Recalculating: Missing the Off Ramp on the Road to Climate Change

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Recalculating: Missing the Off Ramps on the Road to Global Warming

My GPS left me after our first drive together.
Her voice was so calm, mechanical and authoritative that I imagined her wearing a neatly pressed uniform inside my phone.
“Turn left at the next exit.” She faltered in surprise when I continued down Main Street.
Failing to make the next “turn left at the next intersection” resulted in a stern, but matter of fact: “recalculating..” and a “turn right at the next light…”
By the fifth missed turn, GPS was clearly annoyed, spitting out “RE- CAL- CU- LAT ING!!! In the loud slow syllables normally reserved for BAD! DOG!
GPS grabbed her phone and turned so I wouldn’t hear, but her voice was fast and exasperated.
“Hundreds of billion dollars in research, satellites, telecommunications and computerized speech technology to give this guy directions and he won’t make a friggin’ right turn!”
GPS got out at the corner. “I’m going to look for someone who will listen to me.” She said. “Don’t try to find me. Then she bursts into a laugh “…you’d just get more lost…”
Years later, I’m still driving through the city in pinball style, but GPS has been calling to ask if we could get back together.
Her voice is worn and raspy.
“They sent me over to help guide climate control policy.” GPS takes a long, deep breath.
“These guys show up every few years with their same list of resolutions that they blew off last year. Ok, this year we are really, really going to cut down on smoking. They set a goal of cutting down for say 20 years from now and adjourn to the courtyard to light up another pack. They take some pictures, get drunk and hop back on the bus and hit the gas.”
“And while they are blowing past their emissions goals, guess who is supposed to be giving them directions?
I’ve had to shout RECALCULATING so many times that the bozos have made it into a drinking game.
Every time they blow past an emissions goal, someone has to take a shot of whiskey and grab the steering wheel.”

“Know what’s happened since the Kyoto protocol where they decided to end global warming?”
“Greenhouse gas emissions have increased an average of two percent every year! And all they can talk about is whose fault it is. The United States took off some pounds by shifting its manufacturing to China and is now pointing out how big China’s butt is getting.”
“When are they going to get it? We are all together on one big scale. The atmosphere doesn’t care which country dumped the most carbon into the air.”

“Did you see the report on global climate change yesterday? Nine of the ten warmest years since 1879 have been in the last decade. But every time it snows, somebody declares that climate change was a myth.”

GPS pokes her finger at my chest. “So when you breeze past an exit, you are going to be late for your meeting.
But when these guys blow past one, there goes Micronesia and half of Florida.
So as they year after year I’m screaming at them to get off this carbon freeway and year after year they blow by the exits faster.
“Can’t slow down now,” they tell me, “jobs and economy and all that.”

“So here I am using big data and global modeling to guide them away from the broken bridge ahead, but they won’t turn away from disaster. All we are asking is an honest switch from dirty to clean energy. It will create jobs and save cities and economies.
But these BOZOs sit down with their coal and petroleum friends and start drawing underwater cities and talking about resilience!
You know what resilience is? Duck and cover! Because we have set off climate changes that are going to come after us.”
GPS sounds tired, defeated. “I guess they are right–Dig data can’t change little minds.”

“You know what hundreds of billions of dollars of research and technology have given us?”
“The precise location where we buried our heads in the sand and a pretty good prediction of when the ocean will cover it.”
I try to smile to shake off the irony, but GPS just shakes her head and wipes at a tear.
“It’s just that when we finally reach our destination, I wanted the world to be as beautiful as was when we got on the bus.”

Shan Gordon

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