Environment: Interesting Times
Who says life along the Gold Coast is boring this time of year? I just unplugged my modem and computer and hid in the corner with the dog as the third thunderstorm of the day rolled overhead. In a number of towns, traditional torchlight parades for Independence Day were cancelled due to widespread rainfall. The fact of the matter is that “interesting” doesn't come close to capturing the ongoing tumult on so many fronts.
Locally, it's hard to reconcile our not-so-distant drought memories of tanker trucks hauling potable water to thirsty homes and hotels with this year's daily spectacle of flooded urban areas throughout Guanacaste.
Elsewhere, Houston has garnered the most recent news coverage of flooding. But Argentina's 8 million hectares under water, and millions of people displaced in Bangladesh, surely belong on the long global list of weather-related chaos. As I write, the western Pacific is serving up a dose of double trouble. Typhoon Talim apparently decided to spare mainland China and instead is heading north towards Japan. Typhoon Doksuri ripped through Vietnam and is currently deluging Laos also with life-threatening amounts of rainfall.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch — specifically, the western United States' vast rangelands and forests — there are currently 137 wildfires raging across 7.8 million acres in what might be the worst fire season in recorded history. According to reports, ash fell like snow in Seattle for the first time since the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens almost 40 years ago.
It was an intrepid amateur photographer from Oregon who best captured the weird zeitgeist of the interesting times we live in. She managed to juxtapose a group of nattily attired golfers, calmly putting on a manicured green at Beacon Rock Golf Course, against the backdrop of the Eagle Creek fire raging through a copse of tinder dry conifers. As the photo went viral, comments zeroed in on the irony of golfing during a maelstrom of nearby destruction.
There was no shortage of irony as Hurricane Harvey inundated Houston, the petroleum industry's global mecca, with 50 inches of rain. Ditto Hurricane Irma swamping the state whose governor is an ardent denier of climate change. Readers may recall that the current Denier in Chief swept into the Oval Office aided by 29 electoral votes from the recently ravaged Sunshine State.
That humans may be capable of wilder mood swings, quirkier behavior and more outright violence than Mother Nature comes across in recent news headlines.
Several gun freaks in Houston posed with their automatic weapons in front of a sign threatening “Lotters will be shoot.” In Florida, one amateur meteorologist suggested people could simply avert Irma through a coordinated gunshot volley of hollow-point bullets.
While more than 1,000 Houston churches refused shelter to the masses of Harvey's homeless victims, faith groups in Florida gathered on the beach, hands aloft, channeling the power of prayer to calm Irma's wrath. Having labeled the approaching hurricane a left-wing hoax, Rush Limbaugh saw the light and high-tailed it out of harm's way in the nick of time.
The more left-wing, techno-conspiracy crowd contended the hurricanes were caused or steered by the ancient radar/ weather experiment HAARP, or an ionic ray satellite somewhere over the Atlantic. Those concerns were put to rest by an MIT scientist who patiently explained, “The total energy released … in an average hurricane is equivalent to 200 times the worldwide electrical generating capacity.” It's like shooting BBs at an incoming asteroid.
The take-home message was aptly expressed by farmer/ philosopher Wendell Berry: “Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and ... she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”