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What Global Warming?
By Walter Mills

You really don't need a weatherman to tell you this has been a hot week.  At our house, we have a small air conditioning unit chugging away in the dining room, and we wander in for a few minutes of relief.  Dinners are mostly cold dishes, salads and sandwiches, just to keep from heating up the kitchen.  It’s an old house; people have been living in it without air conditioning for over a hundred years.  We’ll get by, just like the old folks who lived here summer and winter for forty years before us.

We’re not getting the worst of it, not by any means.  But even here in the cool hills of central Pennsylvania the highs are approaching 100 degrees and the gardens are wilting.  It may not be global warming, but if it’s not, I don’t want to see what global warming is like; especially these last few nights when the fans push out waves of humid air in the upstairs bedrooms and even a thin sheet is too much to bear.

I wonder how the old folks who lived in this house for many decades survived summer nights like this.  Maybe they went down to the basement to sleep.  The basement is made of stone and must be 10 degrees cooler than the first floor. When you open the basement door, you can feel the much cooler air coming up the stairs.  Maybe they slept on cots in the cellar, or maybe they were tougher than we are.

When I was a kid in south Florida we had no air conditioning and neither did anyone else we knew.  Instead we had big screened-in porches that were shaded by trees.  Some people slept on their porch in the summer, but I recall lying in my bedroom at night, turning my pillow over again and again to feel the coolness underneath.

And then, lying awake, I would hear tree branches scratching against the outside walls and see shadows like dark faces in the glass.  They were my childhood nightmare, worse than the thing in the closet or under the bed.  I would watch them in a sweating terror until I fell back into sleep.  I wonder now at my ability to fall asleep when I knew there were soul-gobbling monsters peering through the window, waiting until I let down my guard.

These nights when I lie awake at two in the morning worrying about the things that children rarely think about - the cost of fuel, the unexplained twinges in parts of my body that I had never paid attention to before, and yes, global warming - I wish I had that ability to forget the monsters and fall into a dreamless sleep the way I could as a child.

Maybe there is no such thing as global warming, or if there is, we will learn how to take care of it before it's too late.  That's what the popular novelist Michael Crichton told the US Congress not long ago, using all sorts of graphs and scientific-sounding reasoning as he tried to convince our elected leaders that it would be as foolish to try and solve a problem that might not affect us for another 100 years as it would be to try to solve today's problems with technology that existed in1900.  I guess he believes that if we pretend the goblins aren't there our problems will be solved without effort when we wake up in the next century.

I know a single summer of killing hot weather does not equal a trend, as some of our meteorologist friends like to remind us.  But if you have any beach front property, this might be a good time to sell it, before the Greenland ice cap melts and Florida sinks back below the waves.

Those goblins that scratched at my window were scary  enough, but at least they never crawled through the window to hurt me.  I wish the same were true of our current goblins: fuel shortages and super hurricanes; killer heat waves and wars to secure scarce resources.  Tonight I may go down to the basement to sleep, and I won't come out until the heat wave is over.

(The above column originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times and is copyright © 2006 by Walter Mills. All rights reserved worldwide.  Contact Walt at

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