Climate Reality: It’s a Crisis

Scarlet Kale in My Garden

On Feb. 19 I submitted a vacation request for today and tomorrow at the home, farm and auto supply store so I could finish planting the garden if I hadn’t already.

Paid vacation is one of several perquisites of working for a mid-sized retail company. Such perks are a reason I linger there, even though I’d rather spend more time at home in my garden and kitchen.

As we now know, planting is behind during what may become the wettest Iowa spring in recorded history. People aren’t freaking out yet. Many I know, including all the farmers, are on edge. A lot is at stake when one’s livelihood is built around planting and growing foodstuffs. Non-farming people feel the oppressive weather as well. The continuing rain is not normal for east-central Iowa. I’m not sure my garden will get planted the way I expected in February when I submitted my vacation request.

Yesterday at Kate’s farm a thunderstorm rolled in and we moved the seeding operation into the barn. One doesn’t want to be inside a metal-framed greenhouse during a lightning strike. At home I left my trays of seedlings outside when I went to work and they survived the storm in good shape. I moved them into the garage as rain started again. There have been a lot of thunderstorms locally, which when combined with the recent polar vortex, heavy snowfall, rapid snow melt and wild temperature swings, indicate this isn’t a one-off weather event.

Around 1850, physicist John Tyndall discovered carbon dioxide traps heat in our atmosphere, producing the greenhouse effect, which enables all of creation as we know it to live on Earth. This and other scientific facts about physics, chemistry and biology are the foundation of analytical models that predict future behavior of the climate and its consequences for humans. As Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and professor of political science at Texas Tech University, posted yesterday in social media, “climate models are (not) some type of statistical random number generator.” The science of the climate crisis is the same science that explains why airplanes fly and stoves heat food. It’s science.

Consider the displeasure with which the administration greeted the Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment which predicted dire consequences for sentient beings in coming years if greenhouse gas emissions continue the way they have been going. The president’s advisors now seek to change how the assessment is done, arbitrarily shortening the window of concern to a near horizon of 20 years. I’ve never seen an ostrich stick its head in the sand, but this is what it would look like. There is no scientific reason to shorten the horizon for considering the effects of the climate crisis in climate models.

I didn’t know what to expect in 2013 when I attended Al Gore’s training to join the Climate Reality Leadership Corps in Chicago. Among the benefits was by understanding the basic science of global warming it became easier to cope with the crisis unfolding in front of us now.

The reality is climate change is real if we have the education and awareness to understand what we are seeing. It is not only about science. As Carlos Castaneda suggested when a reporter questioned him about discrepancies in his personal history, “To ask me to verify my life by giving you my statistics … is like using science to validate sorcery.” So it is with our politics. Scientific facts do not address the politicization of science to serve interests that are indefensible in light of our commonality.

Mother Nature has been the victim of humans living on Earth, of that there is no question. Brutalized and violated, who can mend her broken body? I don’t know if it’s possible, there is no Denis Mukwege for her unless it can be all of us together. Who am I kidding?

The sun is rising after the latest thunderstorm moved on toward the Great Lakes. I’ll put seedlings outside again and hope for a break in the weather long enough to work the soil. While farmers need a good week of dry weather to get crops in the ground, I can make do with less.

I feel good about today but then I am human. Most of us can’t see but six inches beyond our nose, try though we might. To sustain our lives we must do a better job of living now while working toward a better future — despite the setbacks of our politics. What choice do we have?