Climate Change, Roundabouts and Retail Stores

Rural Johnson County – 140th Street NE west of Ely Road on March 23, 2019.

During a tour of my usual spots to observe flooding it doesn’t look as bad as it has.

In 2008, the flood waters came to within 100 yards of our home before receding. We are nowhere near that now.

Yesterday afternoon Governor Kim Reynolds issued a press release saying the president had approved a major disaster declaration for 56 Iowa counties. Hazard mitigation funding became available for the entire state.

What’s going on?

“Are we just rolling snake eyes over and over or is there something happening here?” Erin Murphy of Lee Enterprises asked on Iowa Press this weekend.

“We have 147 years of temperature and precipitation records for the state,” Iowa State Climatologist Justin Glison responded. “The trend shows us warming and with the warmer atmosphere, a warmer surface temperature, we’re able to hold more water vapor in the atmosphere. That gives us a higher probability of having more precipitation events. What we are seeing over the past thirty years is that the intensity of precipitation events is increasing… Yes, we are moving into a new type of precipitation regime.”

No mention of the words “climate change” and that’s okay. Glison’s message is what I have been saying the last six years, and part of what Al Gore said the two times I heard him present his slide show. The current flooding is climate change happening in plain view. It is time to do something to mitigate not only the damage caused by climate change but the changing climate itself.

What should we do about climate change? Embrace the truth about what this scientist said. Then develop the political will to change human activities that contribute to global warming in a way that makes sense and creates a resilient culture.

The rest of my day seemed anticlimactic. While crossing the Cedar River bridge on Highway One I decided to visit the Ace Hardware Store in Mount Vernon to see if they had a replacement part for the faucet handle in the bathroom.

I entered the roundabout at the intersection of U.S. Highway 30 and Route One. It is a bit confusing but I was able to decipher the signs related to which lane was correct for my trip. I like the roundabout for intellectual reasons, although most locals hate it.

Before the roundabout was completed in October 2013, the intersection was one of the five most dangerous in the state, based on frequency of accidents. In the years since the new roundabout opened, the frequency of accidents remained higher than expected. The intersection is currently exhibiting a crash frequency of 16.8 crashes per year according to a 2018 study. The expectation was there would be from six to eight crashes per year. To make a 60 percent reduction in accident frequency, the study recommends better driver education and improved signage near the roundabout. In other words, Iowa drivers are not finding navigation of the roundabout intuitive and it shows.

I arrived in Mount Vernon and parked across the street from the small hardware store. The future of small city retail was on display as I walked through the entrance. As an employee of a home, farm and auto supply store my radar was up to take in the sales process.

Two cashiers greeted me as I entered and asked if they could help. They directed me to the plumbing aisles which were easy to find in the small space. I walked past a popcorn machine that offered fresh, hot popcorn to eat while shopping. Eating and retail seem inseparable in the 21st Century. I declined to sample a bag. I quickly found a selection of faucet handles.

Using my handheld device, I had taken a photo of the old handle with a ruler held up to it from two angles. I sought an exact match. Within a couple minutes, a sales associate walked up and asked if he could help me find something. I said yes as I wasn’t finding what I wanted. He confirmed the display represented what was on hand and led me to a dual-monitor computer where he researched alternatives. The idea was if we could find the part, the associate would order it on the spot. We looked through four examples, both the Ace and manufacturer brands and couldn’t match the size.

In my experience, expanding product offerings from a retail store’s physical inventory is essential to survival in small cities and towns. It harkens back to the early days of the Sears catalogue. While there were no mobile or home computers back in the day, modern retail at its best emulates the idea there is a broad array of available products that with time can be delivered just about anywhere. The difference between my experience at Ace Hardware and a large on line retailer like is the personal attention I received from everyone I encountered at the store. That service is what satisfies our human need for personal interaction, and is likely to make us a repeat customer. In doing so, local retailers can learn and work toward sustainability.

What do climate change, roundabouts and retail stores have in common? I’m not sure, but that was my day in society.

One reply on “Climate Change, Roundabouts and Retail Stores”

“That service is what satisfies our human need for personal interaction.” Agree.
Trends in climate change like precip and temp patterns can be compared to trends in our health. We measure day-to-day and week-to-week values of weather much like we measure our daily weight on the bathroom scale or feel warm or cold body heat. The long-term trends are more subtle. Years later we discover we are 10-15 lbs overweight. Or, we are diagnosed as diabetic, we have a tumor, we’ve gone bald, etc. Some are reversible, some not. More of the general public is recognizing that we have some major problems with our climate. I hope it is not too late.

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