The Ship … Has Sailed

Both of us have children. With luck, perhaps, they will live long past my lifetime, and even Rebecca’s. With luck, perhaps their’s will be a comfortable life, economically and environmentally.

Luck, perhaps, is nebulous, for it wasn’t even a week ago she rose from her office chair and went off into one of her classic rants about the state of earth. Though I don’t recall the exact topic, it could have been our continued and shared views on the disrespect being shown to soil in farm fields by neighboring farmers, or of the frac sand mining issues. We discuss many politically sensitive subjects, and many have to do with the environment and both the corporate and non-corporate attacks on our dear Mother Earth.

“The truth of the matter,” she exclaimed, using her familiar hatchet chop gestures, “is that the ship has sailed and it won’t be coming back!”

Translated this would suggest that should our own Congress ever do something, let alone countries like China and India where emission standards are so low that thousands of residents of those nations resort to wearing facial masks, life as we have known it on earth is likely past the point of being saved. True to character, I threw out some lame bit of positive argument that went nowhere.

Our conversation came to mind while listening to a presentation by Mark Seeley, a University of Minnesota climatologist and MPR climate darling, at a Land Stewardship Project gathering in Starbuck. He was nearing the end of a compelling presentation augmented with factual data on how our Minnesota climate has changed so dramatically in the past three decades. Yes, our winters are certainly warmer … even if our past winter was considered an aberration more so than the norm of just a few decades ago.

Climatologist Mark Seeley makes a point in his presentation at the Land Stewardship Project's Starbuck, Minnesota, gathering.

Climatologist Mark Seeley makes a point in his presentation at the Land Stewardship Project’s Starbuck, Minnesota, gathering.

And, yes, our summer dew points are also rising, along with the frequency and fierceness of severe weather events. Humidity is rising, along with coincidental health and pest issues. Droughts and flash flooding are as common nowadays as blackbirds in the bulrushes. In the same years of record high moisture events, we have consequential droughts recorded. An overnight, ten-inch rainfall in Duluth was followed by months of drought. Events are more localized, in that a farmer might have enough rain for a crop while a neighbor just to the south records a drought. Minnesota has recently set records for the number and frequency of tornadoes, and F5’s, once more common much further to the southwestern states, have been recorded both here and in Canada.

Consequently, with such variances in catastrophic weather events, property insurance rates are going ever higher and higher.

Near the end of his presentation, Seeley displayed a set of maps that showed modeled projections of a narrow climatic band that crossed the state through the Twin Cities, a band modelers at the University of Minnesota project will reach the Minnesota-Canadian border by the 2060s.

In other words, the weather and temperature common through the middle of the state would evolve to become more common at the far northern border. This would leave a broad breadth of our state with a climate not unlike mid-Missouri perhaps, although Seeley admitted he couldn’t answer the question in good faith without first talking to the modelers to know what they had projected for that deep band of uncertainty colored brown on his maps. “I need to find an answer to that,” he said. “Next question.”

“Has our ship sailed?” I asked, without referencing our office conversation of about a week earlier. “Can we turn this around and come back to the port of what we know as a normal climate?”

“Not unless we start having conversations, as politicians, as nations, even as neighbors,” Seeley started, and he became increasingly animated as he portrayed the political polarization surrounding climate change along with an apparent dismissing of statistical data proving otherwise. Then he dropped the bomb. “From what we see, and from how climate has changed, and how it is being modeled based on scientific data, even if we put the necessary changes in place today, it is unlikely we could expect to right the changes in earth’s climate even before our grand-children’s, or even their children’s, generations.”

Among the 100 or so in attendance in the cavernous hall, a dropped pin might have crashed like thunder.

With Seeley's "Minnesota Weather Almanac" in front, he keeps a large audience spellbound with his data presentation.

With Seeley’s “Minnesota Weather Almanac” in front, he keeps a large audience spellbound with his data presentation.

In the morning news, little had changed. Up north the EPA had okay-ed a permit for Polymet to continue forth on its efforts for huge, open pit copper mining despite the threats to both ground and surface waters, including the adjacent Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Country ditches, already clogged with snirt from melting snow, are now filling with muddy runoff from farm fields. No changes were forthcoming in frac sand mining, West Virginia’s drinking water supplies, North Dakota’s groundwater issues nor a proposed a mid-continent pipeline for moving oil sands. And, yes, more photographs of Chinese residents wearing protective face masks due to emission pollution. In other words, a status quo on climatic issues and threats worldwide.

Years ago in my previous marriage I expressed concern on learning that we were expecting our first child together, for as a nation we were entering extremely uncertain financial times. Those have evolved to a point where the children born in that generation  are basically unemployable as a result of the economy. Those same children, now young adults, are facing a future that doesn’t bode well in terms of an even greater threat … the health of the very earth we all share. For them, their children, and especially their grandchildren.

Even as a confirmed optimist, I don’t envy their future.

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This entry was posted in He Said by John G. White. Bookmark the permalink.

About John G. White

Somewhat retired after a long award-winning career in newspapers (Wisconsin State Journal, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Denver Post and a country weekly, the Clara City Herald). Free lance photographer and writer with credits in more than 70 magazines. Editor with various Webb Publishing magazines in St. Paul, and a five year stint as editorial director at Miller Meester Advertising.

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