Moving Ten Meters South

Recently I listened to a speech by Noam Chomsky on my local NPR station, and one of the many things he said that struck me was that given the unprecedented rise in temperatures on this planet, it’s as if we all are moving 10 meters south every single day. Okay, that kind of freaked me out.

First of all, I hate moving. The thought of having to do it every day leaves me cold (or in this case, hot, I suppose). Second, it took me 40 years to get out of the South, and now I’m being dragged slowly back to it? No! Not fair!

Just out of curiosity, I decided to do the math. First, I had to find the latitude of Seattle,  Washington, which is 47.6097N. Then I had to find the latitude of Jacksonville, Florida, my old stomping grounds. That turns out to be 30.3369 N.

Now, we’re going to pretend that Jacksonville is directly south of Seattle instead of being on the opposite side of the continent or this is going to get waaaaaaay beyond my math skills and patience.

Next, I had to figure out what that converts to in (due south) miles. This gets complicated, because the earth is all curvy and stuff. (And all you flat earth folks, don’t flame me. I’m not interested.) So I went to the NOAA Latitude/Longitude Distance calculator, and pretending that both cities were at a longitude of 122.3331 W, I discovered that that’s a distance of 1,193 miles.

But good old Noam, being the science-oriented guy that he is, gave us our southward drift in meters. So I also had to convert to metric. Sigh. That means it will stop being mentally imaginable to me, but here you go: 1,193 miles is 1,919 kilometers, or 1,919,000 meters.

So, if I’m drifting 10 meters south every day, that means it will take me 191,900 days to get back to Jacksonville’s latitude. That’s more than 525 years. (And if you mention that I forgot to allow for the extra day every leap year, I’ll slap you silly. This is a thought experiment, people!)

Whew! I can actually live with that. Mainly because I won’t be alive. And besides, I’d in fact land in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Baja California. And that may as well be Jacksonville at that point, because Jacksonville will be completely submerged, as will most of the rest of Florida. Lucky for me, the vast majority of Seattle will remain high and dry. That is, if the next major earthquake hasn’t dumped it into the sea.

But even though I wouldn’t be literally drifting southward into the ocean, and supposing Seattle hasn’t been earthquaked into oblivion, it will be hot, and the climate will be so drastically altered that the city will look nothing like its current lush, green, beflowered, beautiful self. But still, my toes won’t be getting all pruny.

Of course, there’d be the refugees from other flooded states and nations desperately trying to find places to live and totally invading my space along with a population that had already exploded beyond comprehension, and they’d be using up all the drinking water and fighting over what few fresh vegetables were left… Shades of Soylent Green or Waterworld.

I don’t know about you, but this thought experiment has stopped being fun. But if you’re a glutton for punishment and really want an eye opening experience, go to the Surging Seas website and type in various coastal cities. It will tell you what’s going to happen if we don’t get our act together and drastically cut carbon emissions.

We need to stop bringing snowballs to Capitol Hill and start taking action. Otherwise future generations will curse our names, and laugh bitterly at our stupidity. All this while figuratively drifting ever southward.

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Bye bye Florida. Image credit: National Geographic
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