Friday, June 17, 2005

Koyaanisqatsi: Your Future Begins The Day After Yesterday

I just peeped a DVD of "The Day After Tomorrow" which came out last year and quickly faded from theaters. I went to see it before it disappeared but I do recall tripping off of how science shite I'd read years before had finally made it onto the big screen. The flick reminded me of articles and books that I'd read years beforehand about ice ages, paleoanthropology...and global warming. As of this writing there are massive blackouts stretching all across the state of Texas which are not unlike what happened to us out here in Cali just a short while back -- which lead to the election of "Der Governator" and all kinds of crazy but that's another post altogether: that's another post...When you look at all of the empirical data we have it would seem like a no-brainer for us to start getting serious about alternative fuel sources/ using mass transit but alas, we haven't...at least not yet and still the earth gets warmer...


Paleoclimatologists have found that there have been three very distinct weather shifts on our planet's surface by examining ice cores (long pole-like samples extracted from glaciers all over the world) and parsing out the chemical components of the ice layers therein -- each respective year's climate history can be ascertained just like they can by reading the rings in a tree's trunk.The first ice age occurred about 600 million years ago, the second about 275 million years ago and the third began 1.5 million years ago -- the last being relatively recent in geological terms -- it ended only 15,000 years ago. This violent shift in temperature on the earth's crust that precipitates the spread of glaciers all over the world's surface for thousands of years is called an ice age and it ain't no joke, son...


In addition to the ice findings above, oceanographers have discovered that our weather patterns are shaped by the world's ocean currents . The scientist have found that once sea salt (brought up by currents from warmer climes) reaches the Northern Hemisphere it gathers in the colder waters, becomes and then drops to the ocean floor in dense columns of saline, the funneling of all of this watery mass, in turn, creates the motion of what's called the global ocean conveyor. According to these scientists, it takes roughly 2,000 years for water that starts flowing from one point to return to it under normal circumstances which is predicated on a delicate balance of salt water and freshwater getting mixed and redistributed across the planet in other configurations such as rain, snow, sleet, fog, hail, etc. All of this is a self correcting system but we good old homo sapiens and our need for burning fossil fuels, animal husbandry and sewage treatment are dumping way more freshwater into the seas than is needed to retain equilibrium-- one of these things isn't as necessary as the other two -- so it's causing an imbalance in the distribution of sea salt (the pulleys that run the engine of global weather patterns) and all of this is slowly starting to affect us all meteorologically...


See, once this system reaches a critical desalinization point (due to huge chunks of icebergs melting and falling into the ocean as a result of warming trends on the earth's surface) the flow of sea salt stops which halts the conveyor belt's motion and renders the movement of water into a stasis -- and what we know as an ice age ensues. This does not bode well for anybody anywhere. You might be inclined to say, "get real tree hugger," but I'm not that guy -- far from it. I've done my dirt too but I still try to work out ways to do my part (thus this piece and why I've opted not to buy a car after all -- I got a new bike instead, yo). Like George Carlin once asked during a rant about getting serious about recycling: "Leave the earth alone...Haven't we done enough?"


A couple of years ago, Carlin had a bit in his stand-up routine where he compared humans that live on the surface of the earth to ticks on the back of a dog. Just a nuisance...a pest that could be easily vanquished into oblivion by the shake of the tail..."just ask those people frozen in stone at Pompeii, if they feel like a threat to the planet," he joked -- prescient material (his rants get raves) but dude was just expounding on the concept of earth-as-organism that humans from the Olduvai Gorge to Teotihuacán knew for thousands of years hence -- one name that comes to mind right now is the goddess Gaia. Back in the 60's James Lovelock gave the latter a modern twist that he called "The Gaia Hypothesis" which is the concept that the earth itself is a gigantic living, breathing organism; an entity onto itself comprised of the biota (all of the living organisms) and the biosphere (essentially, the crust where everything is born, lives and dies)...


It's obvious that I'm no scientist but I do believe that science is one of the most important learning tools that we humans have cobbled together during our brief stay on this planet. I think there's a reason that we've been rewarded with the facility of abstract thought which allows us to plan ahead ie. hunter gatherers who rigged their daily schedules to match those of the migrating herds or realizing that we have to "spring forward and fall back" during the solstices -- on the Animal Planet playing field we're the evolutionary cocks of the walk, so to speak, but I think we've been patting ourselves on the back a trifle much -- maybe my belief in cognitive entropy isn't so unfounded after all. We've got all of this knowledge of what has happened -- and is definitely going to happen again -- yet nothing's being done to insure that we're better prepared than our loin cloth-wearing ancestors for the next "big chill." It may not happen today or tomorrow or even next month but "Mr. Freeze" is definitely set to make another appearance (I'm not talkin' about Schwarzenegger, either)...the real "Mr. Cold Meiser" is just biding his time, to really catch us with our trousers around our ankles, I'd imagine...


A couple of years ago a friend of mine gave me a tape called Koyaanisqatsi and I was blown away. There's no dialogue at all, just music (by Philip Glass) and time-elapsed film footage of various nature scenes from locales all over the world. I saw shite that I'll probably never see in the flesh in my lifetime (though I'll try) and I remember thinking how modern "civilized" man had began to think of himself as a seperate entity from the planet and how wrong that is. Not to get all "circle of life/ as the wheel affords you" but I still feel that way and highly recommend that flick and The Day After Tomorrow (click header for link) to those remotely interested in the living, breathing planet that we call earth...petroleum/ gasoline is a finite fuel source so there definitely has to be a bottom to the can, kid...man-made rules of supply and demand ring hollow in the face of that fact...I just hope we can get with the sun/ wind/ waters for power supply before the well runs dry...the next time you pick up your car keys to drive five blocks away, ask yourself (like Daffy Duck did the cartoons) "is this trip really necessary?...Laters.


Sidenote: The word "Koyaanisqatsi" is a Hopi Indian noun for "life out of balance; crazy life; life in turmoil; life disintegrating; a state of life that calls for another way of living"...I like that last one...it's holds more promise than the one before it...double laters...

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