The information age has landed with a head bursting thump. In fact it has not only landed; it has planted roots and made a firm home for itself within our society. On a daily basis we have the opportunity engorge ourselves with new information – magazine articles, blogs, pod casts and e-books. And yet as we revel in this golden age of information, we manage to casually face our biggest ever challenge as a species, and note it down on a virtual to do list for the future – “global warming, fix next week”.
Just this evening while discussing the topic, my six year old daughter dropped her shoulders rolled her eyes and moaned “not that again!” Too much information can be as bad as too little, as we run the risk of desensitization setting it. What’s more, information without experience to help us internalize it does little good. Experience enables us to assign an emotion to the new information; this is what makes it meaningful.
This being the case, I am not here to overload you with facts about global warming, there are multitudes of pages about it on the net and the “almost” US president Al Gore has adequately illustrated the threat of global warming in his award winning film, The Inconvenient Truth. My interests are more to do with the effects of global warming on plants and more specifically the plants that live within my direct human experience.
How will the increase in average global temperature affect the plants live around you? The question was sparked by the unprecedented dry summer we have just experienced in Johannesburg. After a season of unrelenting heat, punctuated only by two meager rainfalls, Johannesburg’s surrounding grasslands turned from green to brown and then shortly after to black as the inevitable veld fires started. These savannah areas are rich in medicinal plants including the hardy African Potato, Artemisia and a host of golden savanna land grasses. While these areas often burn in winter, the unseasonable fires arrived at the wrong time during the plants’ growth cycle. Consequently some plants were badly damaged, while many did not survive at all. It was this experience that happened on my doorstep that really caught my attention.
My local African potatoes are only a reflection of a much wider problem. “Approximately 20-30 percent of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at greater risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5 to 2.5 Celsius” . Water supply and drought are not the only problems, some species of plants and animals are temperature sensitive for reproduction. With the onset of global temperatures; botanical gardens around the world have noted that plants around the world are booming ahead of their normal schedule .
We are reminded that global warming was created by factors such as industry, traffic and agricultural practices to name a few, however when we follow the road to the source, these contributors come down to one place -the place you call home. The quandary with global warming is the name itself. It evokes a sense of “globalness” or if you prefer, a sense of bigness that is hard to equate with the day to day hustle and bustle of the family home, its hard to absorb it, and say, “It’s my problem”. You may wish to test this yourself; what is the first image that enters your head when you hear the term “global warming”?
With the home in mind let’s avoid the multitude of tips available to reduce global warming and consider what experiences we can have that will help us to internalize this mass of information and make it real. Experiencing means processing our world though our five senses, perhaps it’s the time you take to brush your teeth while leaving the tap running and saying a sad farewell to those water drops that not even your grandchildren will gain any benefit from. Perhaps its taking a walk through your local botanical garden as if it was the last time you could do it, or perhaps it’s as simple as taking the time to notice what it feels like for your body to experience thirst. The fact remains that until information about global warming becomes real and experiential to each and every person, we can expect a good few very dry summers to come.
Jason Mordecai is an educator and researcher with interests in Neurolinguistic Programming, Psychoneuroimmunology, herbalsim and entrepreneurialism in Africa. He currently runs an innovative business that sources and supplies raw materials and products focusing on African Medicinal herbs. For more information see his website http://www.fevertree.za.com