Doggy exercise and doom

May 13, 2008

A small story, courtesy of my home office window in the Irvington neighborhood of Northeast Portland:

Many evenings a woman rides past on a recumbent bike with her two leashed Weimaraners striding behind her. Many mornings another woman drives a sedan slowly and close to the curb while her dog – a fox terrier, I think – scrambles along the sidewalk.

The second woman represents in microcosm a significantly larger story that preeminent environmental writer Bill McKibben told Sunday in the Los Angeles Times. The jist: we’re all in big trouble unless the woman starts emulating the Weimaraner owner or at least parks her car and walks with her dog.

I should give the woman a copy of McKibben’s essay, or maybe she believes global warming is a liberal conspiracy or natural cyclical fluctuation in the planet’s climate. But who am I to preach, given my own greenhouse-gas spewing?

I read McKibben’s sobering work while flying back to Portland from San Francisco. What if he and others are right: we’re rapidly approaching a tipping point beyond which awaits the most dire consequences.

Before landing, I read an article in the latest Atlantic magazine (not yet available online) that concludes an asteroid or comet colliding with Earth is far more likely than once thought. In other words, in an instant a piece of space debris could do what as a species we’ve been racing to achieve since the Industrial Revolution started.

Otherwise, it was a good flight.

When my trip with my wife began on Friday, we took the MAX train to the Portland airport and the BART train from the San Francisco airport to downtown. On Sunday, we took a shuttle van to the San Francisco airport and rode in her brother’s SUV from the Portland airport to home.

I’m tempted to claim, smugly, that using mass transit on the front end negated our carbon emissions on the back end. But even I can see that such thinking is cap-and-trade delusion. Perhaps this is reality:

Convenience is killing us before a comet can.