Category Archives: Environment/Nature

Can the Caribbean survive?

What will the islands and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts look like in a generation?

Hurricane Maria climateI’m not a climate expert, so I want to tread cautiously here. That said, our recent spate of catastrophic weather has raised some uneasy questions in my mind.

As I write this Hurricane Maria is lashing Puerto Rico. It is, in the estimate of some officials, the worst storm in the island’s modern history. Catastrophic devastation is certain. Death is likely.

This has been a hellish hurricane season. Harvey pounded the Caribbean and Texas to the tune of billions of dollars in damage, leaving at least 165 dead along the way. Irma “caused catastrophic damage in Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, and the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 hurricane. As of September 19, the hurricane has caused at least 101 deaths, including 44 in the Caribbean and 57 in the United States.” Jose mercifully veered north, although it was threatening the northeast for a while, and after Sandy we know for sure that major storms aren’t just a southeastern thing anymore.

Climate can be a capricious thing, of course – it had been several years since the US mainland had been hit by a hurricane – but there is reason to fear that 2017 is a harbinger of the new normal. There is now debate among scientists as to whether it’s too late to do anything about climate change (Neil deGrasse Tyson this week placed himself in the too late camp) and if this is the case, hurricanes are a likely manifestation of Climate 2.0. More of them, and more powerful.

Which has me looking at what the last few weeks have done to the Caribbean. The Leeward Islands have been crushed. Puerto Rico is having its day right now. And we know that the rest of the region is simply waiting its turn. Cuba. Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Bermuda. Jamaica. Central America and Mexico.

And of course, the US mainland. In the age of the new normal nothing within 50 miles of the coast from North Carolina to Texas can feel safe, can it?

What if the parade of devastation we’ve seen this year becomes the rule instead of the exception? What if, late each summer, one aspiring Category 5 after another forms off the west coast of Africa and marches this way? What if the region has to hunker down, then emerge to count its dead and asses the economic damages once or twice (or three times, or four, or five) annually?

How many times can you clean up and rebuild?

I find myself wondering if the Caribbean can survive. If I lived there I know I’d already be considering how I might get to safer ground, although, since many of these areas are comparatively poor, it may not be possible for a lot of these citizens to escape.

Beyond this, I wonder the same kinds of things about US coastal areas. I don’t know that I think people are going to abandon Houston and Miami, but we saw an interesting stat as Harvey approached Texas: 80% of homes in the Houston area had no flood insurance. Which made me ask another question: if I ran an insurance company, would I write storm and flood policies for people in these areas?

Would I live there if I couldn’t get insurance? Could I live there knowing that it’s not if, but when?

I don’t have a lot of answers. Just questions. And as I watch hurricane season 2017 throwing one haymaker after another, the questions grow more dire.

Why are Alaskan Malamutes on my new apartment’s restricted breed list?

Malamutes are about the least dangerous breed I can think of.

‘Splain to me something, doggie people. My new apartment has a list of restricted breeds. Here it is:

  • Pit Bull Terriers/Staffordshire Terriers
  • Rottweilers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Chows
  • Presa Canarios
  • Akitas
  • Alaskan Malamutes
  • Wolf Hybrids

I’m not going to get into a defense of these breeds, not am I going to rant about how if you have a a bad dog you have a bad owner. Read more

2016 Cheyenne Frontier Days: five notes

I attended the 120th annual Cheyenne Frontier Days this afternoon and it was awesome.

A few things, first on the competition front:

1: The guy who won the bull riding was a rookie. A 20 year-old rookie. He rode three bulls in three rounds. These are serious bulls, and the idea that anybody rode one of them is ridiculous enough. Three in three days? By a wet-behind-the-ears kid? That’s absurd.

2: The guy who won the all-around was FIFTY. SIX. YEARS. OLD. Read more

Cecil the Lion’s killer doesn’t quite get it

Walter Palmer, the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion, says he did nothing illegal and that he’s going back to work.

I don’t think Dr. Palmer understands the issue. He doesn’t grasp why people are so upset. He thinks we’re all mad because we mistakenly believe that he broke the law.

No, Walter, we know you acted legally. We live in a country where it’s legal for rich people to buy Congressmen. Most places it’s called “bribery” or “graft” or “corruption,” but here it’s called “lobbying” or “free speech.” Read more

Happy Imbolc from Scholars & Rogues

I’ve never quite understood the conventions surrounding the terms “midsummer” and “midwinter.” Each is used to describe the solstice – June 21st or so and December 21st or so – which are, as you know, the beginnings of summer and winter, not the middle.

Today is Imbolc, which we popularly celebrate as Groundhog Day.(I’m not sure whether Punxatawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, but if he were in Seattle with me he wouldn’t be able to see as far as his nose for all the fog, never mind his shadow.) In Gaelic cultures it’s called St. Brighid’s Day and the Catholics, in their campaign to appropriate all things pagan, call it Candlemas. Whatever you call it, today is the middle of winter.

Pagans of all sorts, both historical and contemporary, celebrate Imbolc as one of the eight Sabbats, or high holy days. Read more

Dear America: Iowa laughs at your “polar vortex”

Polar vortex strikes 9th circle of hell. Film at 11.

I don’t want to make light of the cold snap sweeping the eastern half of the country. I know it’s dangerous and I hope everyone reading is warm and safe.

That said, the issue here isn’t the cold. It’s the level of preparedness. I spent two winters in Iowa while getting my MA at Iowa State in Ames. And I’m here to tell you, what the rest of you are calling a “polar vortex” Iowans call “January.” Those who have been around me when the subject of cold weather came up at any point since 1989 have heard this rant. Probably word for word.

You simply don’t know what cold is. Read more

WTF? Happy May Day from Colorado (STFU weather, anyone?)

Monday it was in the 80s here in Denver. This weekend the forecast calls for pretty, seasonal weather in the upper 50s. But today is May Day, the midpoint of springtime. What better opportunity for Mother Nature to show off a bit.

Here’s Ronan MacScottie, out for his morning constitutional a few minutes ago.

MayDay

Happy Beltane, everyone. Here’s hoping your day is as beautiful as ours.

 

GOP convention spared, God turns his judgment on Louisiana: what the hell is He mad about THIS time?

A few days it looked like The Lord Thy God was a’fixin’ to smite the Republican National Convention. Now, though, His Wrath has veered out over open water, picking up steam and drawing a bead on … no, seriously? Again? … New Orleans. Now, I don’t want to get ahead of Him here – The Lord, in His infinite wisdom, works in mysterious ways, and for all we know Hurricane Isaac might wind up smiting Kalispell before all is said and done. Read more

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