There are days — and this is one of them — when I watch the news and wonder how I then turn about and engage in such frippery as this blog. Today — probably for One Day Only — I may just be less fripperous (not a word, but it should be) than usual.
People in Nebraska — just one state away, and my mother’s and stepdad’s homeland — are literally underwater. And half a world away, in news that barely seems worth mentioning in the United States, a cyclone took out 90 percent of a port city in Mozambique. The cyclone made landfall twice, and has caused massive damage in three different countries, a death toll likely in the thousands . . . there are days (again, this is one of them) where I wonder what I am doing, fixating on building a new house when others have no house left due to what seems to be an ever-more-vengeful Mother Nature.
I doubt, in reality, that Ma Nature is any more or less angry than she’s ever been: we just have a LOT more people to put in harm’s way, and we seem to be fouling our own nest at an ever-increasing rate. (Don’t even start reading the stories about plastic waste.)
Also on CBS this morning [it’s a touch confusing, because that’s also the name of the show: CBS This Morning] was my favorite correspondent, Major Garrett, with a snippet of his interview with new Environmental Protection (we can probably dispense with this word) Agency chief Andrew Wheeler, former coal lobbyist.
And from this I learn that we really have nothing to worry about: climate change is a problem that doesn’t need to be addressed for another 50, 75 years (although this does seem to acknowledge that yes, we might indeed have human-induced change), and while the U.S. is fine, with 92% of its residents drinking safe water —
Mr. Garrett (I like to think of him as “Major”) first pointed out to Mr. Wheeler (I’m not sure I like to think of him at all) that this would be cold comfort to those other 8% and then noted to us, his viewers, that municipalities have been shown to under-report and even falsify water test outcomes, so the 92 is an optimistic percentage at best —
the rest of the world is in dire trouble, and this is the problem we need to focus on: bringing safe water to other countries while deregulating here at home. And Mr. Wheeler is also fine with a 30 percent reduction in his agency’s budget, as proposed.
Down in Texas, a chemical fire is out after three days of churning a volcanic amount of black smoke skyward. “Officials” have asserted over and over that there is “nothing to worry about,” and that all this billowing black smoke is “perfectly safe.” As one eyewitness declared, “No one saying that lives here.”
And in the meantime, Nebraska has a lot of unsafe water, currently spread in unsafe places. One hog farmer reported that of his 700 head, he had located 14 alive following a flood.
The human death toll is a lot less in Nebraska than Mozambique, but the livestock lost will be in the thousands, the damage is estimated in the millions, and they are likely to top one billion in lost revenues. The news noted that Midwestern farm bankruptcies were up something like 12 percent last year, with tariffs and other forces beyond the farmers’ control threatening the livelihood of many more.
And now comes Inundation, with a guaranteed certainty of more rain, combined with warming temperatures that will increase snowmelt, and Nebraska is not a happy place to be today.
These farmers in “America’s breadbasket” may not recover in enough time to plant a spring crop, which soon enough is liable to impact those of us not currently in harm’s way but who like eating food.
It is hard, when every day brings a story of weather disaster, to know where to focus, and it is easiest — at least for me, but I’ll bet I’m not alone — to look out at my local weather and decide if I’m liable to be inconvenienced in any way. Was my street a slushy mess for a week? Yes. Does that have any resonance to a Nebraska farmer already teetering on the brink of insolvency who has now lost almost all of his livestock and probably his first planting of the season? Or a resident of northern California who was first burned out and then completely done in by a mudslide? Or someone in the crushed city of Beira, Mozambique, searching through masses of rubble for loved ones?
I think it was 1903 when a volcano erupted on the island of Martinique in the Caribbean. A pyroclastic flow rumbled through a city of 30,000, leaving precisely two survivors. News of this did not reach the United States for something like two weeks. Ignorant bliss was an easier state to maintain a century ago, although, as noted, we here in the U.S. aren’t really paying much attention to southeast Africa.
I see that I am celebrating the First Day of Spring with real joy, but some days it just strikes me — particularly these days, when the world can be so interconnected — about how much worldwide woe the weather brings. And even as I think to myself, “I don’t live in any of those places,” a Denver meterologist the other night posted drought maps of the state.
As recently as February, the southwest corner of the state was still in “exceptional” drought, but with our abundance of moisture (our salvation, Nebraska’s ruination), Durango has managed to put that behind itself. For now. If you look, we are still in drought conditions, just not as severe.
I heard once, several years ago, that heat is really the most lethal weather pattern, but because it rarely results in a mass take-out the way a cyclone does, we don’t notice it. And so it is easy for me — this year, at least — to look out at a yardful of snow, with more on the way, and view my weather as more fortunate than any of the places the news talked about this morning. And even places it didn’t talk about.
Tomorrow, I assume, I will be back in full fripperous form, worried about the colors of a house in progress, but for now, it seems unseemly to not give a thought or two to people whose livelihoods and possibly lives are in tatters.
Even when you think you’re safe from adverse weather, you might not be. But this map isn’t nearly as red and orange as it was just two months ago.