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