I’ve got Lena Horne on the brain today

Posted June 9th, 2008 in Blog Comments Off on I’ve got Lena Horne on the brain today

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

If you are of a certain age, you know what the headline means. The first lines of her famous song just keep repeating over and over in my head:

Don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky, stormy weather…

I don’t usually post two days in a row unless something exceptional is going on — and something exceptional is indeed going on.

I have been sitting here at home watching homes and roads being washed away by a brand new raging river at Lake Delton, Wisconsin, as a dam was overwhelmed by the rampages of the recent storms. homes-collapse-in-lake-delton-flood-wmtv.pngThey said Lake Delton has already receded by 8 feet and is still draining into the new waterflow and on into the Wisconsin River, along with all the debris the water is taking with it.

I just checked a local website and see that many other communities in south central Wisconsin are being threatened with dam collapses.

My part of the world has received rainfall in amounts anywhere from 4-10 inches of rain. Rainfall records are being shattered. Yesterday I drove along the Menomonee River in my home town of Wauwatosa, a Milwaukee suburb, very impressed with the flooding — not the worst I have ever seen, but close.

Meanwhile, parts of Indiana are simply under water. flooding-in-spencer-in-juby-keen-usa-today.pngEarlier they were showing whole farms under water, crops ruined. Some of these areas received a foot of rain in the past couple days.

Meanwhile, back east in the mid-Atlantic where I used to live, people are being steam-cooked in record breaking temperatures and extremely high humidity. This might not be so unusual in July, but now? Washington DC may break a record for the day set in 1874 — 102 degrees. Cooling centers are being opened all across the region from North Carolina through DC and Baltimore, on to Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Folks there may be looking at a very long summer.

I wonder if anybody has yet done an estimate of the damage and other costs to the economy this year as a result of extreme weather. Must be breathtaking.

Is this global warming? Well, as we often say, weather is not the same as climate change; it is the patterns over time that matter. Last year was one of the warmest years ever globally, and this year is no different. Many of these weather events fit well into the predictions for climate change — more, and more violent, storms, rain falling in deluges, persistent drought becoming permanent drought (as is now feared in California and other parts of the Southwest).

There will be other consequences besides economic losses. In the upper Midwest, we were already told to prepare for an excess of mosquitoes this year because of all the wet ground left in the wake of our near-record-breaking 100 inches of snow. west-nile-virus-spread-by-mosquito.pngImagine those happy mosquitoes now!! Same with ticks. This will mean greater threats of West Nile Virus and Lyme disease, both of which are present in Wisconsin.

As I watched this expensive lake home break away from the bank of the new raging river near Lake Delton, I also wondered if we are prepared for what more severe weather will mean in our lives, and whether or not we will finally find the humility to stop building in areas that are bound to become less stable and secure. Reading the list of threatened dams just here in Wisconsin, I wondered if people were aware of how many of our lakes are artificially created by dams, how much water diversion we have done to make pretty areas for housing development and tourism, and what hubris has gone into trying to remake Nature to suit our pleasures.

When rampages come, and they will come with more frequency, elements like water will be subject to the laws of physics — like gravity. And the more we mess with intricate processes that make up natural ecosystems, the less resilience those systems will have and the greater the destruction when it comes.

So, in the face of the harsh realities of our changing climate — and each of these realities this year fit the scenarios of climate change, from the record tornado season, the diminishing snowpack out west, the desertification of areas of the west, the deluges of rain, etc. — perhaps we can begin to take on a good dose of humility in our lives and in how we live in our bioregions.

If Nature is becoming less resilient because of how we have interfered with its natural processes, then we best build resilience within ourselves. We will have many more such disasters to deal with. We must become spiritually strong. We must nurture within ourselves the values of a spiritually rich life — unselfishness, generosity, boundless compassion, simplicity, integrity, and (this may sound strange) joy — yes, joy. We must bring to the great challenges ahead of us a spirit of joy and creativity as we begin to do the necessary thing — to live differently on this precious planet Earth.

[tags] stormy weather, midwest floods, Lake Delton, mid-atlantic heat wave, desertification, record tornado season, ecosystem resilience[/tags]

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