Thursday, November 3, 2022

Escape Hatch


Texans often travel to escape summer’s heat, heading for the Gulf Coast, the Hill Country or the mountains.

A few travel to Europe, where they’re finding a “heat wave” that’s even more punitive than ours.

But at some point, you have to come back. Walk into the oven everyone else has been roasting in while you were gone.

That makes it seem even hotter.

I was only gone two weeks, but, driving in from Houston, I thought the land looked emptier, bleached. A cornfield that was ripening when I left on July 6, is now straw-dry, brittle, stunned.

The grass on my own small sloping field is shrinking, drawing in on itself.

A few neighboring pastures are going gray, like they did in the terrible drouth of a few years ago. (I like the way that old spelling makes you feel the dry in your mouth.)

Don’t you sense protest from the living vegetation around you? From the trees, grass, flowers—and absent vegetables. And how about  those poor cows huddled in patchy shade while the grass loses moisture with each minute that passes.

We keep trying to power through. By our capacity to do so we measure our character.

Is it enough?

Scientists study the factors contributing to world weather conditions. They think they understand why Europe is having a “worst heat ever” period—a matter of divided jet streams and varying ocean temperatues interconnecting in complex ways that affect rain and the movement of weather systems.

Our situation is related. And here, we have the addition of Saharan Dust flowing in—quite visible when you’re descending in an airplane from 36,000 feet.

Saharan Dust is reputed to diminish the likelihood of hurricanes. No one likes a hurricane, but right now we’d really like a gentle tropical storm to wet us down.

Are we hapless victims of Nature’s whims? I don’t have the technology or the knowledge to give an answer, but I do know what I think.

And I think we’ve got a population problem that we have no way to solve. Population that requires destroying forests for farming. To feed and clothe the people. Forests that that exhale oxygen and contribute to the cycle of moisture that makes life, at all, possible.

Cow people know how much land it takes to graze a herd of a particular size. You and I have seen what happens when a field is overgrazed.

How much land does it take to feed a human population of eight billion people, growing hourly?

Until recently, the problems of insufficient food and water have seemed confined to the so-called Third World. The worst abuses of unbridled development, too, seem centered, now, in that part of the Globe.

But we are not insulated from the consequences, anymore. We created the technology and the philosophy that propels development, and now we are enjoying some of the less comfortable, even threatening, side effects.

One of them involves your well and mine. Water to live by, in other words, right here at home. I know the water my new pump draws on has diminished. How about yours?

Point is, we are not going to be able to open a hatch in the floor and drop into safety while the winds of anguish howl above. And we also aren’t going to populate a Space Ark in time to help our children or grandchildren.

All we’ve got is here. And now.

Maybe we’ll start paying attention to the balances we can correct if we get miserable enough, and if we don’t forget the misery with the first good rain.

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