Patty had sent me out to weed the flower bed by our driveway, and I was taking a hard pull on a cold one while I tried to decide whether yet another green thing was a flower or a weed. Fortunately, my neighbor Gordon came by, walking his Doberman “Hercules,” and when Hercules sprayed the plant, I decided it was best left where it was.
“Looks as if everything is shooting up,” said Gordon, gawking at the teeming mass of plant life. “Guess that’s what you get with longer growing seasons and the fertilizing effect of all that CO₂. Global warming’s not all that bad.”
“Probably not,” I agreed, “except maybe for the rising oceans and the bigger forest fires and longer droughts and growing deserts and disappearing glaciers and dying coral reefs and plants facing extinction. Things like that. But I thought you didn’t believe in global warming?”
“I’ve gotta admit I used to be a climate change skeptic,” he said, nodding his head.
“What changed your mind?” I asked, curious. “You were pretty adamant about it, I remember. Was it all those warnings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? The record high ocean temperatures? The ice cores that showed the planet is the hottest it’s been in 12,000 years? The warning last week that melting permafrost could set off a runaway temperature climb?”
“Nah, I don’t pay attention to any of that stuff,” he said. “I still think those scientists are in cahoots with liberal politicians in waging a war on the coal industry.”
“Yeah?” I said. “What do you suppose is in it for them?”
“Who knows?” he said. “Maybe they all have investments in solar panels or wind farms.”
“Well, if you don’t trust the IPCC, and you don’t trust the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and you don’t trust the politicians, and you don’t trust the 97% of climatologists who say that this global warming is real and caused by humans, what exactly was it that changed your mind?” I asked.
“God,” he said.
“God. My sister lives in Oklahoma. Their two Senators, Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, are two of the biggest deniers of climate change in the country. In 2011, Oklahoma had their all-time low temperature at 31 degrees below zero, their biggest 24-hour snowfall at 27 inches, 93 tornadoes in the month of May, a foot of rain in a single day in June, and then the western part of the state had an 11-month drought that was the driest ever recorded in the state. In 2012, they had 64 temperature records broken in July--including 113 degrees at Chandler. This year, of course, a huge tornado hit Moore in May and flattened it, killing 24 people.”
“And you think..?”
“God’s doing his darnedest to get people’s attention. You can think Al Gore is a pompous jackass all you want--and I do--, but God’s sending a message. We’re desecrating God’s green Earth, and He’s seen enough. Enough pillaging, enough poisoning, enough polluting. I just don’t know if Inhofe and Coburn and their kind are opening their heavenly mail.”
“But that’s Oklahoma,” I ventured cautiously. “They have crazy weather there anyway.”
“Not that crazy,” he said. “Besides, it’s everywhere. Don’t you pay attention to what goes on around you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Just open your eyes!” he said. “Read the signs! Spring is coming three weeks sooner here than it did forty years ago, and fall weather comes later. Tree species on the Blue Ridge Parkway and in Shenandoah National Park are migrating northward. We had a tornado rip through town in June of 2010, an ‘extreme weather pattern’ with dangerous winds and thunderstorms blowing down trees and damaging houses in June of 2012, a deadly derecho in July of 2012, and a “Frankenstorm” with high winds and heavy rains in October of 2012. This year we’ve had the ugliest, most humid first half of July I can remember, and it rained nearly every day. It was like living in the tropics at the start of rainy season. Now the second half of July it’s been cool and pleasant, as if we’re heading into autumn. It’s spooky. It’s like there’s no ‘normal’ anymore.”
“You sound like a real convert,” I said.
“Born again again,” he agreed, as Hercules began jerking him down the street.
© Tony Russell, 2013