I started writing this week’s column on a cool, balmy, humid evening in central Vermont, with Kiki dozing in the chair behind me, and the windows open to catch the breeze and let in the sound of the rain. dripping from the gutters. The setting could hardly have been more idyllic.
Central Vermont, however, is not where I had planned to be at the time. I was meant to be two time zones west, sitting on a shaded veranda in Wolf Creek, Mont., Sipping my usual pre-prandial and having a friendly chat with one of my oldest friends and fishing buddies.
The next morning, after breakfast, we began the first of several days of floats on the Upper Missouri River, throwing tiny, almost invisible flies at the large brown and rainbow trout that have long haunted this beautiful expanse of river – one from time immemorial, the other since 1889. Brown pelicans, the most graceful of aviators, would float above.
As usual, I imagine Lewis and Clark’s crew dragging and poking their loaded boats upstream and, on their return journey, happily pulling downstream towards the house. This setting, too, could hardly be more idyllic.
Except my friend and I weren’t there. Instead, just as the economy started to kick in after the pandemic downturn, another plague struck. This is part of the letter we received from our outfitter: âWe are capping our guide trips for the remainder of the summer season and will no longer be taking reservations … for July and August. We hope to resume … in September, when we will reassess and proceed accordingly. Hopefully things will improve as fall approaches. We recognize this is a drawback for those planning a last minute guided day out on the Missouri, … but we believe it is in the best interest of the river, the fish, and everyone else. our customers to do what we can to reduce our impact for the remainder of the summer season.
We canceled. My boyfriend was of the opinion that there was “no sense in roasting 100 and going around with our equipment”. I Google searched for Wolf Creek weather and river statistics. The next two weeks, the days are all in the 90s, and the river flirts with 70 degrees, almost deadly for the trout.
Here in the lush, verdant Far North East, we tend to see ourselves as somewhat isolated from the climate change-induced horrors we read to the south and west of us. But every now and then we hear an ominous rumble of that distant thunder. It was one of them. I am fully aware that two old retirees frustrated with enjoying their fly fishing vacations are no coincidence in the cosmos. But I have a strong feeling that this can be a harbinger.
If you’ve ever stood in a salt marsh at a rising tide, you remember the runoffs that flowed in the lowest places, the pebbles that disappeared, the little waves on the deepening water and finally the belief that ‘It was time to get the hell out of here.
This is how it is.
Many skeptics have long made fun of Albert Gore and wish Bill McKibben was silent; but these two turn out to be right. Greenland and Antarctica are really losing ice at an increasing rate; high temperatures in the American West have exacerbated the threat of wildfires exponentially; the mighty Colorado River is already lacking for the millions of people who depend on it for irrigation and electricity; Germany (which does not topple easily) is staggering because of the deadly floods in the Rhineland; home insurance in disaster-prone areas may soon be out of reach or impossible to obtain; and Upper Missouri’s fishing guides and outfitters are sitting on their hands and waiting for a change that may not happen in human history.
The story of Noah’s ark, which appears in other ancient traditions, is clearly a myth. But myths and fables have serious purposes. Noah was a weirdo, until it started to rain. The United States, with its history of anti-intellectualism, from the Jackson-Adams presidential campaign of 1828 to Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, and now reaching apotheosis on the Internet, has struggled to tackle complicated concepts. , or solutions to them which cause significant personal or professional discomfort. (An Adlai Stevenson supporter once shouted, âAll thinking people are with you.â âIt’s not enough,â he joked. âWe need a majority.â)
The heat is on, and it is increasing. If the Gulf Stream continues to decelerate, as it has been, the western coasts of Ireland and Norway will, paradoxically, be much colder. In the South Pacific, the island nation of Vanuatu is the most at-risk country in the world, due to increasingly violent and frequent cyclones, rising sea levels and tsunamis. The 48 contiguous United States just recorded their hottest June in 127 years of record keeping. This is not a normal warming cycle. Changing the moon’s orbit, as one congressman suggested, won’t do much to affect it.
One of the reasons for the disconnect between “existential threat” and “government hoax” (beyond the fact that many people cannot define “existential”) is the confusion over what needs to be done. As we proliferate more and more stuffy and our opportunities shrink, the people we have chosen to represent and protect us seem to be only rearranging the lounge chairs, vying for the edge and securing their re-election. The few politicians calling for stronger measures are called radical. Bernie Sanders: “As cities around the world experience century-old flooding every year, the Pacific Northwest is inundated with wildfires, and heat waves around the world are scorching and choking wildlife, I ask new: how is bold climate action considered radical? , and this new normal is not? As much as I hate to be pessimistic, the solutions, if any still exist, will require a large company effort. The American people, responding to the national need for simple mass vaccination, have shown their contempt for smart and sane solutions.
Willem Lange can be contacted at [email protected]