Chill out

Saturday October 13, 2012

Bob Stannard

The great, powerful, white bear swims and swims looking for a chunk of ice that will hold him. He's been swimming a long time and is getting tired. Ahead he thinks he see some ice and picks up the pace a little; not much because he's exhausted. His long claws dig into the ice and as he pulls himself up for a much needed rest, the block that was never nearly big enough to hold hundreds of pounds breaks in half. There's no other ice in sight. The bear once idolized on Coca-Cola commercials gently sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

Man, it sure was hot this past summer. For the first time ever I broke down and bought an air conditioner unit for our bedroom. I've lived in Vermont for 61 years and never used A/C. I always used fans, but this year it was hotter, longer than I think it's ever been.

It was real handy being able to just lie in bed with my remote control (yes, A/C units now have remote control; another remote to lose) and adjust the air temperature. It worked great; that is until one night when the power went out (that happens with some frequency in my neck of the woods). I didn't need to use the A/C a lot, but it was real nice when I did.

When I woke up this morning I read the headline of the Huffington Post, which read: "MELTING ‘DECADES AHEAD OF SCHEDULE.'" The leaves are just about peaked and winter's just around the corner so the thought of ice melting was about the furthest thing from my mind. Predictions are that we might be in for a big winter here in the northeast so the thought of melting snow in October almost has some charm to it. Almost.

The ice caps serve as the A/C unit for planet Earth. They help control the Earth's temperature. Without the ice things will heat up. Anyone who has not lived in a bubble for the past 25 years has noticed some changes. We have ticks. They're new. Growing up in South Dorset in the 1950s there was never, ever a concern for these creatures. I found a deer tick on my leg yesterday taking my 2-year-old granddaughter for a walk in what was once safe woods.

Global warming is not new. Scientists have been sounding the alarm for many years now. Some listen; some don't. People who could make a difference, like Rush Limbaugh, opt not to. Instead, he cries it's nothing more than a liberal conspiracy designed to make lawyers rich.

Our governor, Peter Shumlin, takes the issue seriously and has worked to advance alternative energy sources no matter how small, because it makes a difference. His opponent, Sen. Randy Brock is not nearly as supportive of alternative energy, or least having it subsidized like we do with technologies that no longer need subsidies, like oil, coal and nuclear.

On the national level President Obama has done a lot to advance alternative energy and taken criticism when a solar company he backed failed. We can only hope this failure doesn't discourage him from trying harder. His opponent, Mitt Romney, declared this week at the presidential debates, "I like coal." Presumably, in the same way he likes trees in Michigan, because they are "just the right height."

I'm no scientist but I'd like to think that I'm aware of my surroundings. I can see the changes that are occurring with the influx of new bugs, longer growing season, shorter sugar season, burning a little less firewood. Is it getting warmer and is the weather getting weirder? It seems as though.

The discussion/dispute has been about why. If you're an oil or coal company, receiving billions in subsidies from taxpayers, you most likely don't believe that climate change is due to people burning fuel. Instead, you spend millions of dollars trying to convince people that it's a natural occurrence. Seriously, 7 billion people on the planet all produce carbon one way or another couldn't possibly be a contributing factor to the polar caps melting, right?

Every single thing we do matters. Much like those who thought that recycling one tin can would never amount to anything, every new alternative energy source needs to be implemented. We've been lulled into complacency by those who stand to lose millions, if not billions of dollars. They will not go quietly, although one does wonder where they would propose to go when things really do start heating up.

Like just about everything else that needs fixing, before it can get fixed we need a plan. A plan is what's sorely lacking and at the rate that we're all (not) getting along, one does not appear to be forthcoming in the immediate future. I think we might want to start taking a little longer view, don't you? Even doing something small is important.

And the next time you hear someone say that climate change is a hoax manufactured by environmentalists tell them to go tell it to the polar bears.

Bob Stannard lives in Manchester.


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