Think About It: Heating up?

I have believed for some years now that Greater Sequim is going to become the new California. Certain sea life seems to have the same opinion. Did you read about the weird little sea creatures called pyrosomes discovered in masses stretching from the coasts of Oregon to the Gulf of Alaska?

Typically, pyrosomes are found in the tropics except for the few caught trying to flee to British Columbia. I watched a minute-long video which was about a minute too long of a jellyfish-like tube of connected pyrosomes simply floating along.

National Geographic’s Craig Welsh reports that researchers of our waters were blown away by the multitudes of these sea immigrants and that fishermen near Sitka, Alaska, had to give up fishing the area because they were catching pyrosomes instead of salmon.

In 2014 and 2015 we saw the “warm water blob,” the seasons’ thriller about “the longest and most toxic bloom of algae ever recorded” that managed to kill off “crabs, anchovies … seals and sea lions.” A few pyrosomes were seen then.

Strangely now, our sea is cooling again, but we have an overabundance of these weird little creatures. Something is happening and I suggest we prepare for Sequim becoming the new and improved Santa Barbara.

The new normal

The only problem with my projection is that this year has become the year of sustained winds and frequent gale warnings. We’ve lived in Sequim for nearly 20 years and this year is the worst for unwalkable strong winds on the sunniest day.

I fear it is the “new normal” as my doctor likes to explain most things that occur in my body. I googled the question, “Why is Sequim having strong winds?” and, in addition to all the real estate ads, I got “The 14 Best Thai Massage Specialists in Sequim.” Oh, well.

I also proposed the wind story to my editor at the Gazette, who said he would look into it. I sensed a slight skepticism.

Having reached a dead end and being highly reluctant to interject myself into the climate debate, I wandered into questions about the changing conversation rather than whether global warming exists and if it does, how much is related to human activity.

My question is when and why did the conversation change from pollution to global warming? What happened that we stopped talking about the cause and effect of our habits of daily living on our environment that some say snap back on our quality of life.

My guess is that many of you, like me, that is non-climate scientists, remember when the air in Los Angeles smelled, tasted and looked bad. Car emissions reductions were put in place and, voilà, LA reappeared in the sun.

We also remember the alert from scientists that pressurized hair spray was reducing the ozone layer. Scientists told us that the ozone layer was protective and reducing it would result in more skin cancers, cataracts and animal extinctions (2006 AP report). Many of us stopped using the offending aerosol cans and, eventually, the offending ingredient was removed, an effort spurred on worldwide by no less than U.N. treaties.

So when and why did many of us go sour on the science of environmental protection and any suggestion that we change our way of life?

Who know it was so complicated?

I posed my question and a couple of others to two people that I know to possess expertise in climate history, study of climate change, effects on the environment and preservation of the environment.

I know both would like to see environmental actions related to climate change taken out of politics in favor of a reasoned collaborative discussion and direction.

They love the Earth. For purposes of easy identification, I am going to refer to them as my “E-experts.”

Both E-experts answered knowledgeably, thoughtfully, factually, thoroughly and impressively quick. These two have spent decades on the protection of the environment. They are good conversation companions if you are interested in water, air and food safety, but not so much for innuendo and political gossip.

Both started their answer with history and telling me that scientists were talking about climate change and the human connection over a hundred years ago. One took me even further back in talking about the great reverence for the Earth held by Indian tribes and their belief that people were the primary stewards of the Earth.

Both agreed that the conversation had changed. One E-expert pointed to the Apollo space program that gave us our first real picture of the Earth in all its beauty and says that photo was one of the inspirations for the first celebration of Earth Day in 1970.

I relived my own awe at the sight of the photo and the day I looked at the barren moon and knew an American stood on it. I wasn’t alone in my awe or desire to preserve the Earth in its beauty and utter uniqueness. More attention was given to the issue of pollution and it causes and within a generation, we begin to again see clearly our own beautiful Earth from where we stood.

This E-expert went on to say that the conversation has changed since that first photo in part because we no longer see the pollution, sort of like one of those stories of heroes who die in the end because once the battle is won, they are no longer seen as needed.

My other E-expert made the case that the science hasn’t changed, the causes haven’t changed, burning fossil fuels still has harmful effects; rather, the conversation has changed. Public discourse shifted from the science to the politics during the 1980s, a shift energized by corporate campaign contributions to elected officials increasingly reliant on money to be re-elected.

Head spinning. By now I have become intrigued by the tangle of ideas and perspectives. I am counting on you being intrigued as well, at least enough so to read more from my E-experts in my next column.

I will start with a question posed by one of my E-experts.

“Do humans have the capacity to live in harmony with the Earth?”

Think about it.

Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at columnists@sequimgazette.com.

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