There’s this young, scantily clad carpenter in my kitchen. His muscular, tattooed arms are sheathed in sweat as he runs his measuring tape along my windowsill. While I am well aware of his maleness, I am equally aware that I will never be mistaken for a cougar.
Sadly, when the young male says he’s hot, I am thinking about global warming.
“It’s unreal,” says Dan. “It’s like a furnace. Unbearable.”
It’s All About the Weather
Everyone in New Hampshire is talking about the weather.
We complain about the summer heat in the Maryland D.C. suburbs, too, but we’re used to it. Sort of. We choose to live in the sauna, for whatever reason. I grew up there and can’t seem to get my roots out of the heavy clay soil. Plus, as much as I resist it and as depressing as it is, I’m fascinated by Washington politics.
But in New Hampshire where my family farmhouse is, people are not used to long runs of 95 degree days. They aren’t used to humidity you need a chainsaw to cut through.
“Sultry,” the weather guy keeps saying, as if he’s trying out a new word.
This year, my NH neighbors were excited to “get some decent snow again” after several warm winters. They are winter people by nature; they own snowmobiles and cross country skis. Winter is in their blood like politics is in mine.
“It’s just weird,” says my friend Tom about the lack of snow in recent years. “I don’t like it.” Tom drives a snow plow for the town.
Tornadoes, Bugs, and Super Storms
Americans are already making changes because our so-called leaders have refused to take meaningful action on the warming of the planet. We have family tornado action plans where there never used to be tornadoes. Generators are flying off the shelves because super storms have made frequent power outages the norm. Of course, if you live in New Jersey or New York or New Orleans, you know a thing or two about evacuation.
You can’t carry firewood for camping across state borders in New Hampshire because it might harbor pests, some of which are able to thrive where they never used to survive. Trees already weakened by climate change are succumbing to new infestations.
So are berries. I bought some blueberries at a farm stand the other day. “Are they sprayed?” I asked.
“Not yet,” the woman answered, standing in front of an oscillating fan and wiping sweat from her brow. “But we’re about to — we never used to at all, but a new exotic fruit fly came in on Hurricane Irene, and the winters aren’t killing it. We can’t get rid of it. It has barbs on its legs so it cuts into fresh berries, not just rotten ones on the ground.”
Water, Water Everywhere
The biggest climate change issue for New Hampshire right now, at least in the foothills where I am, is flooding. The Keene Sentinel had a front page spread on it last week . . . as if anyone needed to be told it’s a problem. Last year I had to delay coming up because our road had washed out.
“Once considered rare in this the region, damaging floods have struck multiple times in the past decade,” says the paper. Officials are calling historical flood planning documents “no longer relevant.” Several storms since 2005 have exceeded the 100-year-flood benchmark.
The paper cites two reasons for the floods, which have toppled bridges, destroyed homes and businesses, obliterated roads, not to mention drowned people: “Climate change on a global scale” and “decades of construction and development in the region.”
While it’s depressing to confront reality (remember An Inconvenient Truth?), it is heartening to hear officials putting the blame where it belongs and calling for “smarter zoning and development regulations.”
Live Free or Die?
Here on my forested mountain, one woman from out-of-state owned the whole other side of the mountain forever. When she passed away, her sons lost no time in clearcutting half the mountain and making plans for condos. Fortunately, they must have realized that there’s no demand for condos in the middle of nowhere during an economic meltdown. I am hopeful that those “new development regulations” will go into effect before the economy recovers and the bulldozers arrive.
New Hampshire folks aren’t big on regulation. “Live Free or Die” is the state motto. Perhaps they will be re-thinking that – it’s well past time for regulations to curb global warming and stop the flooding.
They don’t like taxes up here, either; New Hampshire is one of only five states with no sales tax.
Maybe that will change with the climate, too. Money is sorely needed. As road crews continue to make emergency repairs, town officials are counting on federal tax dollars in the form of Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to rebuild their roads to better withstand floods. “FEMA has to come through and help us,” one town official told the newspaper. “We don’t have any place to get this money,” bemoaned another.
Welcome to the future, New Hampshire . . . where we need government action, and we need it now.
Credit: Sultry photo from NOAA.gov