Calhouns Ca(n)nons for August 20, 2010
All politics is local
The Rogers Red grapevine has gone all rogery red well before it’s time. Nearby the Great Grapevine has started to give up the ghost for the season. Its leaves are yellowing and spotting as it shuts down for its winter sleep. All this in the middle of August in a year with no summer.
At least not here in my small corner of the world. While the rest of the country boils with record high heat and people flee in a desperate search for somewhere cool to hole up, Los Osos has turned into Joe Btfsplk, Andy Capp’s Li’l Abner cartoon character who always walked around with a cloud over his head. In Los Osos, it’s as literal as that cartoon. Drizzle-mist in the early morning, and the rest of the day spent with a lowering cloud cap overhead but one with a perfectly circular edge and a clear horizon line all around letting we bearish folk know that the sun is shining, well, over there and there and way over there, but not here.
And it’s unseasonably cool, throwing all my plants into a muddle. Is it spring, yet? No? Now? No? When? But I have no answer. Our local weatherman talks about coastal up-wellings and the vast ocean mysteries of La Nina and El Nino but that doesn’t explain the Joe Btfsplk cloud.
Moscow is also under a cloud, but this one is made up of deadly smoke from an out of control forest fire, aided and abetted by vast peat fields that were drained years ago to serve as an industrial fuel source and never re-flooded when the country switched to gas and oil for fuel. The abandoned peat and the vast forests, tinder dry from a heat wave that was the worst in Russia’s recorded history, are but a terrifying glimpse of Things Yet To Come. Imagine the vast pine woodlands that stretch from Moscow all the way to Sarah Palin’s house. Imagine them tinder dry from drought and heat. Imagine a match.
Our own Rocky and Sierra mountain ranges are facing similar conditions; drought and heat are already starting to weaken the trees for the pine pitch beetle to finish off. With no way to stop the process, the dying trunks will eventually stretch for thousands of miles. It’s the stuff of nightmares and is on our doorstep now.
Meanwhile, a 100-square mile chunk of ice just broke off from a Greenland glacier. That’s a hunk four times larger than Manhattan that’s now free to move across the Arctic Ocean. We now wait to see if it will head south to threaten the north Atlantic shipping lanes and huge North Sea oil rigs. The BP oil spill as preview to what may come?
And in Pakistan, millions have been left homeless by massive flooding and with so much farmland washed away, famine will follow after.
The majority of climate scientists agree that global warming is likely the culprit behind these weather extremes and also predict that the extremes will get even wilder the higher the overall global temperature climbs. To a sane person, the future coming into focus is not a welcome one. To a sane person, it would make sense to switch as quickly as possible to an energy plan that didn’t contribute to global warming in order to lessen the worst of what’s coming. But to our corporate-owned politicians, especially those owned by the coal and oil companies, it is critical to lie about and block all efforts to switch to “new” energy sources until every last dollar can be extracted from burning through our “old” energy sources. And if that worsens our future, too bad. Money for a few takes precedence over life for the many.
And, sadly, too many Americans can’t seem to connect that Moscow fire dot to the floods in Iowa dot to the heat wave in DC dot to the break-away glacier dot. But if, as Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local,” then surely all weather is local too. And perhaps that’s our last best hope.
When misfortune hits someone half-way across the globe, it’s unfortunate. When the same misfortune hits your own house, it’s a Great Tragedy and Something Must Be Done! Which means that only when the dots get personal do people tend to take them seriously enough to connect them. And there’s nothing more personal than unusual weather events directly overhead to get one’s attention. I mean, it’s hard to argue with your own dead lawn or that washed out road down the street or a tornado that hits your house in a town where no tornadoes have ever hit before, ever, or the community’s water well that runs dry again because for three years in a row there wasn’t enough snowmelt to replenish the aquifer, or the price of bread just went up because the wheat crop in Kansas failed from a new strain of wheat rust that’s never appeared that far north before, or a plague of malaria-bearing mosquitoes that is normally limited to hot, wet climates shows up in your town after a bizarrely wet year of rain and heat and fogs and unseasonable damp.
Ding, ding, ding. Local alarm bells. Time to wake up. And grab an umbrella. It’s a hard rain of our own making that’s coming to Our Town.