Monday, June 9, 2014

Orange States vs. Blue States aka The Elements


Remember the phrase global warming? That phrase has been replaced by extreme climate change. This shift is because those in the supposed know now aren't so sure we are warming as much as that there is one extreme weather condition after another taking place. The winter many of us just endured certainly helped speed up this shift in phrases. And so too is the extreme drought and fire situation in California. We are all affected by that drought since so many of our agricultural products come from California. But even worse to those who live there must be the forest fires which look absolutely terrifying just to see in pictures or video, much less experience up close and personal.


Here in northeastern Ohio we are experiencing a summer which is much like the ones of my childhood spent here. It is early morning and 64 degrees. This will rise throughout the day to a top temperature in the 70s or maybe 80 degrees. By nightfall we will slip back into the low 60s and it is wonderful for sleeping. I don't particularly like air conditioning so the fresh air we've been able to use instead is fabulous. I've been swimming every day too and this is perfect swimming weather for me as I don't like baking in the sun while I swim, especially in heated swimming pools. I've been swimming for the hour from 5pm to 6pm.  I like that best because the quality of the light is beautiful. Photographers call it the "magic hour." Also, the heat of the day has slaked by then and the pool only has a few people in it. We are not in a drought but most days are fair and sunny with rains moving in later. For me this is ideal as I have long hated extreme heat.

Enjoying this normal weather for my place in the world has led me into wondering why as a people we relocated in the United States in the later twentieth century to places which were not originally thought fit for establishing settlements. I am harkening back to the old days when our explorers, as they pushed through North America, took various factors into account as they decided where to settle people. It is no coincidence that most cities and towns are located adjacent to some form of water. Since we did not have motor vehicles of any sort, we had to use other transportation.  We needed water for much of that. We also needed fresh water just to keep ourselves alive as there was no way of moving water across big distances either for drinking or agriculture. These were not luxury concerns. They were survival concerns and explorers, who were the ultimate survivors, were attuned to those concerns.

We gradually were able to heat ourselves which made life better. We replaced fires with coal and thereafter with what we have today, modernly fueled central heating. It was much, much later we got air conditioning. It wasn't commonly installed until starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Thus, most people could simply not tolerate living in desert like locales until universal air conditioning became available. The few people who lived in such locales prior to this built homes which sheltered them from the harshness of desert life.  They built into the ground itself and used adobe to build it. In our rush to those areas, we did not emulate them. We built four bedroom colonials out in the desert or other housing styles which had worked well in the north and midwest. 

We had various ways of talking about where we lived in the decades since 1970, almost none of which had anything to do with surviving or sustaining ourselves. People talked about no longer having to endure winters, or the pleasures of year round summers with perhaps golf all year round or some other leisure time activity. We assumed modern technology made just about anything possible, including radically converting even the most inhospitable climates into oases of leisure and comfort. Incredibly, we moved in huge numbers to these locales too. So that suddenly where once you knew maybe one person moving to Arizona, for example, suddenly you knew tons of people there. My oncologist took off last year for there and when I asked him why all he could say fervently was, "I need the heat." Well, he's certainly getting it now. 

Back when I was in college and law school, no one talked about the weather other than as something that was spoiling a particular activity. Gee, it is raining, we can't do X. Gee, it is snowing, we can't do Y. No one was thinking, Gee, it is not raining, it is not snowing and all of our crops are dying and our forests are on fire. If you had brought this up in a conversation, you probably would have been taken for a spoilsport. Certainly no one was asking, Gee, do I have to evacuate because a hurricane, forest fire, or other calamity is going to destroy my city?

As the decades moved on, ever more absurd places became the new colonization areas. Not too long ago it was Las Vegas and again in huge numbers. If you have been following the subsequent migration of Americans to Las Vegas, you know that one law after another has been passed there since then to address the problem of its having no natural resources to sustain itself and its residents. Now you can no longer put in a green lawn there but it seems like too little a remedy for such a massive lack. Those early explorers are probably rolling in their graves at the very thought of these dumb ideas and locations for establishing new settlements.

But of course extreme weather is not confined to North America. I found the following map of what has occurred worldwide in just the last few years of extreme weather.


My longtime friend from childhood, Mary, and I disagree about most matters of the day. She frankly does not believe in global warming and I doubt has flung herself aboard the change to extreme weather. I am, of course, the reverse. I think there are severe weather changes and conditions and that they seem to be increasing. But we needn't fight about it because even if I'm right, we won't be around for the worst of it anyway since we are too old for it.

If this is taking place though there may be another shift going on.  We are now characterized as a country of red state vs blue state, in reference to our political polarization. In coming years, if extreme climate events expand, then we may think of ourselves instead as orange states vs. blue states. Go to the pictures at the top of this entry.  You will see the top one is all orange from heat, forest fires, and drought. Then go the second image, which is the constant precipitation of snow or other forms of water. As we become more immersed in the elemental forces of our lives, red state vs. blue state could be wholly supplanted by those new polarizing images of orange states vs blue states. I, for one, will be staying with the element of water.

No comments:

Post a Comment