Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Real Shock and Awe


With Gustav pounding Cuba and apparently headed into the Gulf as a Cat 5 hurricane, and Hanna headed west, and three more waves behind them, this story from the first year of EFA seems timely.

This story is fiction. The storm that is coming is real. Head inland today if you are in its path.

The Gulf Scream
Janelle walked out to the edge of the water and put her toes into the lapping, rushing, wavelets.
"It is so warm", she says in that almost complaining voice that can almost be confused with the "you don't have it in my size" voice.

The water was its customary warm. These days, even in winter, the water rarely cools to where it is actually refreshing. It still makes you wet though.

That wonderful yellow tangled up cord was all over the beach. I used to think that some huge army of drunk fishermen were somehow losing their fishnets every night. I would see this orange string stuff laying all around on the beach and would actually get a little unhappy with the colossal amount of beach litter. Then, one day I realized it was seaweed, Sargasso Sea Seaweed to be exact. A scientist at the University marine lab told me all about it when we bumped into each other many years ago as we were aimlessly walking. I guess now, it is decades.

"Just be glad we are here."

"I am, I am," said Janelle.

Actually, she hates the beach. I'm the one who loves it. I can sit out on the edge of the water for days and days with my cooler, my bright umbrella, my kite, my super comfortable red chairs with the leg rests built in, my binoculars, several books, and an ocean of sun block.

I can just sit and walk and run and watch the babies, the birds, and the other featherless bipeds for days, if not weeks. I lose myself in the sounds of the blustery wind, in the constantcy of the waves lapping as they come and go, at the radio blaring from the occassional black low rider pickup, and at the seagulls laughing and carrying on with each other, looking for the next sucker to throw them some crackers. I don't care if they are flying rats.

"Just be glad we made it".

"I know, I know. Next you are going to tell me how much you love that haunted hotel that we stay in right"?

"FDR used to stay there."


"And what?"

"And he was old a really long time ago."

She was right, the hotel was old, and a little run down, but that made it even more perfect. It was a bit of a ghost town too, but real fisherman were beginning to come back.

None of us really expected it to happen like this. We all thought that the big event that would bring climate change onto the radar screen of all the politicians would probably be the abrupt slow down of the gulf stream. Then, no matter how right wing, no matter how suspicious they were of anything with the word environment in it, no matter how much they just hated the idea that burning incredibly huge amounts of oil and coal could ever actually do something really bad, such as make a formerly somewhat dependable stable climate, very unstable and very undependable, they would go "Oh my Lord, I have been wrong, oh so very stupidly wrong; we do have a very big problem here indeed."

But who would have thought that the Gulf of Mexico, that pitifully wonderful, generally very tranquil body of water would have turned so ugly... that it would start to scream.

First, there was the year when Florida got hit three times. Some people in the Florida panhandle built there houses back, just to have them destroyed just as they were moving in. Then of course, we had the destruction of New Orleans.

We all were horrified, but many of us took some dark pleasure in saying "I told your so".

But then there was another one. And this time there was no pleasure in any of it. It was horrible. And then another, and another.

The president kept saying we are going to build it back. First it was 200 billion, then another 200 billion, and the storms kept coming. One by one, every major city on the Gulf was hit. We kept talking about rebuilding and so on, but after a few years, it began to feel a little hollow.

And then one day the insurance companies said it. They said "no more".

The government stepped in of course. We love to socialize losses in this country. It's the profits that we must privatize. But even that was impossible with the mounting debt and the foreign loss of confidence in our bungling leaders.

And then it hit us like a ton of bricks falling down from so many wind blown walls.

The Gulf is no longer a place for large concentrations of human settlement. The first casualty of Global Climate Change was not England, not Sweden, and not France. It was Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida.

Oh, you can live here alright, but it is more like the north shore of Oahu on the opposite side of the island from Honolulu. Everything is wind blown and beat down. There is just too much weather there for anything except temporary things. Because, most likely, they will be made temporary, whether you like it or not.

The good news is that except for some of their ugly ruins, all of the refineries that cluttered the coast are gone. The majors tried to bebuild them, but it seems that Mother Nature had other plans. Besides, we all knew that we had to stop burning that crap anyway. With time, our poetic sides could see that Mother Nature had come in and wiped out these earth offending industrial petrocarbon complexes with a precision that would have made a former, now infamous Secretary of Defense jealous.

The pinpoint nature of these strikes by Mother Nature was the real shock and awe.

Appropriately, now the people who do live here really love the sea, and they respect it. Now that the pollution has stopped, the fishing has returned, and the beaches are actually more lovely than ever. There are people here, but not like before the change.

But the big cities and the luxury homes are pretty much gone. They have moved inland or to other more friendly shores.

The casinos are still here, but they operate out of recycled cruise ships. That way, they can run from the giant storms before they get there.

But mostly, the birds live here now, and they fish these waters just like they did a thousand years ago.

And we come to visit more than ever.

It may be hot.

But it's still very cool.

Still, the gulf has become a very strange and different place.


Earthfamily Principles

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*Magritte, "the Human Condition", "Collective Invention"

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