Thursday, August 30, 2012

Past Deadline: The Rareness of Water

Sometimes it rains, but mostly it doesn’t. Lately. You may have noticed.

When it does rain and I step out into the subsequent sauna-like heat, I am overwhelmed by the sense that nature has exhaled – leaving a grateful breath behind.

I think we could probably count the number of decent rain showers this summer on one hand. Maybe two. After one such rain, I headed out for a run. (This on its own is a Big Event as I don’t really run much anymore thanks to Stupid Foot™ – it’s more of an occasional treat. Like lobster.)

Anyway, around suppertime it had rained and stormed and the wind had torn apart other parts of eastern Ontario. In the evening I slowly plodded around town and soaked in the scents – the fragrant flowers, the moist earth, the wet pavement. There was a palpable relief – albeit short lived.

Rains like that may be enough to make some flowers and random patches of grass happy, but it does little for crops and trees. The earth is truly cracking open in some places – gasping for water.

As we drove along a highway recently I marvelled at the grass that was not merely yellow, but crispy brown, and the crops that, in some cases, were green, but way too short. Some trees are changing colour already, but instead of rich reds and oranges they are a disturbingly burnt brown.

I frequently travel past swamps and creeks that are usually lush with greenery and, presumably, wildlife – frogs, turtles, fish and fish-loving birds. Those same oases are now drying up – with large wetlands reduced to a tiny ribbon of ever-shrinking water and some creek beds as barren as roadways.

I get the sense that if I were to even look at the countryside the wrong way it would catch fire.

It is alarming.

When the infrequent rain does come, it tends to be preceded by warnings and arrive with thunder and lightning and squall lines and microbursts and tornadoes, which I daresay is not helpful.

There has been a flurry of articles recently about heat waves and drought being one symptom of climate change. The one good thing about this strange summer has been the absence of people mocking “global warming,” at least around here. With no significant number of cool, wet days, there isn’t as much of an opportunity to say, “So much for global warming.”

It’s little comfort, though, in the face of climate change. Extreme weather across the country. Drought here. It takes a long time to change a climate, but we’re doing a bang-up job.

Even if someone doesn’t “believe” in climate change, it seems to me that changing our ways and reducing the amount of carbon-burning fuels released into the atmosphere isn’t really a bad thing. Unless you are in the oil and gas business.

Undoubtedly, lots of millionaires and billionaires could be created by switching to new technologies and cleaner forms of energy. Cleaner air and water is good! We have the know-how; we just don’t seem to have the will to change and cut the shackles.

Someone told me recently they had encountered a person from a country on the other side of the world who was amazed/appalled that we do our bathroom business in clean water. It IS pretty dumb when you think about it. There are ways to set up systems in our buildings that use “grey” or untreated water for such things, but it’s costly.

I wish it were easier. People need incentives. As time passes, however, I can’t imagine that we’re not going to have to change our ways significantly.

Be careful, folks, and use the water wisely.

Published in The Perth Courier, Aug. 9/12

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