I recently read the article, “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change” – a comprehensive summary of scientific warnings, political indecisions and cowardice, and corporate denials and impediments for prevention of accelerated global warming.
The article made me reflect on my environmental experiences. As one who has spent almost all of more than seven decades on area lands and being acutely affected by the variables of the seasons and their weather, I have observed a relatively rapid change in both – and not for the better. While allowing for occasional extremes of heat and cold and wet and dry, it is obvious that there is something seriously wrong with nature’s historic rhythms.
As with any disaster, worldwide or regional, there are those who claim that this is part of “the plan” of some deity – but irresponsible people are not deities. Likewise, one can discount the proclamations of a region’s transitory evaluators – recent arrivers and short timers who make statements like “the weather here has always been this way” or that “Salado’s 2010 inundation was a 100 year flood”. (Locally, these are sometimes the same late comers who believe that the area’s cedar infestation is “natural”.) All are wrong.
With respect to the last – yes, cedar is native – but its Central Texas overgrowth is not natural. Discussions with long deceased area residents as well as historical writings reveal that cedar (juniper) originally grew only on the hilltops and hillsides – maybe that’s why it was often called “mountain cedar” – and the prairie grass was “stirrup high”. Obviously overgrazing was responsible for the demise of native grasses and the subsequent invasion of cedar in the lowlands, but to their credit most early ranchers tried to control that infestation. Not so for today’s landowners. Cedar’s usurpation of groundwater not withstanding, as I drive past new homes surrounded by cedars, I often comment that these folks have never seen a “brake fire”, and when – not if – one occurs, they will be lucky to escape. Think about the victims in California and Bastrop. However, those infernos in their brush and pine trees are nothing compared to a flaming cedar brake.
With respect to the first – notable extremes are more than regional and are not attributable to agricultural misdeeds or “the gods” – this situation is much more ominous, and increasingly mankind is identified as the culprit. Old timers from rural New Mexico have told me that many creeks’ have dried up and those that haven’t will no longer get a skim of ice in winter; likewise some in Tennessee have told me that it is no longer consistently cold enough to home cure hams. Yes, gradual climate change is accepted as normal – but the rapidity and degree of what we are now experiencing is not.
The above mentioned document outlines the failures of politicians, regulatory agencies and bureaucrats to timely address the early prospect of and now the reality of accelerated global warming – indeed in many cases to even accept it as a fact. Corporate stonewalling, indiscretions and impediments are shameful, but understandable. It’s hard to make one understand something if his livelihood depends on his not understanding it – thus we have “Climate deniers”. (Maybe that statement applies to the politicians and bureaucrats as well.) Reputable scientists predicted that the extremes we now increasingly see are exacerbated by man’s activities, and there is now little to be done to prevent these first symptoms. Decades of lead time – years that gave opportunities to avoid these problems – have been squandered due to ignorance, greed, and procrastination. Those that had and still have the power to intervene are leaving a shameful legacy.
A high school friend recently told me that she often apologizes to her grandchildren for the world she is leaving them. I believe the need to apologize extends well beyond any lay individual. However, belated apologies of politicians, regulatory agencies, bureaucrats and “businessmen” are insufficient – they may well have been willing contributors to a universal disaster – no apology will compensate for that.