North of Boston, where I�m

by francine Hardaway on June 12, 2006

North of Boston, where I�m visiting family, its spring, and the chorus of birds is deafening if you are listening. For me, a desert dweller (most of the time), it�s overwhelmingly green here, and at this time of year the climate seems perfect. So beautiful it�s painful.

Hard to believe anything can change it; unlike the West, New England seems very much as it was when I grew up on the East Coast many years ago.

But according to Al Gore, it is indeed changing, because the planet is undergoing the phenomenon called global warming. And if you believe Gore�s research, the consequences are both unpredictable and devastating. I�ve actually been hearing about man�s impact on Earth for a good many years � at least as far back as the �60s, when the environmental movement began (for me). But I�ve never seen it borne out, and it�s been easy to dismiss. We have all dismissed it, because it�s invisible.

With the possible exception of enacting CFC regulations, which changed the propellants in our spray cans, we really haven�t acknowledged that human beings in large numbers have environmental impacts. No big whoop. No big sacrifices. But perhaps now that several hundred thousand people were dislocated by a hurricane�

It’s an interesting coincidence that the unexpected acceleration of Alberto from tropical storm to near-hurricane came almost simultaneous with the release of Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Last week I saw the film; this week I’m hearing Max Mayfield of the national Weather Service say that there hasn’t been a hurricane that hit landfall this early since 1966. Fortunately, Alberto accelerated and then ejaculated prematurely, never really reaching hurricane status. But there was Jeb Bush on TV, asking people to evacuate. And as I flew over the East Coast, the turbulence signaled a tropical storm.

Gore himself has never been one of my favorite people. When he was in office, I overlooked him; when he ran for office I thought he was ineffectual. But now I know where he was spending all his intellectual energy all these years: the man has actually been to Antarctica, to the North Pole, and everywhere else it is possible to see the effect of global warming.

In some ways, the movie is startling to watch. Gore juxtaposes photos of snow forty years ago in the Alps, the Himalayas, and other beautiful snow-covered places to show us that in another fifty years, there will be no Snows of Kilimanjaro. He shows pictures of mountain glaciers melting into the sea, and polar bears drowning in water that used to be ice.

I wish I knew more about the science, and I also wish Gore were not a political figure. I know he still not be taken as seriously as he probably should be, because he belongs to a political party and comes with all its baggage.

From what I have read on the EPA website,, there is very little doubt that global warming is occurring. The temperature worldwide has gone up 1 degree Fahrenheit over the last hundred years, largely due (scientists think) to human activities that cause greenhouse gases to be trapped in the atmosphere and bounce back down to earth, warming things up.

So is this important? And if so, why? One shocking part of the Gore movie for me was when he showed digitally how, if the temperature went up far enough to cause Greenland, which is largely ice, to break apart, the resulting rise in sea levels would sink most of New York, half of Florida, and of course, New Orleans.

He also showed how increased heat in Europe and Asia might cause large numbers of heat-related deaths. But when? Where? How? The fact that we can’t get concrete answers to these questions will doom our ability to deal with the problem.

The problem is, once we get into predicting the future, we’re on less firm ground than when we study the past, and it will be difficult to get people to care about a warming planet when they still feel it’s a bullet to be dodged. We just don’t know when Greenland will split, or when the last of the glaciers will vanish.

As one of my closest, most thoughtful friends says when I remind him that the tuna he’s ordering contains mercury, “that doesn’t apply to us. We�ll be dead. Tell that to someone of child-bearing age.” So I�m trying.

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