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Off course again

After reading yet another climate denial piece by Bjorn Lomborg (A tsunami of nonsense), EB contributor Bill Henderson remembers the time the herring boat he was on went off course in strange waters in the middle of the night. He was furious then at those who allowed the boat to drift into danger, and he's furious now.

The crew was playing cards. It was dark, after supper. We were steaming along in strange waters somewhere inside of Nootka heading for Barkley Sound after a successful couple of days shaking herring in a rockpile at Hesquit or Esperanza (the fishing places have all blurred together with failing memory). We were happy campers chugging along having fun.

Then our skipper, David Proctor, noticed that we were off course. Turned out way off course; in a dangerous rockpile in the dark; been off course for who knows how long; didn't know where we were 'cept in big trouble.


We crawled out very slowly from that rockpile to the safe channel again; very sombre, holding our breath. We made it out and then we thankfully continued our journey along to more familiar, forgiving waters.

That night was decades and uncountable events in the life of six guys ago.

We're in as much danger today due to climate change as the crew of the Aquamotion was in that rockpile. Immediate, life-threatening danger. While moving up the learning curve to accepting that climate change is happening, Canadians have no clue how serious is our plight, how serious is our danger.

Climate change isn't just a slow rise in temperature with maybe severe weather after 2050. We are way off course and the rocks are all around us. These lethal thresholds are mostly invisible: they are tipping points past which latent positive feedbacks could carry humanity and all we recognize today as nature to extinction.

Environmental scare tactics? Get the fuck out of the way if you choose to stay ignorant and preoccupied with just your own short-term self-interest. David and the rest of us were furious at our crewmate who allowed us to drift off course on his wheel turn, but we made it out. How angry is it possible to be with somebody who in that situation insisted upon finishing the hand we were playing before taking emergency action? But isn't this exactly how we are being held prisoner, paralyzed in inaction, by those who insist upon business as usual even though this is life and death for all of us and our children?

At the bottom of my message are articles available on the net, less than an hour's reading, offering a science-based picture of how serious our climate change predicament is. Any reasonable person with this knowledge will recognize the danger. How could any reasonable person not consider being this close to possible extinction as an emergency requiring a quick and nimble change of course? And a prayer.


If we are lucky we can get outta here and back into the safe channel. But we have to take emergency action now even if we gotta throw all the deniers overboard first. There is no time to finish the hand. We've wasted decades in denial already.

During those herring years we saw other boats go down; we heard about boats sinking with the whole crew lost. It was a wild gold rush race in the worst March weather but we survived and prospered. Herring paid the down payment on our house where our kids grew up and when I think of my granddaughters I sometimes recall those harrowing hours out in the cold and dark when they were not even yet a dream. If we don't take emergency action right now climate change could be a hole in this boat, the destruction of the whole fleet, no more Rupert or Van or any other port, place, city, community, no more kids, grandchildren, no more anybody, maybe no more herring, salmon, cedar or fir either. No more life as we know it on Earth.

How Can We Avert Dangerous Climate Change? (PDF) James Hansen
How close is runaway climate change? Paul Brown
The End of Eden Michael Powell
The Big Melt (PDF) David Spratt

Editorial Notes: Canadian Bill Henderson has published several other articles at Energy Bulletin. -BA

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