Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Good News? Not Yet.

Once in a while I see some talk about how increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere cannot be causing any global warming, because carbon dioxide only absorbs infrared radiation in certain narrow bands, and all the radiation in those bands is already captured by the current level of carbon dioxide. Sounds like good news! But I've always seen this argument buried among numerous other good news arguments, and somehow as I checked out each one and wound up disappointed, I never quite made it down the list to check out the saturation argument.

Until now. Here's a fine summary, and a fine example of the work of Spencer Weart. He is the author of The Discovery of Global Warming: A hypertext history of how scientists came to (partly) understand what people are doing to cause climate change. If you haven't dipped into that website yet, well, I wish you would.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Nature Kind in Voice and Touch

A beautiful story:
Dolphin Rescues Stranded Whales

It reminded me of another I had heard spoken about recently, and I found it for you, too:
Daring Rescue of Whale off Fallarones

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hearts Far from the Earth

A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it is finished, no matter how brave its warriors or how strong their weapons.
Cheyenne Tsistsistas
Like many others on the Internet, I am repeating the above words without knowing much about their history. I first saw them on a poster about the "Sisters in Spirit" campaign to draw attention and response to the disappearance of hundreds of native women in Canada. The words have haunted me.

They came back to me this week, as I pondered a sad change in the hearts of women here. It goes along with a change in language, I think, where the terms "spring" and "thaw" and "runoff" are now heard less frequently than the term "breakup." What matters to people these days is not when the air is warm, or when the hills get bare, or when it's time to start garden plants, or when the pasture will green up, or how soon the fields might be tilled; instead, it's when the roads "break up" as the frost comes out, so that the heavy equipment in the oilfield grinds to a halt.

Twice in the last couple of weeks, I have heard young women rejoicing that breakup will be short this year. Both times I said I would rather see a couple of feet of new snow before then. In the past, almost anyone would have agreed that we need the moisture, but these women did not. One said she had to support her boyfriend during breakup, and the other said her boyfriend would be around the house too much.

The proverb talks about conquest, but conquest is not the only way for a nation to be finished. It can also be finished when the hearts of its women are too far from the earth.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

That Time of Year

These are the days when the temperature creeps up close to the melting point, and the strengthening sun pushes sand and dust particles up over that crucial point, thawing a honeycomb of brown-lined caves into the south sides of the snow ridges along the street. I noticed it beginning a week or so ago, when the air temperature was still staying well below zero, but the solar melt had begun.

Last week, too, I noticed my neighbour blowing the bank of snow away from the wall of his house. He piles it up there all winter, keeping the house warmer, and then when the thaw approaches, he clears it away and keeps the house dry. I wonder how he knows when to do it.

These are the days when the sun warms the pavement, and any snow that sifts across it in a breeze is apt to stick. On Monday I got out on the highway and found it a skating rink, so I crept along for two miles and then escaped to the safety of a gravel back road to finish the trip to Carlyle. On Thursday I went directly to the back road.

These are the days, some years, when I am starting to wonder where I will pile the snow if I have to shovel any more. This year, I am just wishing it would snow. I'd take a picture of the snow pile, to compare to other years, but there isn't one. Aside from clearing a bit away from the doorway, I haven't shovelled snow all winter. My neighbour's snow bank against his house was so small, I think he cleared it in one pass with the blower. Our snow is just packed on the driveway, because it never got deep enough to bother. Last winter I think we had more snow on the ground in November than we've had throughout this winter. And last winter there was almost no runoff.

These are the days when I notice horned larks again. I don't know if they've just returned, or if they've been here for a few weeks but I've finally returned to the back roads to see them. What wonderful symbols of hope they are, adapting to fallow field and gravel road side, returning to this snowy barren landscape before there is any sign of spring except the quick flash of their own tiny wings and black-edged tails.