Thinking about weather and balances

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to the weather forecast for the next 4 days:

Yes, that's right: Invercargill will be 30C for two days in a row.

When I saw that, I thought, OMG, if Invercargill is going to be 30, what's Wanaka going to be? 34? What about Christchurch? I started to look through other towns' weather forecasts and... it dawned on me, that for the next few days, Invercargill is going to be the hottest place in New Zealand.

Because here, look: Wanaka.




It doesn't happen often, and when it does, it usually happens around October that Invercargill gets the warmest winds of the whole of New Zealand, but this summer has been so spectacularly screwed up in the sense that... I mean, December averages were about, what, 3 degrees warmer than usual?

Urbanites are, of course, enjoying the sunny weather and praising the opportunities to spend time at the beach, but farmers meanwhile are going f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck. Plants need rain to grow, and this summer has not been delivering.

It reminded me of an interesting interview I listened to whilst painting the gable end. I spent several days with headphones on listening to interviews and podcasts ;)

The interview was Kim Hill talking to Johan Rockström from Swedish Stockholm Resilience Centre ( and they discussed what Johan calls "planetary boundaries".

Basically, as he was explaining, the world is in a kind of a homeostasis. You know how the human body, in a very similar way, manages to maintain a very stable state although there are, literally, thousands of hormones, chemicals and such that are in a constant change? Consider the food we eat: carbs raise the blood glucose levels, but insulin straight away kicks in to protect the system from sugar overload. Women's progesterone and oestrogen are always in motion, but the body maintains a relatively stable internal environment because whenever something changes, something else balances it out because the body, it tries to self-regulate in order to maintain an equilibrium.

Siddhartha Mukherjee wrote about it in The New Yorker magazine this week.

"Consider temperature: the normal human body maintains an extraordinarily narrow range—somewhere between ninety-seven and ninety-nine degrees—despite enormous, often unpredictable variations in the environment. I boarded my Air India flight on a chilly autumn day in New York and was hurtled in an aluminum tube into unseasonably warm Delhi, but my core temperature, had I measured it, would have changed not one degree. And emperor penguins put human thermoregulation to shame. As the ambient temperature is lowered by a staggering hundred and ten degrees, from seventy above zero to forty below, a penguin chick’s core temperature changes by only a couple of degrees.

The level of sodium in your blood is tightly regulated between 135 and 145 milliequivalents per litre—a number controlled by exquisite sensors in the brain coupled with an equally accurate mechanism that retains or dispenses salt and water in the kidneys. "Constancy in an open system, such as our bodies represent, requires mechanisms that act to maintain this constancy," Cannon wrote. "Homeostasis does not occur by chance, but is the result of organized self-government.""

The earth is maintaining a somewhat of a similar environment. There is relatively stable weather, water is getting distributed around, air is suitable for a lot of animal species - it's a golden age for life to thrive on this planet. Half of our emissions are taken up in oceans and forests at the moment, as if the earth is buffering, Johan Rockström argues, and it's remarkable proof that the planet does everything it can, applying all its biochemical processes, in order to remain stable.

But that, he also argues, is not an infinite state. At one point there is going to be a time when the "overload" will no longer be able to be buffered, and the earth stability is going to topple, hurtling the planet towards a new age where the balance of life-sustaining processes is no longer going to be able to sustain so much of the current world. There is not going to be enough clean water, enough clean air, enough good weather to grow food.

So with a team of other scientists, they've worked out what "planetary boundaries" are keeping the world in its current state. How much nitrogen can there be in the atmosphere before the tipping point of the Earth? How much phosphorus? Carbon dioxide concentration in the air? Etc

The interview is WELL WORTH A LISTEN.

It infuriates me that for a whole lot of people in the US, I'm not going to name names because it's pretty obvious who I am referring to, such an information is... not even that they don't know about it, I'm not even sure if they would understand it even if they heard it.

But I just need to breathe in, breathe out, and continue doing my part. Analysing my own life, taking into account my own spending habits, seeing where I can make a difference.

Because sustainability, it's what keeps the life, as we know it, going. Both inside our bodies, but also on our planet.

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