Shortly before I left Costa Rica, La Nacion, the country's daily paper of record, published an account of a study conducted by the office of the Costa Rican presidency and the University of Costa Rica, in concert with a team of British climatologists and biologists.
The study found that 90% of Costa Ricans not only believe climate change, global warming, and the rapid rate of bio-diversity loss, are real, but that human activities since the dawn of the Industrial Age are key factors in processes and changes in the global environment that, if left unaddressed, could make much of the world not only unsustainable, but uninhabitable in the not too distant future.
As I read the story, I thought, "Man, if only 90% of Americans believed the science, we might be able to stem this rising tide of environmental degradation, geographic destruction, and human suffering before it's too late."
But, alas, the number of Americans who believe we are facing a largely man made global environmental and ecological disaster of unprecedented proportions is much less than 90% - much, much, less.
But back to the 90% of Costa Ricans who've accepted reality, and the science behind it.
I believe Ticos are way ahead of Americans on this issue because many, if not most, still live in much closer contact with the land and the environment than the vast majority of Americans, whether those Americans believe climate change is real or not.
Ticos are living and seeing the changes first hand, as is everyone living in a sub-tropical climate, whether they want to admit it or not.
Many species of plants and animals are disappearing at an alarming rate, even in Costa Rica - a land perceived by many upscale, faux green Americans as some kind of environmental Mecca. I'll leave dispelling that delusion for another column.
All of Central America is in the midst of a devastating, prolonged drought that, as my 90 year old , Afro-Jamaican, friend George Hansel says, "Is not just 'bout weather man, it's 'bout climate. I live here almost one hundred years, in the last twenty half my land been taken by the sea. The sea is rising. Any man who say no, is a fool."
I told George about Plum Island.
He shook his head and said, "Them Americans are damned fools. More money than sense to build million dollar homes so close to the sea. From what you tell me Mr. Mike, soon much of that island be gone."
The prolonged drought and rising land surface temperatures in Central America destroyed more than 40% of Costa Rica's domestic rice crop this year, 80% of Guatemala's corn and bean crop, and the UN specialist for food security in Central America recently warned if the extended drought does not soon end, entire regions of Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras could be facing wide spread famine later in the year.
Such dramatic climate change trends are, by no means, limited to Central America.
But still, far too many Americans continue to drink the denial Kool-Aid the fossil fuel industry serves up because they don't see, or choose not to see, the changes happening all around them.
To them I say, "Think rising sea temps and levels at Plum Island, along with the increasing frequency of severe, beach eroding storms, and the early ice melt and rising water temperatures at Lake Winnipesaukee".
But even among those who claim to believe climate change is real and want to do something done about it, my first few days back in Newburyport left me convinced they, to paraphrase NY Times columnist Tom Friedman, aren't really serious about a "green revolution", they are more interested in a "green party".
Talking green, as Friedman points out in his compelling book, Hot,Flat, and Crowded, is all the rage in many hip and trendy, upscale, liberal, bourgeois bohemian circles in the US right now, but very few of those "greenies" are really waging a "green revolution", at the individual, communal, or national levels. A true "green revolution", as Friedman points out far more eloquently than I ever could, will demand a complete overhaul of how we've lived our lives and structured our society to date.
Anyone who doubts that assertion needs only to walk through the South End of this supposed "green" and environmentally conscious community and count the number of oversized, gas guzzling, Status Utility Vehicles on the streets, with more than a few of them sporting bumper stickers proclaiming their owners' concerns about the environment.
Um, can we call such vehicles what they really are - "Big time, rolling contradictions?
We are rapidly running out of time to, as Friedman puts its, "...manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable", in relation to what awaits the human race as a result of climate change, global warming, and biodiversity loss.
What I saw on my morning walk that first day back in town, convinced me that well educated, perhaps even overly educated, upscale, politically liberal, SUV driving, faux green, bourgeois bohemians, really are more concerned with a "green party" than they are a "green revolution", and that it's people like my old friend George Hansel, a man who never graduated from high school and still lives very close to the earth, who really grasps the enormity of the challenges we are facing and the enormity of the changes we are going to have to make if we are to have any hope of, "managing the unavoidable, and avoiding the unmanageable".
How ironic is that?
5 Horton Street
Nbpt & PV de Limon, Costa Rica
Welch poet on fire at Actors Studio.
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