Archive for November, 2019

Nov 27 2019

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A Few Thoughts Concerning Climate Change

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For decades I have consciously avoided giving my opinion about climate change, not wanting to undercut the fundamental belief of climate change activists everywhere. That belief goes something like this: we must radically reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses that we kick into the atmosphere, as soon as possible, to avoid a global warming catastrophe.

Unlike climate change deniers, who have their heads in the sand, I don’t shy away from the overwhelming amount of scientific facts that point to climate change, or the climatological realities on this planet during the past 4 billion years. I simply believe that it is already too late to avoid global warming, that it was too late when we first became aware of the problem in the middle of the last century. After all, industrialization has been underway for hundreds of years. All we can really do now is damage control, and it may be a while longer before we even get serious about that.

The last thing I want is to be called is a prophet of doom. That’s why I avoid writing or talking about climate change as a general rule. But a recent article in BBC News paints a picture of the near future that is as bad if not worse than anything I can imagine. The amount of greenhouse gases we are kicking into the atmosphere is increasing, from year to year. And 15 of the top 20 richest, most industrialized nations don’t even have a net zero target. Add to this the harsh reality that the two biggest polluters, China and the USA, are effectively doing nothing, and it’s a fine stew indeed.

The problem, in a nutshell, is human nature. There are 7.7 billion of us on this planet – a number that keeps going up – and we all want the finer things in life, such as automobiles. Some of us have these finer things, others are just now getting them, and still others are waiting to get them.

There exists the technology now for us to manufacture and operate these finer things while making a much smaller impact on the planet, but the costs will go up if/when we go that route and we don’t like that. More to the point, retooling not just one industry but all of them, in addition to completely changing our infrastructure, well, it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. The fact that humankind is subdivided into 200 nations and countless religions, ideologies and other opposing worldviews doesn’t help matters either. It would take cooperation and commitment on a scale never before seen in human history to pull off even a modest reduction in greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. A tall order, indeed.

One could argue that the problem began with agriculture practiced on a large scale at the beginning of civilization 10,000 years ago. That’s what enabled our population to grow. A little Malthusian math makes it clear that we can’t keep having babies and growing more food for them indefinitely. Forget the finer things in life. How are we going to feed everyone without having a major impact on the planet? But that’s a longterm problem, isn’t it? Maybe not. Climate change could make it difficult to grow food. Food will be a lot more expensive in the near future, to say the least.

“Bleak” is the word used by the authors of the latest UN report on carbon emissions, so don’t call me a prophet of doom. I’d love to be proven wrong in my assessment of human nature. In fact, there’s nothing I’d like more than to see all of humankind come together to tackle the problem while our efforts can make any difference at all. But I’m not holding my breath. We still have climate change deniers to contend with, not to mention determining whose fault all this is. Yeah, once the deniers are gone, then we’ll get serious about playing the blame game. That is, after all, how humankind goes about things.

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Nov 18 2019

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Early Winter Hike

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Last week a big storm dumped 8 inches of snow on northern Vermont, and temps haven’t warmed up enough since then to melt it off. Not unusual for this time of year, but it caught me off guard all the same. I still haven’t put winter tires on my car.

Snow or no, I had to get into a pocket of woods and stretch my legs yesterday. Too much time staring at a computer screen makes me cranky. So I grabbed my boots, pulled the a set of crampons called Microspikes out of my closet, and headed for Niquette Bay State Park. I went into Burlington to meet a friend for breakfast, actually, and stopped by the park on the way home.

By the time I reached Niquette Bay, it was late morning and temps had already reached into the twenties. The sun was shining brightly, as well. Without a doubt, it was going to be a pleasant walk.

I pulled the Microspikes over my boots and voila! Excellent traction despite packed snow and ice. I hiked along the trail effortlessly and shot up the icy ledges as if walking across bare ground. The air was crisp and clean, and the climb just rigorous enough to get my blood up. Descending the ledges on the other side, I came upon three people struggling on all fours to negotiate the treacherous, icy slope. Their crampons were still in storage.

Upon reaching the beach, I was surprised to see nothing but open water in the bay. The lake hasn’t even begun to freeze over yet. Then again it’s only November. A few ducks floated close to shore. Why are they still here? Evidently, they haven’t received the memo yet: winter has arrived.

I could have kept going, but a couple miles was enough. I looped back on a shorter trail and reached the parking lot about fifteen minutes later. I’m not a big fan of winter but crampons sure make it a lot more tolerable. With them I can stretch my legs just about any time the snow isn’t deep enough for snowshoes. So I think I’ll keep them in my car until spring.

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Nov 08 2019

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Walking the Shoreline

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Taking advantage of a two-day, off-season special at a hotel appropriately called The Seaside, Judy and I escaped the leafless landscape of Vermont for the late-season foliage and slightly warmer temps of the Maine coast. As far as Judy is concerned, it’s all about the water, of course – her passion for the ocean matching mine for wild forests.

We arrived on the coast in a driving rain at dusk so we simply went out to dinner then settled into our hotel room for the night. But we stepped out on the beach first thing in the morning, before breakfast. By then the rain had passed, leaving the rising sun all by itself in a calm, clear blue sky. Light jackets were all we needed to keep the early morning chill at bay. We walked the length of Kennebunk Beach, taking in the sight and sound of waves breaking gently to shore, between encounters with a few dogs and their owners. We collected pieces of sea glass as we meandered along, deeply inhaled the salty air, and basked in the negative ions emitted by the sea.

During the middle of the day we did a lot of nothing – window shopping, a nap, another meal, a little cafe sitting. When the sun sunk towards the western horizon, we went back out to walk the shoreline again, enjoying the play of light over water, rock and sand, happy enough to keep things simple.

The next morning we went out for one last oceanside walk before checking out of the hotel and driving back to Vermont. With temps in the 30s, we were bundled up. Still ours was a pleasant, late autumn stroll along the beach. What a shock it was, then, to return home later that evening and find two inches of snow on the ground. From one season to another in the same day. Good thing we got away when we did.

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