The Ice Fields

I’ve been searching around for an end-of-year post. And I came up with this. Altho truthfully, it’s something of a downer.

The other day—about two weeks ago in fact—I was reading a few pages of my favorite print publication, The Atlantic. One article in particular appealed to me, and the next day I was discussing it with one of my friends. “Did you know,” I began unceremoniously, “That it seems to be a foregone conclusion that the polar ice caps are on their way out? They may be gone in as soon as five years.” Based on this article, Russia, Norway, and Canada are duking it out for over-the-pole shipping routes. Furthermore, if it successfully secedes Denmark, Greenland will suddenly become the first fully fledged (and potentially non casino-based wealthy) Native-American nation. Inasmuch as we’re thinking that policy wonks are trying to save the North Pole, they’re actually aggressively and enthusiastically scavenging its remains.

Which is great for the 500,000 native Inuit of Greenland. And—let’s be really super generous—the 5,000,000 employees of a group of cargo, retail, and fulfillment companies that benefit from faster polar-express transportation. But somewhat disturbing for the 6,694,500,000 (or 99.92%) of the rest of us. Never mind that we have to invent new Christmas narratives. (Santa Claus lives on an impossibly large hovercraft? With mer-elves and flying beluga whales? Imagine Gene Autry or Burl Ives singing, “Rudolf the aqueous mammal, had a very shiny fin. And if you ever saw him, you would even say he’s grim.”) Without the polar top-ice, those of along industrial coasts could find ourselves knee-deep (or even scalp-deep) in a world of hurt.

For anyone sensitized to this issue, it’s easy to get angry. But lest you or I shake a finger at a despised global warming disputant/defender/apologist, it’s not disproportionately any single idiot’s fault. We as humans are too powerful and too many.

That said, I could tell I’d cast a cloud over my friend’s day. She responded, “That’s the reason I’ve chosen not to bring children into this world.” I remembered harboring such gloomy feelings from the days before I had kids. But now that I have them, scurrying happily about, I think what all parents think: I’ll defend my offspring to the Nth degree, taking every last bullet every bad guy has to dish out. But ultimately, it’s up to them (the offspring, not the bad guys) to persevere. Because that’s what all good children do. They carry on and, with any luck, build a better nest and bear unto it more little children.

Still, I felt bad. So I emailed my friend this slight poem. I know you people rely on me for computer graphics advice. Which is why I don’t want to shove a stupid halfwit poem in your face. Read it if you want to. Don’t if you don’t. But whatever, have a happy and prosperous 2009. Because there is no one on this beautifully warm melty planet who doesn’t deserve to be happy in his or her space.

The Ice Fields

Oh gosh, you bet, the human race
is an inherently evil force
that should take its leave from the Earth
as it will one day, don’t you fret.

And when we leave it, the world will abide.
Our stewardship’s gracious but it’s not required.
And the ice fields will freeze back up
over the tankers in the shipping lanes.

And the polar bears, they will come back.
They won’t be polar bears, but they’ll come back.
Something to eat the fattened woolly ducks
and few other creatures living there.

That’ll be some time—forever it might seem
to anyone who would be looking on.
But kind and innocent will all expire.
Only the selfish there to shut their eyes.

In the meantime, lest you forget
you’re a human being and so am I.
And your progeny would be just like us.
They’d muddle through and be afraid to die.

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  • Sobering thoughts

    This year NZ saw icebergs further north than ever before, from the ice breaking off the Antarctic. And we already have refugees from disappearing South Pacific islands.

    It’s a beautiful planet, but we’ve prostituted it so utterly that there is no going back. Certainly not without a major shift in our values. But as you said, we are too many and too powerful.

    Anyway, your poem reminded me of this one Edward Field called ‘The Farewell’ ~

    They say the ice will hold

    so there I go,
    forced to believe them by my act of trusting people,

    stepping out on it,

    and naturally it gaps open

    and I, forced to carry on coolly
    by my act of being imperturbable,
    slide erectly into the water wearing my captain’s helmet,
    waving to the shore with a sad smile,
    “Goodbye my darlings, goodbye dear one,”

    as the ice meets again over my head with a click.

    In a few hours, it will be a new year. I look forward to leaving this current one behind me. And I look forward to more of your lessons in 2009, Mr. Teach. I hope you (and all the dekeSters) have a wonderful new year with all the good things in just the right measure. :)

  • Another poem for the ice fields

    Thank you, Deke and Petra, for sharing deep thoughts and feelings at the end of a year that has been tumultuous, tragic and yet in many ways inspiring and promising. Perhaps in 2009 more of the “too powerful and too many” will turn and commit to more earth-friendly ways. Perhaps not. In any case, here is another poem, sent to me by one of my favorite sources of political commentary and insight, In These Times magazine ( 

    The Peace of Wild Things

    When despair for the world grows in me

    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting with their light. For a time

    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

    - Wendell Berry

  • Ahm

    That was a quite a poem! I don’t mean to disrupt the soiree but I have a quick Mac question: Say you open up the Curves dialog or adjustment panel, select the first do you browse through the rest with the keyboard? On Windows, I’m able to do so with the arrow keys. This doesn’t work on the blending modes either but at least there’s SHIFT++/- for those…Apologies if this is an age-old question.

  • Windows pop-up options are sticky

    Macintosh options aren’t. In other words, arrowing thru the presets is an OS-level function, not a Photoshop one.

    So as you say, Shift-plus and minus cycle thru the blend modes, but there is nothing equivalent for cycling thru presets. Not on the Mac, anyway.

  • Bah

    Bummer. Thank you for your reply!

  • The Polar Ice Caps

    What a time to live! It seems to be fascinating, terrifying, mystical, magical, and unprecedented in our and the last 2-3 generations of people we’ve all personally known, aka, our parents, grand/great grandparents. I live approximately 100 miles south of the Canadian border. This last December, we’ve had over 36 inches of snow, the most on record since the early 1900’s according to local meteorologists. In the last two summers, Lake Superior was down a record 18 inches in water level, as well as many smaller lakes in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Tourists who come mostly during the summer to enjoy fishing here were running upon rocks and sand bars with their boats, where previously there were none. Now, although Superior has regained her water levels, the harbor in Duluth had to be dredged as much as money would allow as ships were running aground and were leaving and entering with much lighter loads of cargo due to the shallowing of the harbor, thusly, shipping costs went up because the boats have to run with lighter loads. To the best of my knowledge (what we hear on TV), lake Michigan has been down and losing its water level for years now, approximately two feet. I also have a few relatives (Yoopers) in Michigan who claim it’s not good in that great body of water like it used to be. An interesting thing in local politics which I’m not sure how much of the rest of the US hears, is that the great lakes states, along with some Canadian influence have finally ratified a “consortium agreement” to strongly protect the great lakes from being pipelined to other US states and cities for municipal use. The great lakes have been being raped for quite a long time now, and we’ve got problems from polution to foreign invasive species we can no longer control. There’s even some kind of weird fish that can literally walk on its fins across short stretches of land that has migrated from Lake Superior and is now being found in some inland lakes, they’re very destructive. Most foreign species come from ballast water from foreign sea going ships. The great lakes hold approximately 20% of the entire earth’s fresh water, and it’s as clean as any water gets just about anywhere on the planet anymore. I heard about this oil for food program they had going on in the middle, or near east someplace awhile back. Pretty soon I suspect it will be water for oil and food, at any rate, things are getting more interesting all the time. I can’t say that I totally “buy” the global warming and total meltdown of the polar ice caps as a sudden result of total human influence. Although I believe it to be a contributing factor, yet somehow it seems to me that the earth and the universe are constantly evolving, just like digital camera technology and combined human knowledge in general. Whatever the challenges be for the future generations of our planet, one thing is certain…they’ll either cope…or they won’t. IF, big, honking huge “IF” we humans run out of water, food, air, and sunlight, it will be the end of living and the beginning of survival. Fascinating time to be alive, happy New Year!