Well, it’s happened again, we got our asses kicked by yet another storm just two months after the first. Last time we lost power for 5 days, and it seemed like months. This time it was just a little over 24 hours, but you could smell the relief in the air when the lights flicked back to life.
My wife and I were sitting out on the deck smoking, (yes I know, naughty naughty) after 20 hours without power on Sunday, surveying the immense damage around us. Piles of broken branches on the ground and still-hanging boughs waving in the air. She turned to me and said “Oh course, we all know there’s nothing going on with the climate!” We’ve lived in this area for almost 30 years and the east coast for most of our lives. While that’s hardly a climatological viewpoint, it makes us witnesses to continually hotter summers which bring more ticks and other pests than ever, a rainy and snowy inundation of our once pleasant climes, and harsher storms to challenge everything that stands above ground. It’s makes us much more sensitive to the predicament to the people of the Seychelles whose entire living space is gradually sinking beneath the waves of a rising Pacific.
It also makes us deeply suspicious of the “Climate denier community.” If you don’t think something unusual and long term is going on, buy our house in a couple of years. Because it’s on one of the first big hills in from the coast, pretty soon you’ll have your own private island off the coast of a greatly diminished New Jersey. Did the Pro-Oil representatives build another snowman in front of the Capital this weekend? Or just pontificate about how snow in October shows how foolish this whole climate change “noise” is?
Well, the way we feel about it in New Jersey, including Govenor Christie, is that we’re going for the built-in generator hook up. It’s expensive, but this is the second disaster declaration in 3 months and winter‘s still on it’s way. Global warming means snow, and lots of it, no matter what talk radio and FOX says. I’d love to get a natural gas generator (cheap to run, a lot less polluting, and a never ending supply of fuel) but right now that’s probably a check too far.
The mayors of New York, Washington, Boston and Philadelphia hold a regular meeting on dealing with the coming effects of rising waters. On the other hand, Russian tankers enjoyed a relatively ice free summer in the Arctic and are looking forward to next summer’s open waters even more. By 2020 they project clear sailing across the entire polar region. Lots of snow and bad weather for the rest of us though.
It took me and my sons the better part of a half a day to clear out all the downed limbs from the back and around the house. Heavy snow firmly clumping on leaves that hadn’t had a chance to fall yet, stripped every tree of the weaker branches. Even with 100 extra crews from other states, the power company still hasn’t got electricity back to around half a million customers. Saturday night, we had to turn around three times trying to find an open road off our hill. Trees were down everywhere and the wires crackled merrily lighting up the snowy night. They postponed Halloween in our town, and several others, because of live wires and still falling branches. I’m willing to bet that power’s not mentioned the Constitution.
I suspect that if the Towns are brave they soon will have new ordinances about enforced tree trimming close to power lines. As well as how close you can build to waterways, lots of houses got condemned after Irene. People evacuated, and when they came back they were prohibited from going in their homes to retrieve anything. They were homeless, many not having flood insurance. They never needed it before and now they were left with nada, nothing. Except perhaps, for a nice polite note of condolence from the insurance company, mentioning the FEMA 800 number. Things are changing fast on the ground, faster than anyone expected.
Of course we all know, or should, that it takes a long, long time for ships of state to make a turn. In this case making the admission that global climate change is very probably, most likely, almost certainly happening as a result of industrial and human activities makes that turn all the more difficult. It will cut deeply into profits, inconvenience most if not all people, and call for what is certainly the most challenging work for short term politicians, long term planning. We can count on the climate to change faster than the stolid minds of status quo.
It’s very much like the difference between weather and climate. One makes it rain on Tuesday, the other makes entire countries inhospitable for a hundred generations, or thousands. Who’s surprised that a representative with a 2 year term has trouble deciding between support from The US chamber of Commerce and calling for very costly unpopular changes. The real question quickly becomes are we, as a race, mature enough to formulate, and then face a hundred or possibly a thousand year plan? If we aren’t yet, what’s the point of blaming elected officials, or entire governments?
Although, when finally confronted, it’s probably like inheriting your brother’s “good” shoes, uncomfortable at first but with time and blisters as a reminder you do remember to put on the heavy socks. We will have to adjust. We will have to deal with the situation. Reality is just not something that denials, pseudo-scientific opinion or just honestly different interpretations have any effect on. I’m not sure we can control climate on a planetary scale, but we certainly can deal with it locally. I’m getting a generator hook up and looking more north for retirement. When they come out with a cheap electric car, I’ll be first in line. That’s my only alternative, apparently, I married yet another person who would rather see me in prison than on a moped.
The changes are mounting, plausible deniability is shrinking, but for some even rowing a boat through the waters placidly flowing over their former home will not suffice to convince them. What’s the point of arguing scientific consensus with someone firmly convinced that it’s just as likely the the earth is only 6000 years old and rides on God’s back on it’s journey through the cosmos? Carbon Dioxide is good, it makes the trees grow, don’t you know! Methane is even better!
Oil, Gas and Coal, oh excuse me…..‘Energy’ companies are like that person who came to the party and no amount of hints can dislodge them from the couch, even after everyone else has gone home. We can close up the bar, put on our pajamas, turn off the lights, put on Frank Zappa’s “Lumpy Gray” at full volume and still, they firmly hold their ground. Often even the firmest shove out the door just results in offers to call up a few friends to “fill out the crowd and liven things up.”
As long as the enforced consensus is that renewable or alternative energy sources are on the “Pooh – Pooh” list, our choices are limited. Until electric cars and alternative power sources for our homes are common, accepted and easy to maintenance we will keep pumping out exhaust. My current generator puts out the same exhaust as about three midsize cars, it’s pretty small, only 3600 watts. I can only imagine what the power plant for the entire area puts out. However, I like not having to throw away everything in two refrigerators every time the power goes out, so, get a clip for your nose. I’m sure that many of us feel the same way and we would no more give up our gas-powered lives than live in a cave.
I do have an acquaintance that lives totally off the grid in Maine. I say “acquaintance” because the first time he met me he offered to take me on a “Snipe hunt.” I countered with an offer to just shoot it out with him in the driveway, for efficiency’s sake. However, his home is unconnected and self-sufficient offering every benefit of modern times, which is unusual in every respect. It takes courage and commitment to accomplish that (not to mention a spectacularly huge estimate from the local power company to run a line to his house) But I wonder do we all have to live that way? Or can we come to a consensus over our power sources? It may be jaded but I don’t expect much more than derision and further misdirection, no matter what the cost, from our current Energy suppliers. How would we reasonably convince them there is something better than pumping money out of the ground?
So, complain as we might, we are left with making do until that seems normal and not focusing on a far off future that will come, but not as quickly or as sensibly as our dreams would have it. Humanity has always needed to be dragged kicking and screaming to the next level. Whether it was from hunting to farming, from horses to steam or whale oil lamps to the electric light. Someone always looses, someone always claims that they have definitive proof that “the electric is leaking out of the plugs” and we always look back with reverence to those simpler, happier times of unbearable ignorance and stubborn resistance to the inevitable.
Even if you don’t read all the text, you should at least look at the graphs at the link below. After all, you paid for this by act of congress (even if they don’t want to read it).
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2011