The other day friend Jarvis in North Carolina sent a link to Andrew Freedman's 2015 article "Study: Melting Greenland ice sheet is rapidly slowing the Gulf Stream." The piece, with maps and graphs, is freely downloadable here.

The paper's main point is that as the planet gradually warms, a large spot goes against the trend, and that's in the North Atlantic just south of Greenland. There, cold meltwater from the Greenland Ice Sheet apparently not only cools an area normally warmed by the Gulf Stream -- by up to 3.6°F (0.6°C) -- but also slows down the Gulf Stream's flow. Such a slowdown hasn't occurred for centuries, maybe not for the last thousand years. The article outlines the slowdown's mechanics and possible effects -- the effects possibly catastrophic in western Europe, and pretty bad in many other places.

This doesn't come as a big surprise to the scientific community. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated an up to 10% likelihood of a Gulf Stream shutdown -- not just a slowing -- before year 2100. Many climate scientists estimate the likelihood as even higher. However, the present slowdown suggests that the Greenland Ice Sheet is melting decades ahead of schedule, and possibly this speeds up other global warming scenarios as well.

For me, this brings up the question of what we as individuals should do in the face of such information. Specifically, if our individual behaviors -- taken just by themselves -- won't really change anything, is there really any reason to make idealistic gestures as if they did? For example, when I take long-distance bus rides back to the US and across several states, though flying sometimes actually is cheaper, but I do it because jets deposit much more greenhouse gas in the critical upper atmosphere, per passenger mile, than buses, aren't I really putting up with a lot of discomfort and indignities without actually impacting global warming situation? What's the point of idealistic gestures when, in the broad scheme of things, individually they accomplish nothing?

I personally couldn't find guidance on the matter until I began thinking out the implications of The Six Miracles of Nature, outlined at http://www.backyardnature.net/j/6/.

The Sixth Miracle is what seems most relevant. The Sixth, which just now is flickering into existence here on Earth, is this:

That instinctual behavior blossomed into consciousness, along with the ability to be inspired, have a sense of aesthetics, to grow spiritually, to override the dictates of our genes, and consciously to develop other traits harmonious with the rest of the evolving Universe

That's worded a little differently from last week's edition, but this is an evolving concept. Things change as refinement takes place.

So, it seems that the Universe is evolving toward a state that, when talked about, needs the use of such slippery terms as "inspiration," "aesthetics," "spirituality," and "harmony." These things are felt, not reasoned about, done, or set upon a table. Yet, something in us recognizes them as real when they're experienced, and the sequential nature of the Six Miracles of Nature suggest that the Universe is evolving toward them.

Consider the concept of harmony. The connections among isolated things existing in harmony with one another are as abstract, undetectable and undefinable as the connection between my bus-riding gesture and global warming.

That's not much of a relationship between the evolving Universe and my bus-riding, but it's enough for me to think that maybe my gesture of riding buses -- even if it doesn't slow global warming at all -- may still serve some higher purpose.