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Tomgram: Chip Ward, How Efficiency Maximizes Catastrophe

It's true that no single incident or development -- no matter how out 
of the ordinary or startling -- can straightforwardly be attributed 
to climate change. Nonetheless, it seems strange that the massive 
flooding in England, of a sort last seen more than 60 years ago, led 
the TV news and made front pages here with hardly a mention of global 
warming. You certainly won't see a headline like 
one from the British Telegraph: "Floods show global warming is here."

And yet this has been "the wettest May to July period for England and 
Wales since records began in 1766." The recent "Great Flood of July" 
in southern England followed a somewhat similar June event in the 
north. As parts of the country are still submerged in the wake of 
torrential, tropical-style deluges (a month's worth of rain fell in a 
few hours), while record extremes of heat 
central and southern Europe, the subject of climate change is 
certainly on European 
-- and a group of scientists are evidently 
releasing a study in the journal Nature this week that claims "more 
intense rainstorms across parts of the northern hemisphere are being 
generated by man-made global warming."

No American media figure, for instance, has wondered publicly 
whether, someday, England could become, in Gore-like "inconvenient 
truth" terms, the 
sunken Florida of Europe (along undoubtedly with Holland and other 
low-lying areas of the continent). It's no less true that a season of 
startlingly widespread and fierce wildfires, based on long-term 
drought in the West, Southwest, and Southeast has been a news leader 
for months -- the TV news just adores the imagery of storms and fires 
-- again, most of the time, with little linkage to larger possible 
changes underway. We are, it seems, a resistant species when it comes 
to thinking about the need to truly reorganize ourselves on this 
fragile, but 
planet of ours.

And yet, even when no good TV images are produced and the changes are 
far more subtle, climate chaos is already pushing stressed ecosystems 
in new and 
directions. It seems indisputable that, if we are going to weather 
(literally) the punches Mother Nature throws our way, we will need to 
do more than improve evacuation routes when storms hit or put more 
firefighters on the line when parched lands ignite. We will also have 
to reconsider how we deal with the natural world -- at present, 
largely as a collection of commodities to be endlessly manipulated 
for profit and convenience or as a set of touring destinations.

So think of Chip Ward's essay that follows as a challenge to just 
such thinking. It might as easily have been entitled, "Why the 
Organizing Principle of Industrial Civilization Is Just a Big 
Misunderstanding." Taking up a recent, startling development in the 
commercial world of nature -- the collapse of bee colonies across the 
U.S. -- it explores ways in which our cult-like devotion to the 
notion of making all things efficient has become dysfunctional, even 

Ward, whose most recent Tomdispatch essay on the 
world of the public library created a modest sensation -- he was then 
just retiring as a library administrator -- is well-known in his area 
as a grassroots activist working on toxic and radioactive waste 
issues. His early writing, especially his book 
on the Rim: Living Downwind in the West, focused on how to make 
polluters accountable. Recently, he moved to the remote wilds of 
southern Utah where he has had to cope with some of nature's 
inevitable disturbances -- wildfires and flashfloods -- that have 
made him think about how recovery from such disturbance happens and 
how we might help recovery along (and so help ourselves as well). Tom

Diesel-Driven Bee Slums and Impotent Turkeys

The Case for Resilience
By Chip Ward

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