The Odds Are Good That…….

The stream is bank full. A month of nearly non-stop rain has this stream in a near state of rage; at the very least these rapidly flowing waters are ill-tempered and mildly violent. On bends the splashing waters fly up into the air and in areas where there is rapid elevation changes and severe drops the water crashes into scarred pools making the water both turbulent and out of control. The silt laden waters are mostly gray save the white foam and bubbles that seem to appear infrequently as the water rushes down through the narroe stream corridor. Banks, heavily damaged nearly two years ago in Hurricane Irene, are washing away, one layer at a time. I stand here, partially in awe, and partially in fear; not a fear of the here and now but a strong fear for what is about to be. These events are far too frequent these days and quite frankly they scare the living hell out of me.

As a long time amateur weather watcher, particularly as it relates to landscape ecology, I am considering the nearly unbelievable amplitude of the changing weather that has recently occurred in New England. This is not as easy as it might sound. Weather variations in New England are a standard occurrence and so I can’t jump to any conclusions here just because our weather seems more fickle than usual. In fact, I’m hesitant to draw any exact conclusions or even form definitive opinions given that if I were to use a “control”, that is a relatively scientific backdrop that showed weather norms, it would likely reveal variable weather conditions as normal in this temperate region.

The nearly 12 inches of rain this month, accompanied by extremely humid weather, is cause for some pause. Late April and May were unusually dry; so dry, in fact, that forest fire and brush fire warnings were prevalent throughout this area. This was most surprising because we had a snowy winter, followed by a March and early April where the snow pack melted quickly. But now, with fully saturated soils, all of the rain runs off immediately and we have nearly daily warnings of flash floods issues by NOAA, and organization that seems frequently inadequate at predicting the weather accurately for weather that is outside of the next 12 hours.

And while my tomatoes have resorted to life jackets in order to survive in our raised bed garden, the west is experiencing record heat and lack of rain that might end up rivaling the dust bowl era. Forest fires abound throughout much of the southwest. In fact, just today there was the terrible news of 19 fire fighters perishing in a battle against a fire in Arizona. A tragedy of maximum proportion, especially for the loved ones of these brave women and men.

Long ago I read an article that put forth the idea that as the result of global warming (it was not referred to as climate change in that era) the northeast US would become wetter, colder, with storms that were unpredictable and more frequent. The author (whose name I cannot remember) also said that the mid-west and west would become dry and fire damaged. He also went on to say that the corn belt would move north into the central region of Canada. It was his opinion that the Midwest would become so dry that a good deal of the top soil would blow away in the hot, dry winds.

This author pondered that the Northeast would become cooler and wetter. This was because the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic, through the change in salinity and water density caused by melting glaciers and the polar ice cap, would either be forced south or cease to exist. And while this has not completely occurred yet the jury is still out as to whether this will happen or not. Certainly it is not out of the question.

Yes, there is long term evidence that our climate changes on its own without human influence. But we presently know of no period where it has changed so rapidly. In the past these changes appear to have happened over thousands of years. Keep in mind, however, that this information is based on our present level of knowledge. As we all know, knowledge changes with new findings, and no permanent opinion should be held on any scientific “fact”.

I am extremely concerned that what we may be witnessing is the beginning of a new era where extreme weather will be the norm. I am hopeful that we can either find ways to help mitigate the impacts of these changes, or reduce the severity of the changes by changing our own behavior. For instance, why are we not prioritizing energy conservation as a way to reduce carbon loading of our atmosphere. Research shows that with this technique alone we could reduce our carbon footprint by at least 40% if individuals, businesses, and government became obliged to reduce our energy use.

Some might say that we have not achieved this because it would hamper the age old notion that an ever expanding economy was necessary for our economic future. This idea ignores the concept of sustainability where an economy finds a level of stasis that both supports economic venture and ecological necessity. If we ever needed a major “think tank” on any idea where the best and brightest came together to help formulate a solution to an impending crisis this a topic worthy of such consideration.

As I write this on the first day of July in the year 2013 it is raining. We are expecting another 2 to 4 inches of rain in the next two days. This weather pattern is supposed to hold for at least the next six days, a set of circumstances that I am not looking forward to. And to our west it is hot. It is dry. And the weather they face is far more devastating, at least in the immediate future.

The odds are good that we will continue to see wild changes in our weather patterns for the foreseeable future. There is little we can do about the changes that may have already occurred. But we can all take action on preventing more devastation in the future. Reduce your personal energy consumption. Encourage your work place to do the same. Write to your Congressman, Senator, and the President with your concerns for the future as it relates to climate change. They need to hear from everybody in order to overcome the inertia set forth by big business for keeping the status quo. And the most important is talk to others about climate change. The more discussion there is the more curious people will become about the topic. Change comes from dialogue, analysis, and an active public.

Time is of the essence.

The rain comes down heavily as I stand, almost paralyzed, along the banks of this unabashed torrent. I cannot pull myself away from the streams violent nature. Like a pedestrian gawking at the results of a car wreck I can’t help myself. I am fixated on the disaster that seems to be unfolding. Not today, but in our future.

A large boulder gets dislodged from a nearby bank and tumbles into the raging waters. It tumbles downstream crashing into every object in its way. It is a force of nature that will be difficult to stop.

Written for in July 2013,

  • Barbara

    Climate change not a reality? How’s that again? When I watch images on Canadian television of Alberta’s cities flooded, businesses ruined, crops in Saskatchewan washed away – farmers left destitute and remember that we had little to no apples to harvest here in Ontario because of the unexpected late frost wiping out the apple blossoms almost completely and honey bees? I could go on. Climate change is definitely happening around the world at an unprecedented rate – tens of years not ten thousands of years… I know you’re one of the converted Bill. You’ve seen similar tragedies in the U.s

    I share your horror and your worry Bill – that big boulder is definitely coming this way downstream! Yes let’s tell everyone to reduce their energy use and beg, if we have to, our respective governments to please institute that think tank! Who in their right mind thinks the worlds economies have to grow year after year… there is a point where that isn’t possible and everything will come crashing down… let’s pause today, right now, and each of us try to do our part. This dialogue is vital for survival.

    Your glorious photos remind me that the world was conceived in flames – I hope it doesn’t go out in them too.

    but to change the subject – may you and your family enjoy a happy and peaceful July fourth tomorrow. And well into the future!

  • Annie

    We are about to experience our 6th day of 100+ temperatures tomorrow and finally cooling down into the lower 90s on Friday. The heat has been extreme and the energy use by thousands of air conditioners, I’m sure, has been just as high. Every day the land becomes dryer requiring more water for the landscapes that we have put in our yards, businesses and parks. So far the systems that provide electricity and water are working even in these extreme conditions. In a way that may be a bigger problem than the heat wave itself. Most people don’t change their habits until they absolutely have to.

  • Wild_Bill

    “Most people don’t change their habits until they absolutely have to”. That one statement, Annie, describes the basis of the entire problem. Brilliant!

  • Wild_Bill

    “O Canada” and may you also bring great thoughts and great wishes to your celebration to your wonderful nation. Let’s not forget that half of me came from Canada, both first American and Quebec french. And thank you Barbara for your dedication to this planet. We sure could use more like you. To everyone who doesn’t know, Barbara is a terrific advocate for our animal friends, the earth, and all thing natural. Check her out @ Primary Pets . You can find it in my blog roll!

  • Ratty

    I keep hoping that one day someone will come up with an answer that can work for everyone, especially the corporations. It will only be when they are convinced of a great new idea that we will see a positive change around the world. I think until they’re willing to change, not a lot can be done.

  • Wild_Bill

    Mostly true Ratty. Although in the past they were required to make changes, and although they did it begrudgingly the impacts were immense. The Clean Water Act of 1972 for example. Before it passed 80% of our streams, rivers, and lakes were not safely swimmable of fishable, by 1990 80% were safely swimmable and fishable. A complete and wonderful reversal.

  • Barbara

    You are most kind to mention my blog Bill – I do enjoy writing it. And at the moment debating taking some photos of a bunch of cows lying in the field across my country road… too funny – do cows really lie down when it is going to rain? Sure feels like rain.

    But I hope it doesn’t rain on your parade for July 4 Bill – Americans certainly celebrate this holiday in a big way… and rightly so.
    Canadians are getting more into the spirit and we had the whole weekend filled with fire crackers…and a great local “iron man” race – cycling, kayaking and then running about 15 miles in all… such fun to watch.

    And again I do hope people listen to what you (and I and so many other advocates for the planet) have to say. We don’t need to grow by x % every year… we just need to reach out, share and work with each other’s welfare and sustainability as the foundation. Now wouldn’t that be a grand world?

    Happy Fourth!

  • Wild_Bill

    Yes it would.

  • craftygreenpoet

    OUr weather in the Uk is becoming much more extreme too, I think we have created a future of increasingly extreme weather

  • Wild_Bill

    No doubt. The question is how bad will it get and will there be an end to it?!

  • Montucky

    I am very unsettled about the whole issue of climate change and/or global warming. Reading the handwriting on the wall, I understand that our governmental and political foolishness will produce no real solutions: the court jesters are ruling the kingdom. The only thing that will save us now is a complete culture change, taking us back to some of the old American Indian beliefs of stewardship of the Earth and the elimination of unnecessary spending of the Earth’s natural resources.

  • Wild_Bill

    You could not be more right about this. It is completely about working within existing natural systems which is what sustainability is all about. On top of that we have to implement restorative practices to help heal what is not working.

  • Guy

    Hi Bill

    I hope you do not experience a great deal of flooding. The flooding here in the last few weeks claimed 4-5 lives will cost a billion or more and take ten years to fix. I suspect we will also take nothing from it, while the emergency response was good we will probably rebuild on the flood plain and Canada is the only major industrial nation without insurance coverage for overland flooding. I find reaction to global warming ( a bad term as people often say it does not exist if it snows ) rather climate change interesting people will argue that these are nature cycles. But the little ice age in Europe caused huge disruptions whether natural or not. With larger populations on marginal land and economies reeling from the various bank scandals our ability to respond well will decline. Add the effects of smog which are without question our fault and our over exploitation of fresh water in many areas with limited water tables will have to force changes in the way we live in the future.

    Oh well time to go sit in the woods and clear my head.

  • Wild_Bill

    No doubt this all overwhelming to comprehend. Hope your walk in the woods clears the air and your head.

  • Teresa Evangeline

    Yes, Yes, Yes, to both of you…

  • Wild_Bill

    And yes to you. I know that you live your life within natural boundaries, something most forget to do. Thank you.

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