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Sitting on the Edge: My Habit & Climate Change


Updated on May 29, 2017   •   Anmol Kabra   •   opinion  •  experience  •  climate-change   •  
Partly inspired from Years of Living Dangerously. Join the #PutAPriceOnIt campaign against pollution today.
Old Wood Bed (Pinterest)
Image 1: Old Wood Bed (Pinterest)

I like edges — edges in geometric polyhedrons, edgy ideas, and edges on my bed — because they have been a vital mathematical and aesthetic feature in my upbringing. You see, I was inclined to sitting or squatting on the edges and corners of my beds back in India, which look like Image 1, unlike beds I sleep on nowadays (Image 2).

New Low Frame Bed
Image 2: New Wood Bed (Pinterest)

Notice that the bed frame similar to those in my home in India (Image 1) have high wooden/metal frames, which surround the thin, cotton mattress. The beds here in the US (and mostly everywhere nowadays) have low frames on top of which the thick, foam mattress sits (Image 2).

I would squat on the corner of the bed frame pondering over something, while all of the mattress was unoccupied. I would face the mattress and zone out, ignorant of the 2-3 feet drop to the cold floor that lied behind me. Admittedly, I have fell from my cozy corner quite a few times, only to climb back up and zone out again. My parents would (and still do) rebuke me for putting myself at risk of falling and hurting myself every time I squatted on the corner of the bed frame. I would diligently obey them and move inside the bed only to unconsciously crawl back to the corner when they left. I still can’t precisely articulate the excitement I found in those corners, but I can surely assert that those corners were thrilling and adventurous, and that I have done a lot of introspection and childhood discoveries on those spots.

Now when I hear, think, and speak about Climate Change, I tend to associate the problem with my situation at the corner. I find it fascinating on how my careless habit relates to a potential global catastrophe, but with some stark nuances. Although I think the term Climate Change is a euphemism to the negative climate shifts we are facing, I feel that the euphemism is appropriate given it presents an optimistic stance — change is an optimistic word. Well if I can relate my careless habit to Climate Change, maybe my success strategies at the corner could provide good ways to tackle this problem.


Climate Change and My Bed’s Corner: Attempt for Analogy

Climate Change started trending around 1970s as a potential research topic in academia, and the 1980-2000 phase witnessed a consensus building among scientists across the world. While researchers were busy refining predictions using more concrete data, global warming didn’t halt on its way up 1. People, authorities, and governments neglected scientists’ repeated warnings to curb carbon emissions, and largely moved towards a worse situation.

Earth Climate 1945-1954 (NASA Earth Observatory)
1945-1954
Earth Climate 1975-1984 (NASA Earth Observatory)
1975-1984
Earth Climate 2005-2014 (NASA Earth Observatory)
2005-2014

Earth's Temperature Anomaly (NASA Earth Observatory)
Image 3: Earth's Temperature Anomaly (NASA Earth Observatory) [2](#references)

It was as if I heedlessly continued crawling to my cozy corner, even after my parents warned me several times. The analogy would fit in right if the mattress signifies life without environmental harm, and the bed frame’s edges and corners signified tipping points in the Earth’s interconnected ecosystem.


The Analogy Fits Quite Well, Indeed

Cliff Drop
Image 4: Cliff Drop [3](#references)

In other words, I was moving towards danger (the chance of hurting myself if I fell down the frame) from the pleasant and healthy life on the mattress. My parents (like the environmental scientists) warned me of potential danger once I reached the corner (tipping point),  but I wanted more adventure and thrill in my life (more lavish lifestyle or richer economies), ignorant of any imminent injury (environmental distress). Doesn’t the analogy fit quite well?

The analogy highlights a broad response of different classes of people through the 1950 until now. As we sit on a tipping time-bomb disguised as far-reaching environmental impact and biodiversity loss, I can relate our current position (2010-20) to my sitting on the edge of the bed-frame. As I zone out on the corner and realize that my position is dangerous, I continue my thinking on the cliff top, hoping that I won’t fall. This ‘hope to not fall’ thinking is similar to our current stance on Climate Change: thinking that things will turn out fine and we will avoid a major environmental disaster. One may consider my broad abstractions as merely tying elements of my childhood memories to fit the Climate Change, and there are aspects where the analogy falls short. However, these shortfalls only sound more ominous.


The Analogy Doesn’t Fit Extremely Well

Remember I told you that I fell from the bed frame quite a few times? Yeah, but since it was a mere 2 feet drop, I could happily stand up again, sometimes without even getting hurt. That is not the case with Climate Change. Since natural ecosystems are deeply interconnected due to eons of evolution, a drop from the tipping point could land us in a deep well.

On a less metaphorical note, we are currently facing prolonged seasons of drought, and sporadic rains and heat waves in many countries, which have disoriented several natural cycles. If you think this is made up and natural, just ask any of the billions of people in South Asia, Africa, and Middle-Eastern countries, where the extremes in climate are widening.

For the last 3-4 years, my city Patna has constantly witnessed median averages of ~40oC (~104oF) from early March through mid-August 4. To put in historical perspective, these temperatures would not hit until late April, and end as the Monsoon rains arrived by late July. Apart from the prolonged heat waves, the South Indian states experienced acutely reduced winter rains this Winter 2016-17, while prospects of optimum rains (Monsoon season) in late Summer 2017 remain gloomy [5, 6].

Coming from a country where I see more extremes than I have seen in the US, I wonder what the positions of those less privileged and rich countries are. It seems that the fall from tipping point for some regions (India, Africa, South-East Asia) in the world is more precipitous than other regions (Europe, US). It seems as if the former countries may even be incapable of sustaining the fall. While I never broke an arm whenever I fell from my bed, these countries could dramatically collapse, as the vicious cycles burgeon (like bad climate-sporadic seasons-less food production-hunger-synthetic fertilizers-pollution-worse climate). I do not want to discuss blame, responsibility, or opportunity here as it will make this blog too long and exhausting for the reader, but I would like to highlight some solutions to the issue.


Can the Analogy Give us Solutions?

It can, but the solutions are more fundamental than direct to our living. Since Climate Change will affect everyone long-term more than it affects in short-term, I believe that the solutions will be more long-term ones too. Per the analogy, the obvious solution is to crawl back to the mattress, away from the danger. But how?

Anmol Meme
Image 5: Just an analogy, I am not a narcissist
  1. Listen to the parents (seriously). 95 to 97 in 100 scientists can’t be wrong 7. They have experience and expertise, and the consensus of independent research is not wrong. Tell me, would you go with 97 policemen warning against an imminent threat to life or with 3 policemen saying that the other 97 are wrong? Had I listened to my parents when I was on the expeditions to the edge, I wouldn’t have fell so often. But since I didn’t, I can provide this analogy.
  2. Observe your falls. Look for patterns on why are we falling, and failing environmentally. Why are you experiencing cold Ithaca summers and mild winters, 3-5 year scorching droughts followed by flash floods in California, or hotter Indian climate? While some instances can be natural causes, all are not. Global Warming will slowly increase the frequency of those falls in nature’s health and degrade the quality gradually. Therefore, one must learn to observe own actions and find links. I fell because I was careless and kept putting myself at harm every time, and I realized my mistake by finding patterns.
  3. Crawl to the middle as soon as you can. Don’t hope that you’ll be alright. Act so that you’ll be alright. As soon as you see your dangerous position, leave the bed frame edge at the earliest. As soon as you realize that your action is harming the environment (running engine on a traffic light, leaving lights on, wasting paper, drinking Starbucks from use-and-throw coffee mugs), STOP DOING IT! If you doubt how just one person’s actions will change the world, you may be doubting your capacity. If that’s the case, your self-confidence is quite low, and you need a boost up.

I was sitting dangerously, and we are living dangerously. Everyone says that this generation might be the last one to tackle Climate Change while we haven’t breached the tipping point, but how many act? In an interview with New York Times Journalist Thomas Friedman, President Obama talks about paving a ramp to renewables instead of climbing steep steps. As compared to the analogy, this would mean climbing a ramp to the middle of the bed, given that the bed-frame edges are lower.

Clearly, the tipping point in the real world is opposite to the feeling of coziness I felt at my bed corners. As for the ramp, it will only get steeper with time, difficult to climb each year. And it is happening as you read.


References

  1. NASA Climate, Available Online
  2. Earth Observatory, Available Online
  3. 123RF.com, Available Online
  4. Quartz Media, “Why is it so Insanely Hot in India Right Now?”, Available Online
  5. Bloomberg Politics News, “Failed Winter Rains, Looming El Nino Challenge India’s Factories”, Available Online
  6. Indian Express, “Warm winter: Blame it on El Nino effect”, Available Online
  7. NASA Climate, “Scientific Consensus”, Available Online