Spring is always a time of uncertain weather. Phrases like “In like a Lion, out like a Lamb” are so engrained into the psyche that there’s little about storms that seem out of the ordinary. However, it seems like the volume knob on the weather has been cranked as of late. Thunderstorms of monumental proportion, ‘families’ of tornados hundreds strong, and the ever-growing threat of hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes give rise to a larger question: Is Mother Nature aware? Before you write me off as a treehugging alarmist, hear me out.
“Nature” is a system. It’s fluid, organic, and reactive. We are, after all, a watery globe spinning in space. Storms are a natural occurrence. Throw a hundred years of reckless development and pollution into the mix, and the results will be….uncertain. It is my opinion that on a sub-conscious level, the Earth as a system is aware. Of something.
Journalists like Thomas Friedman have long declared that ‘Global Warming’ is an inaccurate title, and that ‘Global Weirding’ is a more apt one. Despite the stupid sounding name, he’s onto something. And Al Gore, a bastion of hope (and hate) has known for decades that human behavior is messing with global weather systems far beyond our reach.
So when I hear of the recent fury of tornadoes in the Midwest, it neither surprises or shocks me. The human, animal and property losses are tragic, yes. The fact that weather systems are growing ever-more powerful and unpredictable? To me, it is a sign of our times, the undeniable change in our climate. Think about the last few years. Hottest summers on record, coldest, snowiest winters. Enormous wildfires ripping through sun-scorched Texas. Droughts in Arizona, terrible flooding in the Southeast. Here in the Pacific Northwest? We’re facing one of the wettest springs on record. All of this speaks to the need we have to better understand our impact on the globe, and figure out concrete goals for addressing these problems. So often, a freak storm is simply declared as an anomaly, but I think meteorologists, and the public at large should know better. We cannot expect Planet Earth to absorb everything we throw at her without some push-back.
“the earth’s immune system is trying to get rid of us” – Kurt Vonnegut
Huge events like the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan are of a fundamentally different nature, though most likely tied to the changes happening to climate worldwide. No, humans don’t have direct impact on the tectonic plates in the earth’s crust, but we certainly are giving the planet a fever. In response, the globe is fighting, sweating, hurling and puking. I believe the ability to empathize with nature is the first step towards actually changing behavior. We certainly aren’t owed anything by the world around us, and if we continue to not heed the warnings, we’re going to find that 7,000,000,000 people simply will not continue to be able to live on this fragile, injured planet. As Kurt Vonnegut said a few years before his death, “the earth’s immune system is trying to get rid of us, and it’s high time they did”.