Truth in an ecosystem of free will and moral responsibility

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth—which love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.” – “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl, as displayed at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany.

Truth entices us there on the frontier between fact and interpretation, and we strive for honesty in representing what is entrusted to us. We combine that honesty with a humility that comes from knowing beyond all doubt that whatever we believe, whatever we claim, whatever we know, the next generation will surely say, “That’s not good enough! We need to know more and we need to know better!” – Sander M. Goldberg, distinguished research professor of Classics at UCLA, 2018.

The real work of the poem is the education of the emotions. Poems are like dreams: in them you put what you don’t know you know. They are roadmaps of our humanity. Nothing is too wonderful to be true.” – Amber West, Asst. Director, UCLA Undergraduate Writing Center, synthesizing David Yezzi, Adrienne Rich and Michael Faraday.

The current White House is illustrating to us by its presidential actions that facts and evidence do not matter. The truth is daily bent and called “alternative facts.” Mainstream media go along by keeping an inventory of the presidential lies, 6,000+ now since he assumed office.

But, we know from science that the earth is round, not square, and certainly not by any stretch of the imagination, that the earth is a triangle.

We also know from our lives in the 21st century that our climate change has been erratic and wild. To deny global warming makes us all complicit in passive destruction of Mother Earth.

Truth of undeniable global warming

Agriculture is one of the foremost industries in Switzerland. Much of its agricultural farms, situated below the mountains, receive their water from thawing snowmelts that cover these mountains during winter.

On Switzerland’s website about climate, the country’s winters are now described as “The winters were formerly generally cold and snowy, but now freezing temperatures and snow are no longer the rule, especially in the lowlands. Nowadays, many ski resorts could hardly survive without artificial snow. In spring (March to May) the trees blossom and the meadows turn green. Sometimes in April the winter returns for a short period and sometimes there are summer conditions as early as May.”

Should we insist there is no global warming?

Florida, once considered the summer capital for retirees, given its warm weather for most of the year, now experiences more hurricanes, and even snow flurries. “December 8–9, 2017: Tallahassee received 0.10-0.20 in of snow, which was the first measurable snowfall in the city since December 1989 (it sees flurries every few years). The Tallahassee snowfall followed a couple hours of freezing rain,” according to The Weather Channel also reported, “It’s the first time in 28 years that snow has fallen in Tallahassee, The Weather Channel reported. It was a day that no one could have imagined. And even when it happened, some people had a hard time believing it. On Jan. 19, 1977 — 40 years ago Thursday — it snowed in South Florida.”

Should we insist on no global warming?

Exercising one’s free will

So, one can say, if it snows in Florida, one can choose to wear perhaps a down jacket or multiple layers of clothing for protection.

And to the more adventurous, they still insist on wearing their shorts that they usually wear for Florida’s summer weather. Yet, that would not endanger anyone else, but for the person choosing to wear only shorts and a t-shirt, when it is snowing. That is their exercise of free will choosing what they want to do.

But, for the White House and Republicans in both chambers of Congress to deny climate change, their wrongful beliefs become moral irresponsibility. Granted that they have the discretion to act on what they believe, their elective roles are to make laws for the larger public good, given so, they must do so based on scientific facts and evidence. We seem to allow them to forget why they are voted in the first place, to serve the public interests, not their party’s and certainly not their friends’ interests.

In the early 1990s, I attended a conference at UC Berkeley whose speaker included Josefino Comiso, a senior research scientist at the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory of the Goddard Space Flight Center. He was the chief scientist in many NASA aircraft missions in the Arctic and Antarctic and he showed us photos he took showing the “feasibility of measuring sea ice thickness from space.”

Each year, that he has conducted the studies, the glaciers covering earth mass were decreasing. Over two decades ago, the meltdown was barely evident. Twenty-nine years later, we see Facebook posts of folks on National Geographic ocean cruises and others witnessing the actual meltdown of these ice glaciers.

Should we still insist on denying there is global warming?

NASA on its website has indicators for climate change: 12.8 percent decrease per decade on arctic ice minimum (In 2012, Arctic summer sea ice shrank to the lowest extent on record); 413 gigatonnes ice sheets are decreasing per year (Earth’s polar ice sheets are losing mass); global temperatures are rising 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880 (17 of the warmest years records have occurred since 2001) and carbon dioxide is increasing 410 parts per million (its highest levels in the air since 650,000 years ago). From a low of 380 parts per million of carbon dioxide in 2005, we are, by our human behavioral practices, increasing the levels of carbon dioxide, measured now at 410 parts per million.

Their glaring conclusion of studying temperatures since 400,000 years ago show that atmospheric carbon dioxide never exceeded 300 parts per million for centuries and only in the last 650,000 years there have been fluctuations that NASA’s Intergovernmental panel concludes, “scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”

What factors contribute to global warming?

How do we stay morally responsible in the face of our global warming realities, primarily a rise in carbon dioxide?

Moral responsibility

Moral responsibility refers to a “one-way guidance control.” It means, whether one is watched by a regulatory agency or not, one does the right thing and one considers the consequences and impact of one’s actions as much as to contribute to the larger public good.

“The 50,000 sq. km of the Central Valley play an essential role in American life: some 250 crops grow here, about one-quarter of the nation’s food supply. Agriculture on this scale requires an enormous amount of water, especially as water-hungry crops like almonds have gained popularity. And since the area’s river and rainfall levels fluctuate widely even month to month, farmers say they have no choice but to drill wells and draw aggressively on aquifers,” The Guardian reported in July 2018.

In the Central Valley where most of our winegrowers were burdened by the drought, they explored getting new sources of water, digging deeper – sourced wells. Another factor is high-value crops that are being planted, like water-hungry crops, almonds. So as we eat more almonds, we impact the water table in Central Valley, as well as earth sinking. With extensive water extraction, earth subsided in certain areas. Should we give up our wine supplied by big wineries to give a dent in their water extraction and wine production?

The Guardian reports “subsequent changes in water pressure alter underground architectures, leading to a sometimes-surreal slumping of land by as much as 10 meters.”

Where else in our lifestyle can we become morally responsible to Mother Earth? What about the cars we drive? Can we reduce carbon emissions by going hybrid or driving electric cars and reduce the use of gasoline? What about using more solar panels to reduce our power consumption by drawing energy from a renewable source, the sun? Can we help educate our relatives in the Philippines, for example, who continue to burn garbage in their backyards, a practice that increases the amount of polluting gases in the air?

It is important we look at facts that affect the larger whole. How much of our daily lifestyle activities unconsciously contribute to the degradation of Mother Earth?

In Switzerland, the Swiss Army was called five times to bring water to the high mountains’ starving cattle due to drought in summer 2018. They knew that the short-term practice of water transport from Lake Geneva gave relief temporarily to the cattle and saved that animal industry, but it was not sustainable. They are now looking into how farmers can stop nitrate pollution in their water sources from farming practices, which reduced access to nearby water sources.

How much of our daily lifestyles consciously contribute to the earth’s preservation? Do we know which political candidates to vote for, who are those in denial of global warming? Will we reject them at the next election?

Our informed understanding of truth and its connection to our free will and moral responsibility also informs our daily existence and ultimately survival on earth.

The next time you toast an anniversary, as you lift those champagne flutes, know the water wells they came from which irrigated the grape vineyards, know how much of that well water depleted the water tables during the drought and know how perhaps they may have even caused earth subsiding in the Central Valley. It makes us all conscious that a simple act of drinking champagne affects someone beyond our borders and our collective salvation lies in truth and love for humanity.

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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 10 years. She also contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Costa Rica, Mexico and over 22 national parks in the US, in her pursuit of love for nature and the arts.

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