Friday, September 29, 2006

So far...but not for long..

If you follow my more active blogsite, Captain Future's Dreaming Up Daily, you've no doubt noticed that the Climate Crisis is one of my major themes. But adding to the surreality of this moment, so far it seems that at least in the most obvious ways, global warming has been pretty good to the North Coast. When most of the nation and much of the world was broiling, in drought or being inundated with torrential rains and struck with wind and lightning storms, we had a fantastic summer, at least on our coastal strip. We've had a warm early fall; although this has often been the warmest and sunniest time of the year since I've been here, it seems that this fall has been ever balmier and clearer.

But as much as I enjoyed it--and I was well aware how lucky we were, and how beautiful it was--it was with some unease. That feeling increased for the four days I spent in Seattle in early September. It was bright sunshine, clear skies and 80 plus degrees the entire time. People who live there said they hadn't had rain in weeks. I've never seen Seattle like that. Maybe it's seasonal, and in my many previous visits I hadn't been there in early September, but as well as being glorious, it felt eerie.

We have other signs here, too. As in this Times-Standard story about last Saturday, which set a record high for that date, and also a record low. It got up to 82 in Eureka on Saturday afternoon, and down to 42 that night. It's the first double record like that, the paper said, since the late 1800s, which is almost as far back as official white people's records go hereabouts. Not that this alone proves anything. But it does add to the general sense of weirdness, and of more to come.

For under the obvious are other trends. It seems to be getting drier. We can see the fallout from that--the smoky air from forest fires, the mountain lions wandering into neighborhoods in search of water. Because of the time spans and the personal nature of perception of the weather (do winters seem warmer to me because they are, or because for our first years in this house we had less insulation, worse windows and no central heating?) we can't be sure, but we do get a sense of it, and with only that, comes a certain unease, a vague disquiet and anxiety.

Because of the complexities of weather and climate as well as the complexities of our own perceptions, we have science to measure, compare and quantify, according not only to effect but to causes. And climate science is telling us clearly and in as unanimous a voice as science ever has, that we're into an era of serious climate change that could very well become catastrophic to millions of people at minimum, and to all of human civilizaton and most of the nature we know at the maximum, which is not far from likely.

I read this stuff a lot (along with the latest on how we might cope with the near-term effects and even perhaps prevent the ultimate catastrophes in the longer term) and it's become part of me. So it's interesting to me to read something like Bob Doran's account in the North Coast Journal of behind-the-scenes problems concerning this year's North Country Fair. I went to the Fair this year for the first time in several years, for a couple of specific purposes (like gift shopping), which included this one: it was a beautiful day in a world about to change.

Apparently a lot had changed behind the scenes at the Fair--according to Bob, not for the better. But to me it was like it always has been, at least on beautiful days. I enjoyed seeing the people, especially children, several of whom I saw in rapt attention to a puppeteer. I enjoyed the food at the African booth. The stalls, the glass and metal and pottery objects glinting in the sun, all the color, the fabric, the shapes. And for me it all had an air about it that I imagined as being somewhat like that in those movies (I thinking one was called "The Shooting Party") about the years or year just before World War I, when life changed abruptly and, over time, almost completely for many if not most people, when most people didn't realize it was going to change. And they certainly didn't know how life would change.

The Climate Crisis could bring that kind of change even in the lifetimes of the children or even the college students at the Fair, or--as I am beginning to suspect from the alarm with which scientists are greeting the latest data--at least the start of it in my own lifetime. Of course, I'm hoping that intentional changes will start soon, in an effort to save the future. Either way, such change may or may not be as abrupt as the effects of a Big earthquake, but once it has started, it will roll on, faster and faster. There will be no going back.

Of course, the North Country Fair has just enough of a feeling of timelessness--of the most ancient marketplaces and harvest festivals--that something of it will survive. But the people who go to it simply will not feel the same about their lives and the world as the people who attended this year's fair.

That was in my mind and in my feelings that day. By coincidence, I guess it was the same day as that double high-low temperature record.

Reading Bob's story prompted another thought about it that seems apropos to this blogsite's erstwhile theme. Becoming native to a place is partly a process of learning its history, and especially learning it through people you know, and through experience, as Bob knows it, or as Barry Blake knows North Coast theatre. But place has other dimensions, and other time scales. So maybe there is room for people like me as well, and ways for us to contribute our kinds of perceptions, and to in our ways to become native to this place.

No comments: