Eroding lake shoreline sign of climate change
The erosion of Lake Michigan shoreline is a ripple-effect result of climate-change devastation in our world, I believe. The near record-high water level last month of our near and dear Great Lake is a harbinger of the future, not a meaningless blip in history.
Warmer temps are another of these local developments, I believe. I keep saying “I believe” because I know that some of you don’t believe there is a causal or related connection between global environmental factors and local environmental outcomes. I disagree with you.
Mother Nature is certainly alerting us to something increasingly destructive in our world as well as in our tiny corner of the world. Northwest Indiana and communities along the Lake Michigan shoreline are absorbing damage from rising water levels, winter storms, and the disappearance of beaches we’ve had in our lives for as long as we can remember.
We now find ourselves driving past local lakefronts in awe of what is no longer there even as lawmakers in several Midwestern states push for state-of-emergency declarations to rescue shoreline communities. I’ve been paying close to attention to what was once my favorite go-to beach, the Portage Lakefront and Pavilion.
Its riverwalk pier into the lake offers a great angle to view the destruction along the shoreline, especially west toward Ogden Dunes. The lake relentlessly batters that town’s break-wall, threatening waterfront properties, and reminding us all that we’re only temporary guests — shortsighted and churlish ones at that — on this planet.
“The new January record may be just the beginning, scientists say, and is likely a precursor to higher lake levels during the wet months of spring,” a Feb. 5 Chicago Tribune story states.
“This is definitely a big deal,” said John Allis, chief of the Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “This is going to continue to be a big problem for people.”
It’s a big problem whether or not we believe it’s being caused, or related to, global climate change forces. Flooding. Wildfires. Droughts. Record-breaking heat waves. Severeweather events. Like frogs in the proverbial pot of boiling water, we’re gradually getting conditioned to this new normal of catastrophic circumstances. We’re not jumping. We’re barely flinching.
We shake our heads while watching disturbing weather-related news reports from around the globe. Yet, we don’t believe it will affect our lives here on Planet Denial. No mass flooding here. No out-ofcontrol wildfires. No serious doom and gloom. No fire tornadoes. Just, thankfully, a warmer winter this year with less snow to shovel, right?
That is, until we take a glance at our badly-damaged or slowly-vanishing lakefronts, from Chicago to Michigan and beyond in both directions. At the Portage Lakefront, where I’ve been visiting since it opened in 2009, the viewing platform has collapsed and a ramp has been swallowed by the surging Great Lake. It looks like a corpse in the mouth of a shark.
Is there still a substantially-sized tribe of Americans who stubbornly refute scientific study after study warning of “global warming” and “climate change?” You bet. Relax, many of them insist, God will provide for us or Satan will doom us. There’s nothing much we can do about it on our own, they claim. Again, I disagree.
I’m not one of those environmental activists shoving a weathered sign into your face stating, “The end is near!” I don’t believe it is. Our lives, though, are going to be affected by these “natural” disasters. Sure, Jesus may come back to save some of his believers, but he isn’t coming back to save our planet. Our messy, cluttered bedroom inside the Lord’s house is beyond even His realm of concern. It’s up to us, not God, to clean it up.
Will we? Can we? No, I believe. (See, I do have beliefs after all.)
I remember in the not too dusty past when all this talk of doom and gloom was just that – talk. Scientific studies. Pointy-headed predictions. Abstract warnings about the future of humankind devastated by forces we didn’t understand. And we didn’t want to.
It’s so much easier to instead bury our heads in the sand, even as that sand gets swallowed up by rising water levels.
It’s so much easier to kick this can of concern down the road again. Or better yet, into a puddle so we can’t see it at all.
And then I drive by a local beach and sense Lake Michigan growling at me like an unleashed Doberman as I walk past its property. Will the lake’s angry water level subside? Probably.
Will it emerge again and attack our shorelines in the future? Of course. We’d be fools to believe otherwise. Then again, we’re already a ship of fools in a vessel we believe will never sink. I see holes. Do you?
“The water levels of each of the Great Lakes peaked during the summer or fall in 2019 and have been in decline since then, but they still remain extremely high, and significant erosion continues in many locations,” that Chicago Tribune story states.
Can this be attributed to cyclical fluctuations that have taken place for centuries? Sure it can. And it does. With this mindset, though, it’s too convenient for us to do nothing about it. All of us will be dead anyway before anything serious happens to our area, right? So we lose some public beaches and privileged shorelines. So what, right?
Such thinking got us to this point of no return. And I don’t see us changing as quickly as the climate does.
Waves crash over the pier at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk on Jan. 11. The viewing platform has collapsed and a ramp has been swallowed by surging waters from Lake Michigan.