Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Global ... 'Weirding'?
It seems, lately, every time we cross the saltmarsh, it's high tide. It must be high tide, because the marsh channels are tidal, and the water level rises and falls with the tides, but it seems like every time I'm going across the marsh, lately, the channels are full and the water is all but lapping against the road.
I've been looking at it a lot lately asking my fellow travelers: is the marsh more full? Have sea levels been rising? Or am I just hypersensitive to the issue because of my involvement with the whole doomer crowd (with carbon footprint and global climate change being one of the banners the crowd is waving)?
I asked Deus Ex Machina those questions the other day as we were crossing, and I was looking at how close the water was to the road. I remarked that if the sea levels rose by just a foot - a mere twelve inches - during spring tides (twice a month) and storm surges, the road on which we were traveling would be closed due to flooding. Another foot rise (just twenty-four inches), and we'd be cut-off twice a day, every day, during high tide.
There's a scene in the movie I am Legend in which the character played by Will Smith checks the sunrise and sunset times to be sure that he's not out after dark. That would be us, checking the tidal charts every day before we left the house to be sure that we could get back home.
In 2007 the coast of Maine was hit by a massive Nor'easter which was dubbed The Patriot's Day storm. It caused significant damage along the coast including huge waves that dragged cars and houses into the surf. High tide was higher than normal, and all of the roads heading north from where I live were closed due to water. All of them. Can you imagine? The flooded roads only lasted a few hours, and as the tide went out, so did most of the water, but during that time we were pretty much stuck on whatever side of the Scarborough salt marsh that we happened to be on. Deus Ex Machina was at work ... on one side of the marsh. We were at home ... on the other side.
Some people fared worse than others. Much of southern Maine is made up of marshy areas, and many of these marshes have been developed. Dirt fill is brought in to bring the level of the solid ground above what would be the natural water level and then roads and buildings with parking lots (all impermeable surfaces) are built. The marshes act like a natural sponge to absorb the water, and so, while the marsh area will be wet and mucky, there are often higher areas that will remain dry - even in the worst storms and/or wettest years. With these natural sponges covered up and built upon, the water has no where to go, and we fight a losing battle against the very forces we thought to control.
The consequences are sometimes humorous ... from a bystander's point-of-view, but I'll bet a Hubbard squash that this guy wasn't laughing.
Yes, that is, indeed, a road under all that water, and that last car didn't make it quite all the way through as the water flooded across the road.
There's been a very interesting discussion happening on the Portland Permaculture Meet-up group regarding Global Warming, and I've seen a couple of articles about glacial melt and sea levels rising. People who aren't personally affected by either of these things will declare that global warming is a farce perpetrated on us by the world's governments in an attempt at fear-mongering and resource control. Denial is a very powerful emotion. During last year's winter storms that dumped feet of snow on areas of the country where they usually get only inches, the naysayers often quipped, "How's this global warming?"
But whether we call it "climate change" or "global warming" or "global weirding" (as some have suggested) it's very clear that *something* most definitely is happening.
There are a lot of anecdotal accounts of the changes in the weather - with both the hottest year on record and the wettest year on record having occurred in the last decade. We're still having an unseasonably warm year (although 1998 here in Maine was pretty warm, too, as I recall). In fact, I'm still cutting kale from the garden, and I *just* planted my spring crop of garlic last week.
At this point, whether it's human caused or a some natural warming/cooling cycle of the Earth is really moot. At this point, we can't stop what's happening. It's happening. The glaciers in Siberia are melting and leaving methane seeping lakes in their wake (which, by all accounts, will only exacerbate the climate changes). The ocean levels are rising and are drowning whole nations.
Continuing to point fingers and blame this one or that one is no longer a useful or productive exercise. Neither is having conference after conference with all of the verbal wrangling and no action. If our leaders won't do anything, we must, because as a species, *we* are at risk, and we can't count on any political entity to "save" us.
All we can do, now, is to get ready to learn to live with the consequences, which means, maybe, we have to check the tidal charts every day before we travel anywhere to be sure that we can get back home if the roads end up flooded. It means that we may not have access to things we've always had, because getting them to us will be too difficult, and we'll need to find substitutes or just learn to do without. It means that, maybe, people from the coast start moving inland, and those who live inland need to figure out where those coasties will live.
It defintely means we need to stop building along the coasts, we need to stop filling in our natural sponges, and perhaps we need to start deconstructing those condos that were built on marshy areas and let nature return the balance.