A broken man lives on my street

Years ago, he made a mistake in the name of love. He still remembers when he was the sun and she was the moon. Now he reads the news reports about global warming and believes down to his marrow that Earth’s problems are his fault.

He told me not to reveal his name because people would say, “Well, that old man is full of himself, thinking he has or ever had the power to play a role in climate change.” Naturally, a few people would believe him and they’d kill him or put him in a home (he’s not sure which of those fates is the worst.)

The year it began, there was a war on. People were crazy, wild, prepared to live on the edge before they were sent to the front. So, he met a girl who claimed beneath the starry sky on an October night that her true name was Mother Nature. He didn’t believe her then because Mother Nature was a figure of speech and if she wasn’t a figure of speech, why would she want him when there were plenty of kings and queens and Hollywood celebrities available?

“You have a heart of gold,” she told him. She must have known he had always wanted a heart of gold or that he was otherwise susceptible to the feminine wiles of any lady who noticed the guy with the Coke bottle glasses who had never been on a date.

They became lovers. He told me that she taught him everything he knows about love and sex but that now he’s too old to use any of that information. Their daughters were hurricanes and their arguments were droughts, but heaven help him, he was addicted to her charms and her power.

Their liaisons were secret. They met in sheltered rooms and other uncertain places. While both of them wanted to go dancing, have wonderful meals at fine restaurants, partake of Broadway plays and theme parks, her power and beauty attracted too much attention. So they hid in the backs of rental cars and met behind abandoned buildings.

“She was my heroin,” he told me, “but I didn’t care until I finally understood that she was not truly a human woman and that she was transforming me (without malice) into an inhuman man. No man can sleep with a goddess and remain unscathed. If you read mythology, you know that.”

So he broke it off.

She went after him with global warming inasmuch as she wasn’t used to men turning her away before they died in her bed. Today he looks out the window at the endless rain and wonders what any sane man would have done in his shoes even though he feels certain he’s too broken to be sane. He’s thinking about going back to her since that’s the only thing he knows that will stop her fury.

“If I could turn the clock back to the day we met,” he said, “I wouldn’t change a thing. That proves I’m just as crazy as everyone else who looks back on the stupid things they did when they were young and knows they’d do it all again if they could.”

The last time I drove by his house on the way to town, I saw him sitting on his front porch with a cigarette and a Mason jar of moonshine. He was waiting for her even though he knew she would be the death of him.

Most of us would be, wouldn’t we? Our mistakes have become our fondest memories.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism novels and short stories, including the recently released “Widely Scattered Ghosts.”

 

 

 

Environment: ship of fools or delusional idiots

Hurricane Michael is aimed at the place where I grew up. Almost everyone from Florida has seen storms before, but the odd thing is, each time a new storm arrives I see lists of things people should do to get ready and be safe. People should know these things already as surely as they know to look both ways before crossing the street and not taking a bath with a plugged-in toaster.

If my family lived in Tallahassee now, we probably wouldn’t leave. However, we would leave if we lived in Carrabelle, St. Marks, and other coastal communities in the storm’s path. Every year, there are hurricane deniers who say they’re ready to ride out the storm as though they are bigger than the storm. We saw what happened to those people when hurricane Florence struck: they needed to be rescued and that put first-responders’ lives at risk.

I have no idea whether the timing, routes, and ferocity of Florence and Matthew have anything to do with global warming. But, inasmuch as those storms are arriving at the same time as we’re hearing another set of global warming warnings, they remind me of the fact that many people have denied the importance of the environment for years and they seem to be treating warnings about rising seas, droughts, fires, and other effects the same way they treat hurricane warnings.

Years ago, we began hearing the term “spaceship earth.” We were told that in spite of Earth’s apparent resilience to poisons, plastics, rainforest clearing, fracking, and other forms of pollution and environmental damage, that our planet was–in many ways–a spaceship traveling through space with limited resources and a failing infrastructure. Multiple environmental groups have been complaining about the damage ever since I was in grade school, and probably before that.

I was naïve in the 1960s when I joined the Sierra Club because I actually thought people were smart enough to take those warnings seriously. Now I think that spaceship earth is either a ship of fools or is carrying passengers who are delusional idiots. Apparently, restricting one’s actions to help the environment is so inconvenient that allowing Earth to fail is worth it. Most people think it will happen years after they’re gone. So they don’t worry about it. That foolish idiocy keeps them from seeing it’s happening now.

For those who love dystopian fiction, watch the news. We are living it. There’s no need to make it up. And to ramp up our feelings of danger, the current Presidential administration has appointed kamikaze pilots to every single post that can impact spaceship earth for better or worse. So far, they are choosing “worse.” We can shake our fists at the storm and say we’re going to ride it out.

Good luck with that.

Malcolm

 

 

 

Climate Change: Impacts on Coastal Resources

from the EPA:

Impacts on Coastal Resources

Climate change is damaging the Northwest coastline. Projections indicate an increase of 1 to 4 feet of global sea level rise by the end of the century, which may have implications for the 140,000 acres of the region that lie within 3.3 feet of high tide.[2] Sea level rise and storm surge pose a risk to people, infrastructure, and ecosystems, especially in low lying areas, which include Puget Sound. Warming waters and ocean acidification threaten economically important marine species and coastal ecosystems.[2]Map of Seattle showing areas projected to fall below sea level during high tide by end of the century. The high (50 inches) and medium (13 inches) estimates are within current projections. The highest level (88 inches) includes the effect of storm surge.Many areas of Seattle are projected to fall below sea level during high tide by the end of the century. Shaded blue areas depict three levels of sea level rise, assuming no adaptation. The high (50 inches) and medium (13 inches) estimates are within the range of current projections, while the highest level (88 inches) includes the effect of storm surge. Source: USGCRP 2014[6]

Flooding, seawater inundation, and erosion are expected to threaten coastal infrastructure, including properties, highways, railways, wastewater treatment plants, stormwater outfalls, and ferry terminals. Coastal wetlands, tidal flats, and beaches are likely to erode or be lost as a result of seawater inundation, which heightens the vulnerability of coastal infrastructure to coastal storms.

Some coastal habitats may disappear if organisms are unable to migrate inland because of topography or human infrastructure. This is expected to affect shorebirds and small forage fish, among other species. Warmer waters in regional estuaries, including Puget Sound, may contribute to an increase in harmful algal blooms, which could result in beach closures and declines in recreational shellfish harvests. Ocean acidification is also expected to negatively impact important economic species, including oysters and Pacific salmon.

For more information on climate change impacts on coastal resources, please visit the Coastal Resources page.

At present, this information can be found on the EPA site here. In the future, the work of our scientists is purportedly going to be reviewed by politicians before it can be released.

–Malcolm

Climate Change: Water Cycle and Water Demand

from the EPA

Water Cycle and Water Demand

“The water cycle (shown in the following figure) is a delicate balance of precipitation, evaporation, and all of the steps in between. Warmer temperatures increase the rate of evaporation of water into the atmosphere, in effect increasing the atmosphere’s capacity to “hold” water. Increased evaporation may dry out some areas and fall as excess precipitation on other areas.

“Changes in the amount of rain falling during storms provide evidence that the water cycle is already changing. Over the past 50 years, the amount of rain falling during very heavy precipitation events has increased for most of the United States.  This trend has been greatest in the Northeast, Midwest, and upper Great Plains, where the amount of rain falling during the most intense 1% of storms has increased more than 30%.  Warming winter temperatures cause more precipitation to fall as rain rather than snow. Furthermore, rising temperatures cause snow to begin melting earlier in the year. This alters the timing of streamflow in rivers that have their sources in mountainous areas.

“As temperatures rise, people and animals need more water to maintain their health and thrive. Many important economic activities, like producing energy at power plants, raising livestock, and growing food crops, also require water. The amount of water available for these activities may be reduced as Earth warms and if competition for water resources increases.”

epa1

Currently, this information can still be found on the EPA site here.

Malcolm

As a long-time member of such organizations as the National Parks and Conservation Association and the Nature Conservancy, I can’t help but write novels that support conservation the value of the environment.

 

 

 

Will Earth last forever in spite of the damage?

“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wilderness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.” – Terry Tempest Williams in “Red”

Some claim that no matter what foolishness we bring to our planet, Earth abides. Do you agree?

I hope that claim is more than wishful thinking. For years I thought an ever abiding Earth was a certainty and that even in the worst-case nuclear winter we can imagine, the planet could shake off the damage. Now, I think we’ve done too much for that certainty.

Author George R. Stewart certainly took that view in his famous 1949 science fiction novel called Earth Abides. While this book, which is among the best novels I’ve ever read, is a eulogy for civilization as we know it, it’s not a story about the end of the Earth. This book is somewhat responsible for my thinking that when all is said and done, the planet will one day be reborn without us.

Plenty of Time?

For years, people have said that no matter how badly we treat the environment, the ultimate destruction of the planet is so many years into the future that we still have time to change what we are doing. In that vein, saying that global warming or dying oceans or dangerously high population growth will one day do us in, is about like telling a teenager he needs to save some of his summer job money for retirement or he’ll starve some day.

As an author, I have absolutely no interest in writing post-apocalyptic fiction. Nonetheless, I often play the what-if game inside my head about all sorts of things that will never evolve into my books.

One game involves walking down a long highway into the future and seeing alongside the road a timeline of positive and negative news events, discoveries, storms, political decisions, and other critical moments. How far can I walk and still find mankind here? Are there actually multiple roads? Perhaps a frightening event leads us to make positive changes and one prospective road gets longer. Perhaps something else lures us into a false sense of security and we begin to think Earth will abide forever. At that point, all the roads get shorter.

If we knew how long the Earth would abide at our present rate of destroying it, what would we do? Would we keep on keeping on or would we finally realize that the world’s wild mercy really is in our hands?

This post first appeared on my now-discontinued Magic Moments blog in 2012.

–Malcolm