August 18, 2012
For all the complaining I’ve done recently about the heat and drought here in southwest Missouri where I live, the last two weeks have been wonderful. We’ve had a series of cold fronts move through, dropping daily highs to those more normal for August – mid eighties to low nineties. The nights, however, have hovered in the mid fifties to low sixties, more reminiscent of mid October, as our nightly weatherpersons have pointed out. We are – for the next week or so, at least – in Aug-tober.
It has been a little strange. The rains that accompanied the cold fronts have not been enough to bring us out of drought status, but they have been enough – along with my watering the garden a couple of times a week – to get the small fall garden I planted off to a good start and thoroughly confuse the tomato and cantaloupe plants. They have started blooming again after having finally given up producing anything in the heat. With the daytime temperatures due to rise back into the mid to high nineties and nighttime temperatures back into the low seventies by the end of next week, I’ll be curious to see if either the tomatoes or the melons produce anything useful again as we race toward the first hard frost that usually arrives halfway through the real October. Even the skunk seems to have been tricked into starting its semi-annual journey back to wherever it goes during cold weather (after having devoured the second of my two nearly ripe melons last week). Bon voyage, my stinky little nemesis. See you in whatever passes for spring, next year.
Of course, the odd race going on in my little garden, this year, is a smaller metaphor for the larger and far more serious race between climate change, with its destabilization of regional and local weather patterns around the world, and our globalized food system. I do find it curious that, with all the national press time dedicated to the drought, the loss of so much of our corn crop, rising food prices globally and its relationship to climate change, none of that press covers the dire need to adapt and localize that food system. But, that is the nature of this race, I suppose. Admit only as much as you must and ignore the rest until the next catastrophe. Then, admit a little more. That’s what makes it such a curious and one-sided race.
Not unlike the curious race for the very fossil fuels that have pushed us into climate change. For all the talk, as a nation, about 100 years of new fossil fuels to come, we have increased our dependence of Saudi oil by twenty percent this year. And, in this election season, the administration is dinkering with the idea of drawing from the strategic petroleum reserves to lower gasoline prices as the cost of retrieving that oil continues to rise. Just the other day, I read a breathless article describing the “marvels” of obtaining oil off the coast of Brazil by drilling down over 5,000 feet through the salt layer – a new world record, if I remember correctly. Undoubtedly, a new record for the cost of such desperate measures, too.
For the most part, the oil companies no longer deny climate change is occurring. But, as Rex Tillerson, of Exxon, assured us a month or so ago, technology will save us. (I cannot help but wonder when all this marvelous technology is going to kick in.) And so, that curious race of denial continues.
Bringing us to that third and – to me – most curious race, that of the global economy against the increasing costs of the other two races. For a world so totally dependent on cheap fossil fuels and a stable means of food production, the need for denial must be a particularly heavy handicap in that curious race. Yet, on it goes.
I am nearing seventy-two. Given the excruciatingly slow nature of collapse, even if I live another twenty-five years or so, I will not live to see the end of these races. Thus, I am left with only my own curiosity as I work to adapt my gardening and my lifestyle to the realities of both that slow race to collapse and the aging process. I can’t deny the end of my race, but I will, I suppose, continue to indulge my curiosity about our long descent as we move from Aug-tober into Sep-vember here at home.