THE BEAUTY OF AMBIGUITY

By Paul

I’m currently reading a book (Brian Greene’s “The Hidden Reality”) that in part discusses whether or not the universe is finite or infinite.  For theoretical physicists, much depends on the answer to this question.  For example, if it is infinite, then what follows is a whole host of possible other parallel universes that logically must also exist.  Still, let us admit right off the bat that for most of us it doesn’t really make all that much difference.  This is especially so when we consider even the observable universe as we know it, that is, the billions of galaxies that swirl and speed away from us in all directions (the universe is expanding, we do know that much for sure).  Even if this universe is finite, distances are so unimaginably immense that it would be hard for most of us to tell the difference.  Personally, my money, for the little that’s worth, is on the infinite side, but again most of the time this doesn’t seem to change much in our every day lives.

Because the universe appears to the majority of us (non-scientists) as incalculably big anyway, we might even be able to say that it is both finite and infinite at the same time.  I know this seems like a contradiction in terms, but think of it this way: even if it were theoretically possible to measure space, which of course we cannot do, human beings would still never be able to fully explore even the visible part of the universe and “see the end of it.”  So, we may as well think of it as infinite.  I like this idea of holding two diametrically opposing ideas in mind at once and feeling comfortable with them both.  It’s so much the opposite of the black or white, up or down, good or bad kind of thinking that usually characterizes human interaction.

This same ability to tolerate uncertainty, the Beauty of Ambiguity, I call it, applies to the religious vs. non-religious debate.  Is there a God?  Why not let the answer be both yes and no?  Yes, there is a God, if we are at a point in our lives where our thinking demands that we worship a being such as Christ, who is, as the Catholic Church decreed centuries ago, both human and divine.  The Church, in fact, dealt harshly with the Nestorian heresy back in the 5th century, when it declared that Christ was simultaneously both human and divine (the so-called hypostatic union), while Nestorius had preached that Christ was born human, and then took on the divine nature later on.  As much as this may seem like a pedestrian distinction today, it was a very big deal back in the 5th century, and there were those who were willing to die for it.  So, we see immediately how uncomfortable people get with holding two opposing viewpoints in mind at once.  The other side of the bigger question is why not equally posit no God at all, or at least one not limited by the normal categories we typically assign to him, and say that he (it?) is far, far beyond ordinary human understanding?  In that sense, then, he does not exist, not according to the rules of our normal perceptual and cognitive abilities anyway.

My own view is that we are all Gods, even if we have no idea we are.  Most of the time, we think of ourselves as very human, which includes all of the things that go to make for human greatness (love, compassion, self-sacrifice, the ability to give to others etc.), but including at the same time all of the profound flaws of humanity, as well.  If there is a God, even one beyond ordinary human understanding, would his essence not be imbued in every galaxy, every star, every molecule, every atom, every photon, and every quark of his creation, a kind of materialization of his Divine Essence?  From this point of view, then, we are either all Gods (or “parts of God,” if we can use that terminology), or we are mere accidental stardust left over from a Big Bang that itself had no beginning and no cause.

Which brings me back to Brian Greene’s book on the nature of the universe.  How anyone can look up at the night sky and see the seemingly endless stars (even if they may not actually be endless), and not feel a sense of utter awe and wonder is beyond me.  And yet, that is just the beginning.  Humans have always longed to understand more and more of what this all means, and we have made great progress just in the last 300 years, or so.  During this short period of time, we have gone from thinking that the earth was flat and the center of the universe to understanding that it is a minor planet circling a very ordinary star, stuck on one of the farther-out spiral arms of the Milky Way Galaxy.  And what is more,the Milky Way is but one of millions and billions of other galaxies, each with billions of stars and multiple billions of planets.

Beyond even this, we now understand that this visible universe of ours actually had a beginning, a birth as it were, some 13.7 billion years ago.  All of the material that we know today as making up matter was created at this juncture, and is still floating around the cosmos.  As things cooled after the stupendous heat of the first blast of the Big Bang, things quickly began to slow down.  It was this cooling process that allowed for the stars and planets to form.   Even light itself was effected; it cooled, but could of course not slow down.  Light, by definition, always travels at the same speed, never faster and never slower.  That well-known figure is 186,000 miles per second, or 700 million miles an hour.  Instead of slowing down, when the photons of light cooled, their vibrational frequencies slowed, causing a shift first of all in color (from violet to blue and ultimately to red), and then into the infrared category, and finally into the microwave range.  We see this in what is called the “cosmic microwave radiation background,” the actual remnants of the Big Bang that can be measured and perceived today.

The ambiguity in all this is that we can understand any of it at all.  Stephen Hawking famously referred to humanity as a bunch of very clever monkeys.  We smart simians are, in fact, doing some extraordinary things.  For one, we have the ability to look up and wonder, to think and hypothesize, and to test hypotheses.  We have made art, educated ourselves, created technologies that serve us in every conceivable way, and have extended our lifespan enormously from what it was only a hundred years ago.  We even dare to try to create life itself, a thing we once attributed only to God.  But note what our same Stephen Hawking has said in this regard: “I think computer viruses should count as life.  I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive.  We’ve created life in our own image.”  That image obviously is one that can be extraordinarily ruinous and devastating.  In other words, whether or not we will be able to think our way out of what might be called our lower selves, that is, the selfish, ignorant, greedy, self-centered side of who we are, the side that cannot see beyond our collective noses, is certainly another question.

For now, at least, we will simply have to live with this ambiguity, wondering if we will actually make it past the adolescence of our human evolution into a greater maturity.  To quote Hawking one last time: “I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space.  There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet.  But I’m an optimist.  We will reach out to the stars!”

Unfortunately, these “accidents” Hawking refers to are all too often of our own making.  Yet, in spite of all, I say with him that I’m an optimist, and I’m willing to live with the present state of our own ambiguous and contradictory natures (what other choice does any of us have?).  Let us hope, then, that God will smile upon us, or if you prefer, that we will smile upon our own selves, and upon each other, and upon all life.   Uncertainty and doubt surely may be our lot, but so is faith, and trust, and an optimism that never stops hoping that we will do what is right for ourselves and for all of life on the planet.  Maybe, in the end, we’ll reach out to the stars, not because we have to, but just because we can.

CLIMATE CHANGE, YET AGAIN? BUT, IN THE END, WHAT COULD BE MORE IMPORTANT?

By Paul

Some part of me almost feels as though I ought to apologize to readers for writing yet again on the subject of climate change.  After all, how many times have I, or my blog-partner, Kevin, written on this topic?  Ad nauseam, no doubt.  But still, given the stakes at hand, I feel as though I cannot remain silent.

What brings the topic to the fore this time is the latest U. N. report, issued just a few days ago by a group with the bureaucratic, if official sounding, name of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  This is an organization made up of hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists, and so what they have to say is not mere hearsay.  It’s not the just opinion of the guy in the chair next to you at the barbershop, or of your strange uncle, Charlie, who fancies himself an expert because he has an interest in things weather related.  These are recognized experts from many countries, who have impeccable academic and real-world credentials, and who have been studying global weather patterns for decades.  They have no overt political agenda, but they do know what they are talking about.  And the news they have to share is not good.

Not that anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past couple of decades should expect it to be otherwise.  But scientists are people who deal in numbers, and the latest figures are sobering indeed.  These experts have proposed something called a “carbon budget,” which it behooves all of us to pay attention to.  What it refers to is an upper limit on the amount of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide specifically, in the earth’s atmosphere.  That upper limit is one trillion metric tons, if planetary warming is to be limited to no more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius).  Once that trillion ton number is exceeded, then the most dangerous effects known to be associated with global warming begin to occur.  One such probable consequence would be the dramatic rising of sea levels which, if we continue burning fossil fuels the way we have been, will increase by at least 3 feet, and possibly by as much as 5 feet, by the end of this century.

Scientists, by and large, are uncomfortable making exact predictions.  That is because there are so many variables in any natural system, making it difficult to say specifically that such and such will definitely happen by this date or that.  Instead, they tend to give ranges of possibilities.  But even given this tendency toward caution and circumspection, the range they now give related to planetary warming is beginning to look astounding.  If carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere double to the 1 trillion ton level, which they are predicted to do by 2040 – and let us remember that another 3 trillion tons of carbon are still left in the ground, as yet unused – the new range of probable planetary warming will be between 2.7 and 8.1 degrees.  These numbers are extremely troubling, especially if we eventually reach the upper limits of the probable range.  Can any of us really imagine what will happen to us, to this planet, and to life on it, if overall temperatures were to increase by as much as 6 or 7 degrees Fahrenheit?  And here we are not talking just about rising sea levels.  We’re also looking at the loss of most, if not all, of the ice in the arctic regions, at extreme desertification in some areas, and hitherto unknown intensity of storms and levels of flooding in others.  And what will all this do to global food production?  How will we feed ourselves?  Where will we get clean drinking water from?  Where will millions of people go who currently live near these rising oceans?  And who will be fighting whom, given out-of-control population growth and dramatically shrinking resources?  These are not the wild predictions of a science fiction writer whose imagination has run amok.  They are, instead, what our future, and that of our children and our grandchildren, could very well look like, if something is not done now to prevent it.

And anyone who still holds to the old bromide that all this dramatic warming of the planet has nothing to do with human activity is sadly kidding himself.  The IPCC has actually come out and said in its report that “it is EXTREMELY LIKELY (the capitals are mine) that human influence has been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-twentieth century.”  And remember what we said earlier about how conservative scientists tend to be when it comes to making predictions and sweeping generalizations.  So, for this prestigious group to use an expression like “extremely likely” is as if the rest of us were to say that there can absolutely no longer be any doubt in anyone’s mind.  Indeed, they have put numbers to this likelihood: the report finds a 95 to 100 percent chance that global warming is human caused.

And yet, what are we doing about it?  Amazingly, some even still continue to deny the reality of what is happening.  The conservative Heartland Institute, for example, came out just last week with a statement to the effect that additional global warming would likely be limited to a few tenths of a degree, and that this would not “constitute a crisis.”  The good news, on the other hand, is that the numbers of Americans who say they “believe in global warming” are on the rise.  According to a poll taken last December, 62 percent said they thought the Earth is getting warmer, up from 55 percent a year earlier.  Of course, opinions are still politically driven.  The breakdown of the number of believers in global warming is as follows:  78 percent Democrats, 55 percent Independents, but only 47 percent of Republicans.  Still, another heartening bit of news is that 3 out of 4 Americans now say that they “trust climate scientists as a source of information about global warming.”  Why it has taken this long for us to begin to believe in science is perhaps a topic for another essay.

California, I am happy to say, is taking the lead nationwide in listening to people and in taking the threat seriously.  The most populous state in the Union has set a goal to reduce its greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.  Even so, it is perhaps a sad indication of how slowly we are moving that even the leader in the country in terms of greenhouse gas remission is giving itself 37 years into the future to bring numbers back to more sustainable levels.

There is no doubt that there are things we can all do to help.  Each of us can do his or her part when it comes to recycling, overall conservation of energy, gas and electricity in particular, smarter usage of water, patronage of mass transportation, locally grown foods etc.  And these are all good.  The California Climate Change website (www.climatechange.ca.gov/)‎ has other ideas when it comes not only to conservation, but to adaptation as well.  As it somberly notes: “no matter how quickly we cut our climate polluting emissions, climate impacts will still occur.”

Which leads to the last, and perhaps most important question:  where is the federal government in all this?  The answer appears to be that they are dithering.  We are talking after all about the wellbeing of the planet, and of those who inhabit it, namely, all of us.  And what do we see in Washington these last few days?  Concern about our future?  No!  We witness instead a complete paralysis of action on something as seemingly simple as providing decent levels of healthcare for everyone in the country.

If we cannot even get this right, how will we tackle the much larger and more complex question of what to do to prevent the world from warming to the point where life itself may be threatened?  That is a good question.  Unfortunately, so far there seems to be no good answer.  Let us hope, and if you believe in prayer, let us pray, and at very least let us badger our representatives, so that at some point politicians in our federal capital – and let us be honest, Republicans in particular — will stop their dithering, and make the right choices for the most important healthcare system of all, namely, the long-term health and wholeness of the planet we call home.

THE BIG QUESTIONS, OR HOW I OUGHT TO FILL MY DAYS

By Paul

For whatever reasons, I have long been fascinated by what I think of as the “Big Questions.”  Is there a God, and what is he like, or He, if you will (using the masculine for want of a better, more inclusive pronoun)?  What happens after death?  Is there eternal life, a thing taught by most religions?  What, if anything, is the meaning of life, and how do we understand or achieve it, or align ourselves with it?   Why are we here in the first place?  Who created us?  What sustains us?  What do we actually mean when we say that we are alive?  What is consciousness?  How did life come about?  How did the universe itself begin, and will it someday end? 

I have read whatever I could find in both scientific and what might be called mystical literature, and I have meditated as well for most of my adult life, trying to grapple with even one of these questions.  I cannot tell you that I have found the answer.  Perhaps it is not given to any human being to be able to lay such a claim.  I believe there will, in fact, always be mysteries that we cannot grasp and fully understand with our limited human intelligence.  Having said that, however, I still believe that this in no way means that we ought not to keep on trying. 

As I get older, I have become more comfortable with the idea of mystery, (or again Mystery, if you prefer), what some mystics of the Middle Ages called the Mysterium Tremendum.  Nietzsche famously claimed that God was dead.  What could he have meant by that?  Some consider Nietzsche to be a kind of secular mystic, an individual who had somehow gotten beyond the need, if that is the right word, for a personal God.  If that is so, what he was able to achieve was an understanding of a Being beyond all characteristics that can be assigned by mere human categorization.  In that sense, it could be said that any anthropomorphized view of God that he may once have held had died.

But today philosophy itself is, in a sense, also dead.  The big questions that philosophers like Nietzsche and Kant, all the way back to Aristotle, once concerned themselves with have been taken over by scientists. Aside from the great mystics, physicists like Stephen Hawking now hold center stage in delving into the Great Mystery.  And the answers they give, as well as the questions they pose, must give all of us pause. 

Let us look for a moment, as an example, at the beginning of the universe.  Unless one posits esoteric and not well understood notions of so-called imaginary time, most scientists think that there was a beginning to the universe at an event called the Big Bang.  This event is thought of as a “singularity,” meaning a point in space-time at which the space-time curvature is infinite. What “came before” the Big Bang is therefore not a question that science can grapple with, inasmuch as all known laws of physics break down.  Who is to say that a Divine Spirit may have not have been, as it were, the initial energy of this initial singularity?  And, as to the question of who (or Who) made the Divine Spirit, such a question makes little sense, inasmuch as it assumes a “time before time.”  This puts us back again to an anthropomorphized view of “God,” that is, of some being (or Being) who operates within the limits of human understanding, or even of the laws of physics. 

The question all this raises, at least in my mind, is what may be the possibility of knowing this “God beyond God”?   Mystics the world over, of every religious stripe and tradition, as well as outside of any religious tradition, all point to experiences they have had which seems to answer “yes” to this question.  But this ultimately has to be left to each individual to know or to experience for him or herself.  If it is to happen, every mystic must ultimately be willing to “kill God,” that is, to move beyond formerly constructed conditions, notions, or images of God, to what is beyond, or more than, or simply outside of all such every day human categories. 

And what of life, too?  I recently read a fascinating article in the Los Angeles Times about subterranean bacteria found in a portion of the Lechuguilla Cave deep within Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.  There scientists have discovered bacteria which have lived and thrived for at least 4 million years in total darkness with almost no water.  Life has been known to thrive, too, at great depths in the world’s oceans under conditions which we normally consider to be totally inimical to it.  The question this raises is not so much how that is, but more so, why that is. What does it mean?  If virtually all of our experience points to the fact that life requires sunlight in order to exits, how do we explain life that needs no sunlight?  And what does that do to our definition of what it means to “be alive”?   Does living mean being able to grow?  If so, are crystals alive, since we know that under the right conditions they grow?  Indeed, everything that is physical consists of atoms and molecules and their smaller subparts, elementary particles such as protons and neutrons and quarks.  These in a sense grow by combining with each other, and they move as well.  Indeed, they are in constant motion.  Could it be that everything, all matter, is in some sense alive?  Could it be said that it is imbued with the life or the energy of the Divine Spirit, that God who is beyond all of our notions of God?

As I’ve said above, I have no absolute answers to these Big Questions.  However, I believe that grappling with them is one of the most meaningful things that a human being can do.  Of course, at some point it is necessary to accept the fact that we will never be able to plumb such questions to their very core.  Not that this is an excuse for ceasing to try, or for throwing up our hands and saying that it’s all impossible. 

Mystery and our attempts to understand it have always been and will always be a sublime part of what it means to be alive.  In my view, most religions are inclined to give simplistic answers to the Big Questions.  We are told to believe in this dogma or that, in this incarnation of the Divine or that, and that He (almost always masculine) is the one and only true God.   I do not wish to claim here that there may not also be some good found in organized religion.  And if people feel that they need the support of a structured system, of a hierarchy that interprets for them, or of a book that is believed to be inspired, then who am I to say they are wrong?  But what I am talking about is beyond questions of right or wrong; I am trying to address what lies beneath, or beyond, or outside the categories we normally associate with religion. 

That is surely what is meant by the Mysterium Tremendum, the Holy Grail, the Cup that endless refills itself.  This knowledge is what is most worthy to strive for in life, even as we know that, at least with our every day human intelligence, it is a goal beyond our reach.  But if the great scientists of the world are right, we need to strive all the same, although this may be one place where science and mysticism part ways.  Scientists reason and make hypotheses, they test and experiment and observe and verify, while mystics sit and look within.  Both approaches have their champions, as well as their benefits.  In the end, perhaps it all comes down to intent.  What is it that we think is most important? 

There’s no doubt that humans seem more inclined to talk and to act than they do to sit and listen.  But either way, the Big Questions remain with us, and they await our humble and our thoughtful consideration.

SCIENCE AND MYSTICISM, WILL THEY SOMEDAY MEET?

By Paul

“He (Pope John Paul II) told us that it was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the big bang, but we should not inquire into the big bang itself because that was the moment of Creation and therefore the work of God.”  Stephen Hawking writing in “A Brief History of Time.” 

I’ve been reading Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” recently, and I have been wondering why it is that the late Pope might have declared it to be forbidden to delve into the Big Bang, in other words, into the beginning of the universe.  I have to say, I see absolutely no reason why it should be forbidden.  

But let me start first of all by saying that I am in no way a physicist, and I possess little or no background or training in science.  Still, the older I get, the more I honor what science can teach us, and I deeply respect the intellect and the profound curiosity about the origins of the universe evidenced by so many scientists today.  Indeed, from what I can see, science has taken up where philosophy once left off.  But just because I have no formal training in science, does not mean that I, or we, or any of us, cannot understand the basic concepts uncovered and elucidated by such thinkers as Stephen Hawking and his many colleagues throughout the world. 

Time began at the Big Bang.  Everyone seems to agree on that.  This is because there was nothing before it, or at least nothing that we can know.  Physicists refer to the Big Bang as a “singularity,” by which is meant a point in space-time at which the curvature of space-time becomes infinite.  Now, infinite is not a word we normally expect to hear from scientists.  We would think to hear it more from theologians.  But there it is, part of the currently accepted definition of the scientific term “singularity.”   The only other known singularities occur within black holes in space.  In each case, all laws of physics dissolve, both those which describe the universe at a macro-level, which is to say, Eisenstein’s Theory of General Relativity, and those which describe it from a micro-level, that is, Quantum Mechanics, which teaches us about all that is smallest in the universe. 

For the longest time now, scientists have been attempting to come up with a theory that would, in a sense, marry these two ways of understanding the universe, the unimaginably big and the unimaginably small.  Much progress has been made, and it seems as though ways have been devised to understand how three of the four basic forces of the universe do interact with one another.  These three forces are electro-magnetism, the strong force, and the weak force.  However, no way has yet been devised of incorporating the fourth force, gravity, into one Theory of All.  String Theory, and its cousin M Theory, have been proposed, but so far there has been no satisfactory way of testing this empirically.  And even then, there are a number of matters about this theory which remain controversial, not the least of which is that it posits eleven different dimensions, seven more than the standard four we currently have (i.e. up, down, across, and time). 

Understanding the Big Bang might unable us to see how all four forces of our universe interact together, thus allowing us to posit something like a One Force of All Theory.  This is because in such a case we could, as it were, peer into a “place” that was infinitely small, yet one which contained all that exists in the universe.  In the infinitude of its smallness, the Big Bang event contained at least in potential all the energy, all the matter, and all the antimatter that ever existed, exists now, or ever will exist in the universe.  Everything, in a sense, came from this infinitely small nothingness, and from there it spread out (at the time of the Big Bang) into what we now know to be our continually expanding universe.  Thus, the macro and the micro were one, bringing together the four great forces of the universe as we know them today. 

However, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle indicates that we cannot predict events with complete certainty (it states that we can measure the speed of a particle with great accuracy, or the location of the particle, but we cannot measure both simultaneously).  What follows from this is that, from the point of view of physics, we will probably never fully be able to predict things.  However, at the same time we know that, once again given a singularity such as the Big Bang, the ordinary laws of physics as we understand them cease to exist, and so within such a singularity, with its infinity of density, all of the basic forces must have merged.  Therefore, who is to say that what seems contradictory today in nature was not once in some way reconciled?  The same might also be true in regard to what is happening even now in black holes.

We may of course never be able to prove what happened in a singularity like the Big Bang, or even in a black hole.  Indeed, if the definition holds, it would seem to be almost contradictory even to try.  However, human beings by their very nature appear to be endlessly curious, even when it comes to those things which otherwise appear irreconcilable. 

So, I say bravo for those scientists who continue searching.  Or will the answer ultimately be found in mysticism, rather than in science?  In other words, maybe in the end science cannot go where its own tools by definition seem to be useless (although that is not the same as saying that it is forbidden to try).  Or maybe another idea is that someday science and what we now call mysticism will in some sense merge, and scientists will become the true seers of the age.  In fact, doesn’t the very definition of the Big Bang sound in certain ways an awful lot like some theologians’ definition of God?  I still remember the prayer we said as Catholics when I was a child, which ended in “as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.”  Sounds a lot like the singularity of the Big Bang, doesn’t it?  And after all, the very word science is derived etymologically from the Latin word scientia, meaning knowledge.

So, I say it’s OK – and more than OK – to look into the beginnings of the universe.  It’s actually not only all right, it is perhaps a requirement of being human.  It is maybe the very culmination of being human.  Hindu philosophy, too, talks a lot about the reconciliation in Spirit of all the contradictions of all the pairs of opposites.  And the Tao Te Ching declares: “Nonbeing penetrates nonspace.”  Could it be someday in perhaps the distant future that science-cum-mysticism will finally enlighten us about Infinity? 

 

Winter Wonder

I’ve been thinking a lot about winter lately, and wondering where it went to.  I often check the US, and the world, weather reports in the newspaper, just because I’m interested, but also because of some of the longer-term issues that have to do with climate change. The fact that there has been almost a complete lack of expected cold weather patterns all over the northern and eastern portions of the country cannot be normal, and is very troubling – little or no snow, and temperatures often ten to fifteen degrees, or more, above normal.  Too, although not many people whom I’ve heard have been talking about it, California is in the throes of a major drought coming up.  So far, as I read just recently in the Los Angeles Times, this is shaping up to be the driest winter in the past thirty years.  The Sierra snow pack, which all of us depend so much on for our summer water supply, is at something like one fourth of its normal depth for this time of year. 

 Of course global warming does not mean that all parts of the planet experience actual warming trends.  Quite the opposite can happen, too, and substantial variations in weather conditions in any particular part of the globe have always been quite possible.  But what is not possible to deny is the very fact of the long-term warming of the climate of the planet.  That is what is called “settled science,” in spite of claims on the part of organizations like the Heartland Institute, and other purveyors of bogus science.  Not that individual scientists may not disagree with each other on when, or exactly how much, things will change.  Will the seas, for example, rise by only three to four feet, or by six to seven feet, in the next hundred years or so?  Those are questions that are debated, not WHETHER the seas will rise.  

 As often is the case, one can feel quite helpless when it comes to actually doing much about it.  It is true, of course, that individuals really can make a difference, and that change does take place one person at a time.  As such, it is incumbent on each of us to do our part to the best of our ability.  Still, I rather fear and doubt that, a) many people will make anything like substantial changes, and b) we may already have progressed too far for smaller, incremental change to make much difference anyway.  What is probably needed is BIG CHANGE, on the global stage, which can only happen if governments and organizations such as the UN take action.  And, as we have seen, or rather not seen, all of the current contenders for the presidency, Barack Obama included, sad to say, have talked very little about climate change, or what their plans might be to meet it head on.  Indeed, and incredibly, some of them actually deny it.   

 So, yes, it is true that we cannot posit a one-for-one causal connectivity between any given weather event and the bigger issue of global climate change.  But it is a fact that the planet has warmed up by as much as two degrees Fahrenheit in the last hundred years.  And that has had, and will have, a profound effect on our weather patterns.  So it goes, then.  Numerous respected scientists have been predicting for years that we may soon be reaching the tipping point, the point of no return.  But what I have to wonder is whether that point may be coming sooner than anyone ever dreamed, or dared predict.

 Paul