Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Apocalypse Gal at a Meeting about THE NUMBERS

In my current job, as department chair of General Education (think Liberal Arts, not pre-College catch-up classes) at a college, I go to at least one meeting a quarter where we talk about the numbers:  new student enrollment, continuing student enrollment, average registered credit, where we hoped our numbers would be, where they are, where they were a year ago. 

We're a for-profit school, but I suspect all schools are having similar conversations.  We also talked about the plummeting stock price at our recent numbers meeting.  We talked about the recent episode of Rock Center.  We talked about recent media/legislator obsessions, like the housing collapse, and current media/legislator obsessions like the high levels of debt taken on by college students.  The person in charge of the meeting asked, "What do you think will be next?"

No one answered.  "Really, I'd like to know," the meeting facilitator asked.  "What do you think will be next?"

Just a few hours before, I'd read this story with its graphic demonstration about the amazing pace of Arctic ice melt in July.  So, I piped up.  "If the Arctic sea ice really is melting fast enough to cause more glaciers to break apart, we'll be talking about sea level rise."

Nervous laughter.  Or did people think I was joking?  I said, "Look up the rate of Arctic ice melt just for the month of July, which is happening at a much faster rate than anyone thought it would.  When we're all under water, actual water, we won't be worrying about student debt."

Click.  It was on to the next slide of the PowerPoint presentation.

Nothing changes the topic faster than talk of melting Arctic ice.  Just call me Cassandra.

I jotted down a note for a poem:  Cassandra Considers Continuing Enrollment and Calving Glaciers.

Those of you who have been reading this blog know that I've been thinking about global warming for some time now, and that Bill McKibben's article in Rolling Stone spells out the end of the Holocene Era in terrifying scientific detail.  I truly do think that in 5-20 years, we'll look back and say, "I can't believe we worried about that ______________ which seems so insignificant now that we've wrecked the planet."

You can fill in that blank in so many ways:  housing prices, fuel prices, the national debt, wildfires, the loss of jobs, drought.  Those issues will seem so manageable, compared to what we're likely facing.

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