Thursday, July 21, 2011

On global warming, and perspective

The girls and I played hooky today to attend a fabulous event at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (more on this later) and although the entire experience was fantastic, E walked away with the desire to talk about the IMAX film we had watched about the Colorado River.

[I feel the need to tell you that L walked away talking about the PR guy in charge of our group who asked her, "did anyone ever tell you that you're a character?" She told everyone she encountered after that: guess what? I'm a character!]

E and I had some time alone in the car late this afternoon and she had many questions. I had far too few answers. It turns out that a graduate education in the iconography of medieval church altarpieces does not prepare a person for a life of explaining the ozone layer.

Science? I used a lot of technical words like "stuff." And we were on the Beltway so I couldn't rely on my BFF, Google.

E: So why is the river smaller than it used to be?

"Because, like the movie said, most of the river's water comes from snow in the Rocky mountains, and less snow is falling because the earth is getting warmer."

E: But why is the earth getting warmer and where does the water go? Because I thought water goes into the air and goes into the clouds and falls back down in rain or snow so if it's not doing that, where is it going?

"There's a hole in the cloud system and some of the water is leaving the space around earth [is this accurate? I'm not actually sure]  so the water that used to fall back to earth doesn't all do that, now."

E: Why is there a hole in the clouds? How did it get there?

"It's called the ozone layer.  For thousands of years, people basically didn't hurt the earth faster than it could repair itself but in the past 200 years or so, with industry and factories and inventions of things like plastics and cars, now people are hurting the earth faster than it can fix itself. All the chemicals and pollution that we release is hurting the ozone layer and that affects everything, like how warm the earth is and how much water is in the rivers."

E: So if we know what we're doing is bad, why are people still doing it?

"That's a big question with a big answer but a lot of times, people and companies will make things the fastest and cheapest way, even if it's not the best way for the earth. A lot of it has to do with rules from governments about what's allowed and what isn't, and probably not enough will change until those rules are changed, but we all should think about changing how we make things."

Her whole demeanor changed, and when she spoke, her voice was filled with alarm.

Do we have to change how we make spaghetti?

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