Only once before has there been a guest blogger on snowbirdredux. On December 14, 2011 Ozzie McBeth wrote with clarity and humor, wise beyond his years, about “Adaptability” and thereby enriched and expanded my musings and year long search for meaning amidst the proposition of change. Bravo Ozzie for your contribution.
Today I picked up the latest copy of The New Yorker Magazine (July 23, 2012) and with my usual stratagem, began at the back page with the cartoon (meant to be captioned by readers as a contest of sorts) and scanned my way back to front through the cartoons, noting with varying anticipation for a future read, articles along the way. The cinema review by David Denby or Anthony Lane, the book review, music, culture, fiction, “Reporter at Large”, personal history, “Shouts and Murmurs” and so forth – ending at the beginning with The Talk of the Town – the chatty, elucidating, what’s-going-on, opening to the world at large which features as it’s masthead, the stylistic mascot New Yorker with princ-nez and feather quill against a backdrop of Manhattan, opposite a (presumably) wise old owl.
There was a time, as I recall, when the five or so short pieces under that title were printed anonymously, meant to portray a buzz of commentary by those in the know, by the elite and literate who had something of note to say to the rest of us. Today each piece is bylined and the opening comment is the “kicker”, the one which most represents the woes or joys of the previous week. That is always where I begin, then, to read.
Today’s primary Talk of the Towner might not be my 2nd guest blogger, but I am compelled to quote in part from her prescient, momentous words and encourage one and all to read the whole of Elisabeth Kolbert’s piece in this week’s New Yorker and buy her latest book, “Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change”.
Therefore, so says Elisabeth Kolbert:
“Corn sex is complicated. As Michael Pollan observes in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” the whole affair is so freakishly difficult it’s hard to imagine how it ever evolved in the first place. Corn’s female organs are sheathed in a sort of vegetable chastity belt – surrounded by a tough, virtually impenetrable husk. The only way in is by means of a silk thread that each flower extends, Rapunzel-like, through a small opening. For fertilization to take place, a grain of pollen must land on the tip of the silk, then shinny its way six to eight inches through a microscopic tube, a journey that requires several hours. The result of a successfully completed passage is a single kernel. When everything is going well, the process is repeated something like eight hundred times per ear, or roughly eighty thousand times per bushel. It is now corn-sex season across the Midwest, and everything is not going well.”
After that whiz-bang opening, Ms. Kolbert goes on to spell out statistics about the Department of Agriculture’s concern because of the current high temperatures and subsequent drought across our country, the over-all severity of a situation which will translate into higher prices amid what a crop biologist describes as “farming in Hell.”
She then goes on to tell us that:
“Up until fairly recently, it was possible – which, of course, is not the same as advisable – to see climate change as a phenomenon that was happening somewhere else. In the Arctic, Americans were told (again and again and again), the effects were particularly dramatic. The sea ice was melting. This was bad for native Alaskans, and even worse for polar bears, who rely on the ice for survival. But in the Lower Forty-eight there always seemed to be more pressing concerns, like Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Similarly, the Antartic Peninsula was reported to be warming fast, with unfortunate consequences for penguins and sea levels. But penquins live far away and sea-level rise is prospective, so again the issue seemed to lack “the fierce urgency of now.”
Ms. Kolbert then elucidates about our current sizzling heat wave, all across the country, the raging wildfires, and that new scary term – “derecho” – meaning a long line of thunderstorms with very, very scary straight winds.
She says – “Referring to the fires, the drought, and the storms, Jonathan Overpeck, a professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona, told the Associated Press, ‘This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about.’ He also noted, ‘This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level.”
And she ends, alluding to the current presidential election: “So far, the words ‘climate change’ have barely been uttered. This is not an oversight. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have chosen to remain silent on the issue, presumably because they see it as just too big a bummer. And so, while farmers wait for rain and this season’s corn crop withers on the stalk, the familiar disconnect continues. There’s no discussion of what could be done to avert the worst effects of climate change, even as the insanity of doing nothing becomes increasingly obvious.”
Bravo Elisabeth Kolbert for your contribution!