Monday, December 5, 2016

A raw deal #phenology

We started the day with a beautiful peach and pink sunrise. Then the rest of the clouds filled in. Since mid-day, it's been spitting rain and the inch or two of tracking snow that had covered our fields as the sun rose is now melting. The damp, raw air, combined with a southeast to east wind reminds me a little of December along the East Coast. I mean within a mile or so of the ocean, where there was rarely ice and precipitation was rain almost as often as it was snow.

pink sky at morning... ?
pink sky at morning... ?
Photo by J. Harrington

I've been to the Phoenix, Arizona area in the Summer and remember well the phrase "but it's a dry heat." Once the temperature got over one hundred degrees F, dry or not the heat wore me down. A similar pattern seems to be my Winter problem. If it's a dry cold, I can tolerate it better than if the humidity creeps up, but once the temperature or wind chill drops much below 20°F, I'm ready to go inside no matter how dry the cold. Of course, sunshine also adds a psychological boost that makes it seem warmer than it is in Winter. At least, so I vaguely remember from past years when there was sunshine in Winter.

tracks in the snow
tracks in the snow
Photo by J. Harrington

Even though I'm complaining about the weather, I know it could be much worse. We're not getting freezing rain, which helps the roads, drivers and wildlife. So far, at least, we haven't been buried in multiple inches of snow. Last Autumn there was lots of fussing and fuming about La Nina and whether this Winter would be colder than normal, or not; snowier than normal, or not. Is the Old Farmer's Almanac forecast going to be accurate, or not? I'm becoming fascinated by the idea that we now seem to have a much better grasp of our long term climate trends than we do for the weather over the next several months, or our energy future over the next several years.

I hope the Winter at Standing Rock and the Oceti Sakowin Camp is tolerable for those determined to stay in the camp. I'm truly grateful for the leadership shown by Native Americans in opposing the Dakota Access Pipe Line. Unfortunately, it's likely to be just one of several such issues coming to a head during the next several years. Some of the turbulence affecting the pipeline front can be expected to move east into Minnesota over the next several months. If you're interested, here's some background from Honor the Earth. (One day very soon we'll pull together a more complete posting on Line 3 and oil pipelines in Minnesota.) If the oil industry fades as rapidly as the coal industry has, it's hard to see how investments in new infrastructure can get a return on investment that matches the risk profile of the projects being financed. That would be a different kind of raw deal, and, I fear, one that could fall on the shoulders of the taxpayers more than the investors. Mining and oil and other extractive industries are often like that.

UPDATE: Excellent explanation of the current status and issues at Standing Rock

A Short Story of Falling


By Alice Oswald


It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again

it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower

and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary

is one of water's wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience

water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again


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