Firefighting is obviously dangerous, often thankless work, and you may have noticed the past few years that wildfire season out west starts earlier and goes longer these days. Last year it was Colorado, because large swaths of forest have been turned into tinder by infestations of pine beetle -- wait for it -- which have proliferated because it no longer gets cold enough long enough during the winter.
Usually it's a safe bet to scoff at arguments which deploy the Children, Who Are Our Future trope, but in the case of laypersons attempting to figure out whether climate change is "real," and/or caused by human activity, one would think that most parents at least would want to err on the side of caution, to ensure that their kids have a reasonably safe planet to inhabit. Maybe not; in most subjects, especially ones requiring the ability to assess empirical evidence, one observes a great deal of providentiary thinking. The problem is recognized but studiously ignored; something will come along because something always does.
At this point, you can't even totally invoke the shibboleth of mindless 'murkin consumerism and waste; while of course there is waste, the more egregious examples of suburban assault vehicles, such as Hummers and Excursions, fell prey to high gas prices. That's the only thing the assholes who "needed" gargantuan grocery schooners understand anyway, is a swift kick to the pocketbook.
No, the blessings of globalization have created a lot of newly-minted middle-class aspirations in grievously overpopulated third world countries. What happens when a quarter-billion Chinese and a quarter-billion Indians are suddenly thrust into the arena with the big boys? We're spoiled, we're accustomed to it, but the scope and scale of economically empowering half a billion people or so, in a relatively short time, is bound to have environmental consequences.
There may not be a direct correlation between, say, the ongoing desertification of China and the proliferation of the lodgepole pine beetle, but one thing students of climate change have duly noted is the interdependence -- hell, the interconnectivity -- of the natural world. That is not a difficult concept to understand.
But it is very easy to ignore.
Believe it or not, I have neither lecture nor lament here. I'm writing this, and you're reading this, so by definition we are using electricity, generated by fossil fuels, for non-essential activity. Nobody is Simon-pure here.
But it doesn't hurt to be at least cognizant of the things we do, and the impacts we inflict, and strive to be just 10% less of an asshole, when it comes to being kind to the environment. The thing is, and this is something many Americans do not consider or even know, is that one in three human beings lives in either China or India. One in two -- that is, half of all humanity -- lives on the Asian continent.
In past times, we could afford to be somewhat smug about our hyperconsumerism and wanton pollution because we are relatively sparsely populated, and no one else had the tech or the stones to be as crudely wasteful. We at least had control, in the sense that we could pull back if we so chose. We chose not to.
The demographics, and the concomitant effects of globalized commerce, have rendered that previous mindset inoperative. We retain some control, but only over ourselves, and perhaps not enough in the aggregate. The U.S. is only 5% of the world population, after all. As China outpaces us in accessing African resources, we may find ourselves not only in a bind as climate change continues apace, but increasingly powerless to do anything about it.