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Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet

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Rick Magee (opinion): Hot and bothered by global warming – Danbury News Times

When I was a kid, I lived in a small town in the southern San Joaquin Valley in California. Unlike most of the rest of the valley, this was not an agricultural town but an oil town, with oil pumpjacks dotting the landscape like giant mechanical grasshoppers. One of the pumps on the outskirts of town was even painted to look like a grasshopper, complete with antennae welded to the head.

The climate was arid, and I remember one extraordinarily wet year when the annual rainfall totaled 12 inches. Usually we got more like seven or eight. In the summer it was hot. Extremely hot.

One summer, the Bakersfield news channel was boasting about how many days in a row the temperature had hit or exceeded 100 degrees. We were about to set a new record. My dad hated this kind of heat, even though he had grown up there, and he shouted at the TV (one of his favorite pastimes), “You’d brag about how many dead bodies were on the street if it set a record!”

Despite the heat, my sister and I spent our days outside playing in the vacant fields behind our house. I had a small thermometer mounted on a plastic bracket that an auto parts store had used as a promotional gimmick and that I had liberated from my parents. One day when we were playing, I decided to see how hot it was so I took that thermometer with us.

I don’t know how hot it was, because I set the thermometer on the ground in the direct sunlight. The glass burst and the plastic frame warped. That same week the weather reporter who had sounded so excited about breaking the record taped a stunt where they tried to cook an egg on the hot street.

These memories come back to me every summer, and I used to be able to get a lot of mileage out of telling stories about the hot summers of my childhood. Lately, though, they don’t elicit the same reactions. Tales of streets melting in the heat are no longer so crazy and outrageous, so my experiences tend to fade in comparison. I can’t share my tips on creative ways to stay cool because everyone else has already discovered these things out of necessity.

This morning before I wrote this column the top story in the New York Times was about the monumental (and unexpected) new climate legislation that the Senate is working on. Although the legislation will undoubtedly anger many people, it feels necessary and inspiring.

It is necessary because not doing anything is hardly an option. Those hot summers I survived were when the global temperatures were about 0.2 degrees above the 1900-2000 average. Today we’re closer to 1 degree above, which makes my experiences just an introduction to what’s possible.

It is inspiring because not doing anything is a dismal way to live. Let me give an example of what I mean. I am buying an electric motorcycle to use for commutes and short errands where I would normally drive my car. One of the main arguments naysayers trot out against electric vehicles is the lack of a charging infrastructure, as if that is something completely out of our hands. However, building a charging infrastructure illustrates the best things about human ingenuity: we can do good, important things when we set our minds to it.

This is the really the only way to look at climate mitigation efforts. We are facing a crucial challenge and we can either hide from that challenge or face it heroically. Let’s be heroes.

Rick Magee is a Bethel resident and an English professor at a Connecticut university. Contact him at r.m.magee.writer@gmail.com.

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