groups, and those who questioned this course were increasingly at risk of being branded terrorist sympathizers. But there were a couple of articles pointing the other way, which I flagged on Twitter (@robtiller). There was one by Gwynne Dyer in, of all places, the Raleigh News & Observer of Dec. 10. That evening, when I went to get a link, it seemed to have vanished from the internet, but fortunately I still had the paper copy.
Dyer pointed out that for Americans, the panic at the terrorist threat does not have much basis. In the last 14 years, we’ve had an average of two people per year killed in the U.S. by Muslim terrorists. He calculated that “Americans are 170 times more likely to drown in the bath than to be killed by Islamist terrorists.” This is something public figures feel they can’t mention, because of the extreme dissonance with related facts: more than 6,000 U.S. soldiers killed in this period fighting terrorism, and a trillion dollars has been spent on the War on Terror. Dyer acknowledges that if you live in Arab countries, the terror threat is real and serious, and that western countries fighting ISIS might do some good for some Syrians. But it probably won’t reduce the already tiny risk of terrorist attacks here.