September 28, 2009 | Ronda Jambe

Adaptation – coming soon to a life near you

Complex adaptive systems are what we are. Not so hard to understand: are we not part of very complex systems? Our bodies, with their intricate sub-ecosystems of microbacteria, and the evolution of cities has now been found to mimic that of our brains.
But adaptive? Some of us, sometimes. Obviously Manila has not adapted adequately to the typhoons that have been so horrendous in the past few days. Once in one hundred years? Like the Sydney sandstorm last week, or the amazing and destructive hail storm now fading from memory.
My comment when such disasters unfold is: Thank goodness there isn’t global warming! It would all be too much to make that leap from the specific to the general. And if known complexities don’t impress you, this week’s New Scientist considers a recent conference on Climate forcing of Geological and Geomorphical Hazards (pg 8). There is a possibility that sheer weight of water, or other small changes to the earth’s crust, can trigger volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. Bit of a big ask to adapt to those risks.
But adapt we shall, come hell (and it might) or high water (certainly that).
Actually, Australia already has a National Climate Change Adaptation Programme
Its aims are modest, considering it only has $14.2 m over 4 years, and the result will likely be more information and more policies. It’s a start.
But some companies, communities and individuals aren’t waiting for government to set the directions. The small resort town of Bundanoon, in the NSW Southern HIghlands, has banned bottled water. And it isn’t just a spit the dummy exercise: they have installed refilling water stations and fountains, and are selling reusable bottles, all with the support and cooperation of local merchants.
Some towns are becoming ‘transition towns’, a movement that will eventually become mainstream.
Are any taking the additional step of limiting not just new development, but more people? Unlikely. That would require a different economic model, and the economic rocket scientists have been slow to adapt to that challenge.
The biggest challenges come at the biggest scales. Watching Dateline last night I couldn’t help but feel empathy for the brave US Colonel, trying his best to adapt to the unbelievably harsh Afghanistan environment. He was trying to make nice to the warlords, who just wanted more goodies and the right to plunder. Such complexities are beyond my capability to deal with. Why don’t they all go home?
My adaptation efforts are limited by my personal skills, time, and a recalcitrant partner. But when the price of petrol goes exponential, we won’t have 5 cars in the driveway to contend with, as so many in our big cities do. One for each adult of driving age, isn’t that the norm?
I don’t think my hobbies are particularly unsustainable, now that digital cameras are so wonderful. Only the best get printed, no developing chemicals either. I can indulge my small fantasies, which at least are on a modest scale:
pencil box.jpg
And since I do not intend to curtail my travel in my late middle age, I will instead pay for carbon credits from companies that are part of the clean development under the Kyoto treaty, which means they sponsor renewable energy in developing countries, and try to use companies that are aiming for ‘carbon neutrality’, which just means not adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
More hemp! for oils and fabric, maybe fuel. And bamboo everything, grows like a weed.
Recovering from a bad cold, I had a whack at deterring the birds from getting to my labor-intensive baby lettuces. But clearly that was silly, and needs shorter sticks. I think I can adapt it:
lettuce cover.jpg

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 11:00 am | Comments Off on Adaptation – coming soon to a life near you |
Filed under: Environment

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