One thing I thought about a lot, as a boy, may have been unusual. It was, “What is lasting?”
It likely occurred because my father struggled through all the grueling training that went into becoming a surgeon of the old school: The college, the graduate school, the medical school, and the grueling internship (wherein doctors were all but zombies due to lack of sleep). It didn’t really phase him. He loved what he was doing, and, while I don’t suppose he went skipping down the hospital’s halls, he didn’t drag about full of self-pity. He became a very good vascular surgeon at a very good hospital, and then, right when he finally had it made, he contracted polio. He got it bad, and the illness progressed until he couldn’t even move his fingers. He could barely breathe, but when they rolled the “iron lung” into the hallway outside his room he told them to get the %#@*&$ thing away. As a trained doctor he knew that once you were put in an “iron lung” your body would atrophy. It was a sort of kiss of death, even though it kept you alive.
“What is lasting?” You do all this work to become a surgeon, and then a stupid virus paralyzes you.
To cut a long story short, yelling and screaming and cussing like blue blazes, when the “iron lung” was rolled outside his hospital room, was the beginning of an amazing come-back. He went down to Warm Springs, Georgia, worked his butt off, and learned to use his fingers again. He never could do many things he loved, like skiing, and he walked like a lumbering bear, but in one of those delicious ironies life holds, (if you know how to look for them,) this man who had lost the use of his own arms was part of a team of surgeons in Boston confronted with a boy in one room and the boy’s arm in another room, and rejoined the arm to the boy’s body. He was the vascular surgeon who sewed micro-stitches, thirty per vein, that joined first veins, and then the great artery. Then he un-clamped the artery had the sublime joy of seeing the dead and gray arm turn pink again. It was a beautiful example of medical teamwork and a great victory.
However a comeback isn’t forever. Polio made my father like an aging athlete, needing to work far harder to stay the same. It couldn’t last. The great arm-reattachment was in some ways like the great, Boston baseball-player Ted Williams hitting a home run his last time at bat. Within two years my father was finished, as a surgeon. Then I got to watch the anguish a man goes through when all he lives for is taken away.
“What is lasting?”
Even as a boy I had a dread of being made useless by age. I wanted something you didn’t lose, something you could trust.
Money you could lose. Fame could fade. Popularity could turn on you like a rabid dog. Power could make you be the rabid dog, as you snarled to keep it, in vain. A beautiful woman grew old and gray. What the heck lasted?
Of course, as a boy such thought was inarticulate. I lacked words, but believe me, the pondering was there. And very early I came to conclusions I had no words for.
One thing I noticed was that my grandfather and grandmother were very wrinkly, but he was still somehow handsome and she was still somehow beautiful. They had decided to get married in second grade, at age eight, and at age eighty were still in love. How’d they do it? I had no idea, for my parents were divorcing. But in a chaotic home I could sense, when visiting my grandparent’s house, that they knew of peace.
Also in my boyhood I noticed some very wrinkly people playing piano in symphony hall. When President Kennedy was inaugurated, a wrinkly poet named Robert Frost read a poem. This gave me the idea that something in art was ageless.
In any case, even as a boy I was fearful of losing. I am glad most people don’t think like I thought, because if they did we would have no star athletes. All would fear the day they’d get old and retire. Young women would make no effort to be beautiful, if they all despaired about the day they’d be hags. My father wouldn’t have reattached a boy’s arm, if he thought like me. He would have said, “Why bother to do all the work to be a great surgeon? It won’t last.”
While I confess I was a coward and motivated by fear, I also was seeking a great thing worthy of saints and mystics. I was seeking what doesn’t turn to dust in the wind. To my way of seeing, the world was seeking things that were as fleeting as clouds. Unless I joined the madness, and agreed things were worthy of yearning-for even though they didn’t last, all the fuss and bother made no sense. It would be like craving a fashion that had gone out of style; like feeling you could not go out in public without George Washington’s white wig.
For example, just think what sex-attraction looks like, to a boy who hasn’t yet been hit by hormones. Does it make any sense? Because I was skipped ahead in school (and was slow to get hairy in any case) I got to watch my peers become demented before I became demented myself. They appeared senseless. I basically said, “screw this”, and headed off barefoot to go fishing. In order for the absurd antics of my peers to make sense, you needed to be horny.
In like manner, other so-called “adult” behavior makes no sense unless you know what it is like to be greedy. Or hateful. Or vengeful. Or frustrated in other ways. Only when afflicted by the itch of craving do many things gain urgency. Water has little value until you are in a desert and know thirst. Then a glass of water is worth all you have, but once you quench your thirst, a second glass isn’t worth a dime.
What is lasting?
To me what was lasting seemed to be so-called “art”. To sing, to dance, to rhapsodize, to praise the Creation, (if not the Creator). It didn’t cost a penny; old people had it; I saw it could be found in slums and even in Math classes; and even when people sneered and made me miserable, it never completely left, (and then I could have a wonderful time singing the blues.)
Of course, unless you are very good and very lucky (or an excellent con) there is no money in being happy. For many it is something you do after work. I got in all sorts of trouble for having art happen on the job.
In the end it is ironic. I tried so hard to avoid depending on something fleeting, like a strong body, and yet, because art has never paid the bills, I had to fall back on my strong back. For years and years I have been a “grunt”. I am very grateful my mother worked so hard to make certain my boyhood diet included good food and all the right vegetables, for without what she did to strengthen the good body God gave me, I could never have raised five children. But now they are raised. Now I’m sixty-five. Now, even when I try to be a “grunt”, I embarrass myself.
Not that I’m feeble, but I can’t do what I could do. It’s very obvious when I look at my vegetable garden. The weeds have pretty much won, this year. I appreciate the effort it took to weed a lot more now, than when I could actually do it. Before I took it for granted, and it was done for free, but now I’ll have to pay.
In essence, because poetry never paid, I have arrived at the very point I sought to avoid. I am the aged athlete the day the crowd stops cheering. The crowd groans, when I step to the plate with my baseball bat. I hold little potential to be a hero.
But this doesn’t mean I have lost faith in heroic things. How arrogant would that be? To think that, unless I get the glory and I get to be the hero, such glory and heroism cease to exist? It goes against my actual experience, for I have seen the Light can shine even in Math classes. To be honest, I’m glad I can retire from being the hero, which perhaps demonstrates an understanding of What (or Who), is truly heroic.
All I ask anymore is to be Yours. What’s the use of making my big-shot plans? The strength I once had has bled from my pores. My aspiration’s gone the way of all man’s. I look at You, standing in perfection, All power, but innocent and meek. You control the destiny of each nation Yet are so pure you do not need to speak. You challenge all by simply standing. This world’s a din of loud demanding. All want control. All are commanding Their will be done, misunderstanding You’re the only one who has control And Your love wants the best for every soul.
In any case, though I confess to feeling a bit feeble in terms of being a “grunt”, I also realize I am nowhere nearly as bad off as my father was at age thirty-four. I can still move my fingers, at least. I can still type. If old men like Rubinstein could move fingers and make amazing music at a piano past the age of ninety, perhaps I can do the same at a word-processor.
If my father could mount a come-back when completely crippled, can’t I do the same?
“Not likely” I hear a snide voice say. “You have written fifty years and no one cares.”
My reply is that I have been a grunt for fifty years. Writing was merely a hobby. Now it will change.
The snide voice laughs, “Change? You’re too old to change. Poets die young. They don’t arise from the ashes of decrepitude. If you haven’t made it by age forty, you’ll never make it.”
I suppose I could dust off my list of artists and writers who never “made it” until over age sixty. Scarlotti and Darwin come to mind. Or how about the creation of the innocent, girlish Laura of “Little House On The Prairie”? That was written by a lady over sixty. When you get to be my age, you notice examples of people who refused to be “all washed up.” Everyone said Winston Churchill was all washed up, in 1938.
Yet when I think of it, my plot when I was young was not to become rich and famous when I was old. The script I had for my life was to become rich and famous when I was young, and could enjoy the usual period of debauchery that precedes the tragedy of dying young. That didn’t work out. Poverty was sometimes God’s way of keeping me healthy during a time when it was said “Cocaine is God’s way of telling you that you have too much money.”
Anyway, what I was really after when young was something you could not lose, and the only thing you don’t lose as you depart this veil of tears, as naked as you came, is the contents of your heart. If your heart is set on what you are leaving behind, you likely know sadness, but if you are looking ahead it seems likely you are joyous.
I’ve wished I could be a bright channel Of drenching wisdom, a laughing summer brook Dancing to a distant sea, with banks full Of more than bankers dream, of fish no hook Can hurt, of poetry for small salmon, Singing of what’s salty, distant, giant, And painted by a stunning, endless dawn, And so I yearn to create what I can’t. I can’t obey God’s gravity like water. I resist the tugging of the puppet-string. Obedience has led poor lambs to slaughter. I fight the rule that leads to suffering. I’m like a cloud that fills the sky with thanks. Not all water stays within the banks.
Our on-the-scene reporters have been verifying things we learned from the O-buoys, back when we had those wonderful things. And what did the O-buoys teach us?
First, that “thickness” maps tend to average out areas with scattered thick bergs and open water, and show them as being neither thick nor open, but rather as an averaged area of thin ice. Second, “concentration” maps tend to do the same thing, for 25% coverage will be a solid color, when it should be speckled. Third, some maps have a cut-off point, and show concentrations below this point as open water, which can put “concentration” maps at conflict with “thickness” maps.
For example the Bremen maps are notorious for showing waters that are 10% covered with very thick bergs as being open waters, at the same time as the Naval Research Lab “thickness” maps show the same area covered with a skim of foot-thick ice. (A certain map I can’t find any more used to make me chuckle, for though it had a key that showed certain colors for 30% and 20% and 10% concentrations, they never bothered use those colors.) Last but not least, we have satellite views, which show the scattered ice, but even when you zoom in as far as you can zoom in, fail to show how open the open water is, nor how substantial the bergs are. The center of the zoomed-in picture below is 77° north, at the longitude our intrepid reporters are sailing into. (South is to the right.)
If you look over the shoulder of the sailor at the tiller in the first picture, you can see ice-free waters clear to the horizon. The O-bouys showed the same, at times. You have to keep in mind the ice is there, just over the curvature of the earth, which is something the men on the deck of this ship were well aware of, for they were and are privy to satellite pictures. After fighting over thick ice earlier, they were glad to make good time north while they could.
They were helped at first by south winds ahead of the last of a sequence of incarnations of “Ralph” moving from Siberia to Alaska. Behind this incarnation winds swung to the north, and they had slippery decks due to snow, and ropes made stiff by freezing temperatures, and also a high pressure was pumped behind the final “Ralph”. (Due to the whimsy of this site, high pressure that builds north from Siberia is named “Igor”.)
The appearance of Igor represented a pattern change, as Igor conquered the Pole and stalled there. Igor set himself up in a way that not only gave our reporters persistent headwinds, but also sucked moisture up from the Atlantic and past the north coast of Greenland and on towards the Pacific, giving them gray skies, but enough mildness to change their snow to rain. It also gave us a great picture of the way a sailor’s eyes look, when the sun has made itself scarce for days.
There is a reason sailors call fighting a headwind a “haul”, and they were working hard to make the good headway they made. One interesting concern they had was a concern about fresh water. With little ice in sight they couldn’t tap the fresh water of melt-water pools. Also the wind was rising, and with the water so open the seas had a chance to build. They were actually glad when a larger berg hove into view, and they could haul their light boat up onto the ice, which of course was far thicker than “thickness” maps would allow you to suspect ice could be. If it had been a flimsy berg it would have crumbled in the heavy seas, but it remained sturdy, allow them needed rest, and also a chance to do some scientific experiments, gathering surface ice so the grit in it can be studied in some lab to the south. (Very responsible behavior for fellows in the midst of a battle.)
While we are on the subject of science, I should mention that the dreary weather does tend to throw a wrench in the idea that open water will absorb a lot of sunshine. Also the temperature maps showed that in the center of the building high pressure Igor, where skies were likely clear, temperatures fell below freezing. This is something we witnessed before, through the eyes of both the North Pole Cameras and the O-buoys. Clear skies and sunshine did not guarantee warming, and in fact often went hand in hand with surprising cold, once past the middle of July.
It seems fairly obvious there are only around sixty days, thirty before and thirty after the solstice, when the incoming sunshine is greater than the heat lost due to radiational cooling to outer space. We are now past those sixty days. The ice will continue to melt until the middle of September, but from now on the heat that causes the melt will come from the water under the ice more than the sunshine above. We can still have above-freezing air temperatures, but they are due to south winds importing air rather than due to the sun being high enough to warm even the North Pole.
The surge of mild air, brought north from the Atlantic by Igor, did warm the Pole. The DMI graph now shows above-average temperatures up there for the first time all summer.
Of course, the above graph only includes areas north of 80° north latitude. Our intrepid adventurers are fighting their way up to 77° north. And Igor has created a lot of sub-freezing temperatures below 80°, on their side of the Pole. Even as Igor weakens, under duress from a Ralph-aspirant north of Hudson Bay and another north of Finland, the area in the wake of our sailors is below freezing.
As Igor weakened his winds slackened, and our sailors pushed off from their solid island of ice to head north. The Atlantic moisture created fog which froze on their sails and jammed their halyards with crystals of ice, but they made steady progress in light winds. And the sun finally reappeared and they sent this lovely view:
Though this patch of water is ice-free, albedo-fanatics should be concerned the sun is so low. This water is reflecting more sunlight than dirty snow and rotten ice does. As best as I can tell from charts, freshly fallen snow reflects 80% of the sunlight, old or dirty ice reflects 40% of the sunlight, and water when the sun is on the horizon? It reflects 65%.
This is what I like about on-the-scene reporters. Pictures don’t fudge the truth.
These particular sailors are well aware of what the sun getting low means, in the arctic. At least two have been through this before. They are well aware when the cold comes, it comes like a hammer. They likely wish the winds were a bit stronger, and they were going forward faster. But they also know they should take advantage of chances to rest, to gather strength for the ordeal that lies ahead:
Please notice sea-ice ahead of them. They are well aware they will soon be blocked by more. The same Atlantic-to-Pacific flow that has spread sea-ice apart on the Pacific side has jammed it together on the Atlantic side. Sea-ice which should have flushed south through Fram Strait to melt in the Atlantic as been retained, but this lack of melting actually makes the “extent” graph look lower, because all the ice which should be on its way to melt isn’t there.
If I have time I will update this post tomorrow with some graphs that show how this “extent” graph gives a false impression. In the meantime, do me a great favor and show compassion for these young sailors. Pray for them, for they are about to send us accurate reports about the true extent of sea-ice in the Central Arctic. They are facing lots of ice, and a terrific challenge, and if any harm comes to these young men certain Alarmists should have their socks sued off, for they promised us the Pole would be ice-free by 2015.
UPDATE —PAST 78° North—
Our intrepid sailors continue to send wonderful pictures. They continue to haul upwind. There is now more ice, but for the most part they are still sailing, though they did mention “some sledding”, which suggests crossing a flat berg blocking their way. They can haul up onto a flat berg in the evening, and are now starting to experience a brief “night”, which is twilight.
This picture is a good example of how “thickness” maps can fool you. This area gives the impression, from maps, of being covered by sea-ice a foot or two thick. Obviously this ice is thicker, and obviously the water in the background is very open.
They don’t like to pull up on the ice much, because Igor is being a pest, and now has all the ice moving the wrong way.
Igor pulled enough cross-polar Atlantic moisture over them to give them a snowy spell.
This is another picture that will distress the albedo-fanatics. The water is suppose to be warmed by benevolent August sunshine, but this water is not warming much.
As they head north they will be using their drone and satellite pictures to look for open water and, if ice blocks them, to seek ice that is nice and flat “baby ice” and not jumbled pressure ridges of multi-year ice. Therefore we can presume a “bias” will exist, and I don’t blame them one bit. They are not up here as tourists, (or Skeptics), seeking the biggest ice-formations they can find. They are not looking to see ice, but rather to cross ice.
You can see a bit of piled-up sea-ice behind them in this picture. It is understandable they would prefer to find ways around it. However they could be running into some pressure ridges soon.
The NRL thickness map suggests thicker ice ahead.
I am not certain of their longitude. I assume they avoided the first wall of thicker ice by heading through the whiter area in the lower left. (They have far better maps than this.) The lilac indicates ice that averages 1-2 feet thick, but as you move into the blue it averages 3-4 feet thick. Of course, you don’t have a clear idea how much of this “average” is open water, from these maps. You can bet they will be picking their way very carefully.
At first the temperatures fall slowly, but only ten days from now the average temperatures start to fall very steeply. Then I foresee them facing an interesting dilemma. They will see the salt water start to freeze. First they will face the problem of freezing spray, and then the problem of water that is filled with slush. For a time they may chose to avoid the water and travel over ice, as the water will be be in the process of freezing up. Watching from the cameras of O-buoys we’ve seen this happens with astonishing speed. The water fills with a shifting sludge of slush, and then the shifting stops as the ice becomes rigid. It is the youngest of “baby ice”, which we should likely call “infant ice”. But the question is, when is it safe to put the boat back on it? It will be very tempting, especially if they are dealing with pressure ridges on the older ice, as it will be nice and flat. I’m sort of glad it is their problem, and not mine, but I am very curious as well.
Currently the weather map shows Igor only slowly being budged east along the Siberian coast as the next “Ralph” presses in from the west.
Some models show Igor being so stubborn that he forms a sort of wall over towards Bering Strait, stopping Ralph’s eastward progress and deflecting him north over the Pole and on towards the Canadian Archipelago. This would give our sailors some tailwinds, at least at first, but I’m a little nervous about how big this version of Ralph could get. These fellows don’t want a summer gale like they saw in 2013. So far it looks like it will only be a 985 mb low, over the Pole by next Wednesday, according to the GFS.
In any case, I’ll post again soon on the progress of these three fellows.
More sea-ice than last year on East Siberian coasts and in Central Arctic; less on Atlantic side. (2017 to left, 2018 to right.) Just a smidgen left in Hudson Bay.
The fires in California are to be expected, just as the fires in parts of Australia are to be expected. Forest fires are part of each respective ecology. Trees in both places evolved to resist and in some cases take advantage of fires, and in both places the indigenous people conducted “controlled burns” to attempt to keep the naturally-occurring forest fires smaller and less terrifying than they might otherwise be. Conservationists, (as opposed to environmentalists), tend to agree with the idea of controlled burns, and of clearing brush and trees away from houses. These are sensible steps that can be taken, if people insist upon living in outrageously beautiful but dangerous landscapes.
I do not mean to be divisive, by separating conservationists from environmentalists. But I do think there is a difference between sensible reactions and emotional reactions. While it may be true that the original white settlers in California had no idea of the fiery ecology they were moving into, they did eventually learn, often the hard way, (and seldom by listening to the indigenous people). People’s learned responses are either pragmatic and practical, or else are yet another mistake, which will yet again have to be learned-from the hard way.
What I call “environmentalists” differ from conservationists by being far too quick to leap to a conclusion, and far too eager to put a single issue ahead of all others, and all too likely to have priorities all out of whack. Perhaps everyone is in some ways an environmentalist when young, and becomes a conservationist as they get older. “Once burnt, twice shy”.
To me California seems to be retarded in its development of the more level-headed conservationist thinking. My views are perhaps tainted, for, despite beautiful landscapes and people, the nineteen months I spent there were among the most miserable of my life. I always felt like a square peg in a round hole, but will not recuse myself from discussion, because observations have value even when they are negative.
The people I met largely lacked roots, for a number of reasons. What heritage California had (or was developing) was washed away by constant floods of newcomers. When I lived there in the early 1980’s it was rare to meet anyone over thirty who was born there. Few seemed to come there to “settle” as much as they came to “get rich quick”, like the original ’49ers seeking gold in the hills. Many who fled there seemed to desire to avoid responsibility more than to embrace it. All Californians seemed to be runaways, (at which point I took a hard look in the mirror and wondered how much I was projecting).
Much of California’s immature thinking seemed to crystallize into the influence of Hollywood. I did not approve, especially as I was still in my late twenties and thought I was still a Democrat, and Hollywood had just given me a Republican president.
It is likely a fine example of how confused and disjointed my thinking was at that time that I initially distrusted liberal Hollywood because of a conservative. But the simple fact of the matter is I found myself distrusting most TV and most movies (and all commercials) because they all seemed dishonest. They were sly rather than straightforward, appealing to emotion rather than common sense, rabble-rousing rather than speaking to the higher instincts. Worst was the fact many people would be frank about their tactics, using words like “subliminal” with an amazing (to me) unawareness that they were confessing to owning the ethics of a snake-oil salesman. They felt they had the power to manipulated money from the wallets of others into their own greedy paws, and could “control the masses.”
Some seemingly felt they had historical proof audiences could be emotionally influenced to an irrational degree. For example, in a 1934 movie Clark Gable removed his shirt to reveal he wore no undershirt, and it was said undershirt sales then crashed nation-wide. In actual fact, however, men nation-wide may have stopped wearing undershirts because the mid-1930’s had blazing hot summers, and also the Great Depression economy was so bad men cut back on buying all but the most necessary items of clothing. Perhaps Clark Gable reflected the common man, rather than vice versa. But people in Hollywood prefer to believe they lead and others follow.
For another example, some say the movie “Bambi” turned Americans against hunting deer. In actual fact, hundreds of thousands of farms were foreclosed-upon in the Great Depression, and millions left rural landscapes where they could hunt deer. Even if they did not move to a factory in a city, and were perhaps of the 250,000 refugees who became agricultural workers in the California countryside, their new boss was about as likely to approve of an “Okie” walking about his farm with a rifle as he would later be to see a “Wetback” with a rifle. Therefore perhaps “Bambi” is given more power than a cartoon deserves, and Walt Disney perhaps should not be seen as a founding father of the modern vegan movement. And perhaps people in Hollywood are a bit presumptive, and think they have more power and influence than they actually have. Perhaps some of them are actually more like followers of fads, than the fad’s creators. Rather than seekers of a Truth that causes emotional youths to becoming mature elders, perhaps stars and starlets are merely seekers of popularity, and are themselves somewhat juvenile.
Socialists have a great belief in the power of propaganda, even to the point of trusting in it more than they trust in the Truth. Their favorite motto, “The ends justify the means”, allows one to lie, if it is for a good cause. Of course, the “good cause” for a snake-oil salesman is his own income, at your expense. Another way to say “the ends justify the means” is to state “My good intentions justify my unethical behavior”, but life tends to teach us otherwise.
The saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is roughly a thousand years old, and Virgil’s “The path to hell is easy” dates from the time of Christ. But even if you don’t hear these old truths, life will teach you the same thing. If you tell a lie, and another gets burned, you are going to face an angry person.
As an environmentalist your intentions may have been good, when you forbid controlled burns and allowed the deadwood to build on the forest floor to levels that never occur in nature, and your intentions may have been good when you forbid cutting the brush back from houses. But you will have to face an angry home-owner when your good intentions result in their home looking like this:
At this point you are going to be in the position of scrambling for excuses. After all, you obviously had the power, for otherwise you could not have kept them from clearing the deadwood or cutting back the underbrush. As you have the power, you collect the taxes, and this likely involved reassuring blandishments such as, “Your taxes will fund the best fire fighters in the nation. You can buy this property with no worry.” Now you face a problem. How are you going to talk yourself out of this one? I have an idea! You can propose raising taxes even higher to fund better firefighters! The only problem is that this particular taxpayer will be paying no more taxes. I have another idea! You could learn from your mistake! But no, no, no! That would involve admitting a mistake, and the last Californian politician to do that was Ronald Reagan, when he confessed he once was a Democrat. Now it seems confessing-a-mistake is deemed a fate worse than death. Instead politicians scramble to dream up increasingly ludicrous excuses.
Perhaps it is for this reason that California’s governor recently made absurd statements about the current fires, stating the the cause was not deadwood, underbrush close to houses, and the fact it is natural for California’s forests to burn, but rather the cause was weather being the hottest since the dawn of civilization. How foolish he looks. All it takes is a quick check of records to show it was hotter just a three years ago. The old man must be getting feeble to come up with such a lame excuse. It’s in some ways sad; he was so much better at telling lies when younger. But they say, “there is no fool like an old fool”, and there is a tragedy worth weeping over when we witness a man living his entire life and never gaining wisdom.
Every cloud has its silver lining, and the upside to the poor governor’s sadly troubled mind is that his emotional hyperbole clearly demonstrates what I see as the difference between environmentalism and conservationism. It is the difference between emotion and common sense.
This also irks me, for the governor is giving emotion a bad name. As an artist I am big on emotion, whereas the “common sense” of a miserly banker repels me. This suggests a further distinction must be made, a difference between matter and spirit. One must differentiate between emotion all about materialism, and emotion about higher things that sacrifice materialism. In other words, we are not talking about a difference between heart and head, but rather of a proper balance between the two. A heart is no good if it’s greedy, and a head is no good if its irrational. The “common sense” I’m talking about recognizes this distinction.
It is a distinction accentuated in a time of crisis. When wildfires burn out of control some ordinary individuals are heroic, and some not so heroic.
The fire fighters are forced by the urgency of the situation to fly hot-dogging dives unbelievably close to trees, and to use fire retardants which might be less than advantageous to the endangered woolly tufted caterpillar.
Because of the refusal to have controlled burns, and the outlawing of cutting brush back where it would be wise, these fires have huge amounts of fuel to burn and can leap right over the barrier created by roads. Therefore fire fighters start fires by the sides of roads, and allow these backfires to burn slowly upwind to the major fires, so the major fire has no fuel to jump the road with, but the firefighters must work hard to keep their backfires under control and keep them from jumping the road.
And as all these heroic efforts are occurring, there are, of course, some who behave less heroicly
It is a bit embarrassing to admit, but, as a man attempting to follow the Christ, I find that some of the best examples of less-than-heroic behavior involve snide comments made by people who, at least in some cases, profess to be Christians, about other Christians facing the fire. As this behavior is difficult to describe, allow me to give you a snippet of the chatter on “Twitter”, as the city of Redding was threatened by raging fires and a particular church called “The Bethel Church” was also threatened:
I’ve seen a number of Reformed folks on Twitter rejoicing over the fire going on in Redding Ca. claiming it as a judgement of God over Bethel church while simultaneously mocking them. If that’s Christianity, count me out. Thankfully it’s not.
So, does anyone else find it interesting that Bethel Redding hasn’t been able to stop this Carr fire that is burning out of control in their city? Maybe one of their Holy Spirit fire tunnels got out of control?
Bethel church is literally asking their brainwashed worldwide followers to give money to them for their relief in the fire ???? Like what has bethel done in the last week to aid its citizens? Not open their massive cult doors that’s for sure
…38 years. As long as the Bethel cult members don’t repent and allow Jenn and her supporters to continue cursing and committing sexual perversion, they will add fuel to the fire and kill more than 2 people.
It’s awful about the Carr Fire, for the people, their homes, lives, &animals. I mourn the lost firefighters. But, Bethel Redding Church is a horrific affront to a holy God &especially to His spirit. I hope no injuries,but I do hope the fire causes a dispersal of all its adherents
PLEASE PRAY: Fires are burning near Redding, CA. Many of our Bethel friends have had to evacuate & more are now preparing to leave their homes. PRAY for winds to change, for RAIN, for fires to be contained & extinguished, and for God’s protection over the area & firefighters.
For what it’s worth, I did my best to do a bit of fact-checking on the Bethel Church, and apparently they did offer to open their doors to the refugees from the fire, but “authorities” (I gather the Red Cross) felt the offer could be dangerous. Their sanctuary had a single entrance and single exit, and was surrounded by brush, and the fire was drawing close. Rather than a refuge, the place might turn into a big crematory. Therefore the church switched its efforts to other ways of helping their stricken community.
To me not-opening-the-church’s-doors seems a sane and pragmatic response, by people dealing with a somewhat insane reality. Most of us cannot imagine having such a fire raging on the borders of our community, burning up homes at the edge of town. Therefore it seems, at the very least, unhelpful, to criticize the Bethel church for closing its doors to people in need.
(By the way, the disapproval towards this particular church seems to be because some feel its members have a faith in Jesus which is too “radical”.)
Earlier I stated that what separates a conservationist from an environmentalist is that the latter are “far too quick to leap to a conclusion, and far too eager to put a single issue ahead of all others, and all too likely to have priorities all out of whack”. Are we not seeing the same thing in a different form, when Christians add the flames of criticism to the flames from wildfires fellow Christians already face? How is this helpful? (Especially when no fact-checking is involved, and what is involved is largely gut-level dislike.)
Criticism is only truly helpful if it has Love and Truth at its core. A heart does no good when it’s hateful. Therefore, before I criticize California any further, I think I might be wise to go take a hard look in my own mirror.
I was first drawn into the Global Warming debate by accident, more than a decade and a half ago. As a latecomer to the internet, around 2002, I began blundering about the web, greatly enjoying the new sensation of chatting to total strangers in far away places, when I accidentally rubbed someone’s fur the wrong way, and they exploded.
As I recall the kerfuffle had something to do with Greenland and Vikings. I was telling a good tale about how the Atlantic was warmer when the Vikings were traveling to and fro between Norway and Greenland in open boats, and was describing how they were able to raise crops in Greenland on what is now permafrost. I thought such history was accepted fact. Abruptly I found myself under attack, and was a bit surprised by the zeal and ferocity of the attack.
Not that I am unacquainted with people becoming irate about inconsequential things. I once attended a baseball game at Fenway Park where a Yankees fan perhaps became a little too rude, and a Neanderthal arose from the row in front of him, turned around, and gave him a gorilla punch on the chest that made a sound like a bass drum.
However the response I received on the internet was more like the response you might get when you politely open a door for a suffragette, and she castigates you for being a chauvinist pig. I had no idea Greenland’s Vikings were such an inflammatory topic. After all, it was ancient history to me.
To be honest, I was secretly pleased by the response. As an unsuccessful writer I had spent years sending submissions off, and had received nothing but rejection slips. There is perhaps nothing quite as faceless and inhumane as a rejection slip. Getting castigated about Vikings was better than that.
Also I was not unacquainted with kerfuffles, because young artists are always confusing originality with being weird, and are always trying to be weirder than the next artist by thinking up something that has never been done before, irrespective of whether it is in good taste or not. (For example, putting a crucifix in a jar of urine.) After some wild times as a teenager I became jaded, and found such “originality” pointless and empty, perhaps because I noticed some things that are ancient are also always fresh and new. (For example, springtime). Therefore I became a very weird thing to be, for an artist of those days. I became more nonconformist than the nonconformists: Shortly before my twentieth birthday I became a conservative. (I also “got religion”.)
Not that I gave up on art completely; I still avoided paying rent and getting a Real Job, whenever possible, and foolishly spent money on coffee, beer and tobacco when I should have purchased food, and I liked talk much more than I liked action.
My talk led to further kerfuffles, because I was conservative concerning sex and drugs. Some found it outrageous that I should say monogamous marriage was a good thing. Many of my friends were bisexual or homosexual, and I explained to them I was a no-no-sexual. I remember one person called me the “token square” of the group. I learned how to debate; how to hold my ground in an argument. Back in those days debates could be civil, even fun, and discussions were “liberal” in the true meaning of the word. (One liberal belief of those times was that it was OK to be wrong, for you could always learn from your mistakes.)
I don’t blame people for having a sort of amnesia concerning the AIDS epidemic of the early 1980’s. It was not a happy time to be any sort of artist. However one victim of that time was, I believe, the idea you could learn from your mistakes. Where the Bible preaches a person should be forgiven seven times seventy times, AIDS didn’t forgive people even once. Entire neighborhoods became brief ghost towns, and then were re-populated as if AIDS had never happened, as if the nation hadn’t lost thousands of its most imaginative minds, and also lost a sort of crude honesty. People had to get on with their lives, and leave grief behind, but this willful amnesia, concerning trauma, does involve the word we all know and hate, called “denial.”
This change to the American psyche manifested in all sorts of ways, but I imagined I saw it manifesting as a sort of “gatekeeper” mentality among publishers. There were certain subjects they steered away from discussing, and these included the observations of a no-no-sexual concerning where the hippie concept of, “if it feels good, do it”, had landed us. To me it seemed a disservice to the people who had sacrificed their lives to AIDS not to say things that they, in their crude honesty, had stated at their end, concerning the so-called “freedom” of being addicted to sex and drugs. However perhaps such blunt truth was too opposed to the liberal narrative, which publishers made be their droning mantra. In any case, it was at that time I first felt that liberals were not being truly liberal any more. (Regan was the new president, and it was he who introduced the statement, “I didn’t leave the Democrat party; the Democrat party left me.”)
Also, since I am talking about blunt honesty, I should be honest and say there was another reason my submissions weren’t accepted. They sucked. Perhaps it is part of the process, when dealing with painful subjects, but the harder I worked at writing the worse my writing became. I knew it was bad, and, while I never completely gave up on writing, I gave up on hoping I’d ever be published.
One big problem I had was: A writer is suppose to write about something they know about, and there was something pathetic about a no-no-sexual writing about monogamous marriage. If I went into details about the love life of a no-no-sexual I’m afraid countless computer screens would be sprayed by coffee. Atlas cringed. Cupid rolled his eyes, and then left to seek psychiatric help.
Not that I was a virgin, but I was a bit like a young student fresh from college who presumes to lecture a grandmother of fifty about child-care. I lacked “real-life experience.” What I needed to do to remedy this shortcoming was muster the Vulcan objectivity of Star Trek’s Spock, find a single mother with three small children, and convince her to marry a 37-year-old failed-writer who had never held a job longer than seven months in his entire life. So I did it. If you don’t believe me, ask my wife. (Well, maybe I didn’t muster Vulcan objectivity, but I got the other parts right.) And now it is twenty-eight years later, and my writing does seem to have improved, somewhat. (Young authors, take heed.)
I first noticed this improvement back in 2002, when people actually started reading my writing. Before then it seemed all I needed to do was raise my index finger, say, “I have written something”, and there would be a jam in the doorway as all tried to flee the room. From my perspective, getting castigated by a total stranger on the web was a distinct improvement.
This brings me back to the original point I made 1198 words ago, which was that I became aware of the Global Warming debate around 2002 when I first entered the “World Wide Web,” and, due to a chance meeting, got screamed-at in print.
I immediately identified the person as the opposite of a true liberal; I.E: A “screamer.”
I was getting tired of being screamed-at. It seemed to be happening on an increasingly regular basis. Not only did I commit the faux pas of holding doors open for suffragettes, but I called people from Italy “Italians” and people from China “Chinamen”, and I failed to call Indians “Native Americans” and failed to call Eskimos “Inuit”. In terms of the grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren of America’s former slaves, I was always one step behind the eight ball of political correctness; I got screamed-at for calling them “Negro”, “Colored”, “Blacks”, “Afro-American”, and “African-American”. Amazingly, I almost never screamed back. This was due to a addictive herb that eventually destroyed my lungs. When someone screamed-at me I could always light up and inhale deeply. Of course, it was right at this time everyone began screaming-at people who smoked.
However getting screamed-at for saying the Vikings grew barley in Greenland was a new one, for me. It intrigued me. I lit up, inhaled deeply, and then replied to the screamer on the web in my best, most ingratiating, prosaic version of a-dog-with-its-tail-between-its-legs. Placated, the screamer calmed down and politely informed me everything I thought I knew about Vikings was incorrect, because his Bible said so. Only he didn’t use the word “Bible.” He used the words “IPCC Report”.
In retrospect I think the people behind that report had a very low opinion of the ability of ordinary laymen to gather data on their own. They failed to understand that, while ordinary people do not keep the records that academics do, they often have minds like sponges concerning trivia. Sports reporters are aware of this, because they often meet fans who know more about particular teams and ball-players than they do, and who have this knowledge right at their fingertips. (I once told a Math teacher I couldn’t memorize, andthe clever teacher then asked me what Carl Yastrzemski’s batting average was in 1963, and without a pause I answered “.321″.) However other members of the media considered the general public to be ignoramuses and “sheeple.” Many could not comprehend the sheer bulk of knowledge ordinary people collect as a hobby. Perhaps they didn’t interview enough, for, if you have the time, you can learn a great deal of history from a grandmother, if you just ask her about the clutter of objects strewn about her parlor and on her coffee table. And also, long before the AMO was “officially” discovered by meteorologists, you could learn of it if you bothered to listen to garrulous old fishermen on the coast of Maine.
What the writers of the IPCC report didn’t know about an ignoramus like myself was that I’d been fascinated by Vikings since I was six years old, when my father took me to a strange structure by the banks of the Charles River near Boston called “Norembega Tower”.
The structure was erected by a crackpot named Eben Horsford, who likely did more to confuse the history of Vikings than to clarify it, but Norembega Tower did (along with my father) open my eyes to the mysterious history of New England before the Mayflower.
Between 1959 and 2002 I’d had 43 years to poke about, as a hobby, because I was curious. I should add I was 21 years old before I left the vicinity of Norembega Tower, and that involved boyhood and adolescence, (wherein one pokes and snoops in improper ways and in improper places). I could go on for pages about the odd lore I learned about that area, the pictographs; the peculiar copper objects plowed up in fields and used as scrap metal; the lore early Puritans learned from the final survivors of the Massachusetts tribe. It was so fascinating and engrossing that I continued to seize upon every article I could find, every obscure book I could pour through. (One thing about failed-writers like myself is that, when we are broke and weather gets cold, a warm place to hang out is a town’s public library, and, if you have to hang out there rather than with babes in a nightclub, you might as well read books about Vikings.)
To cut a 500-page-story short, by 2002 I had collected a lot of trivia pertaining to Vikings. I kept no notes, any more than a sports fan keeps notes. It was a hobby, interesting to me but, I assumed, not to many others. It was like a grandmother’s clutter, quite interesting stuff, if you have the time to visit and ask questions and listen to the answers, but about as useful as your uncle’s collection of butterflies, when it came to paying my bills.
I knew so much trivia about Vikings that it was instantly obvious to me that the IPCC report was attempting to “erase the Medieval Warm Period”, because it was at variance to everything I had ever learned about Greenland‘s Vikings.
Initially I supposed some stupendous discovery lay behind the change to the history books. After all, the Piltdown Skull was only exposed as a hoax the year I was born, and older textbooks I poured through as a child still regarded it as authentic. The theory of Continental Drift exploded onto the scene during the 1960’s, so I knew fresh discoveries could rewrite geology books. However there were no fresh discoveries in the IPCC report, concerning Vikings. There was only the willful ignoring of knowledge that already existed.
I think being tested sometimes clarifies things. For example, one time when I was young I was stating pacifism was a good thing, and my older brother responded that pacifists were weenies, so I took a swing at his jaw. I flunked that test. In like manner, if you want to test how patient, tolerant and kind Christians are, light up a cigarette in church. In 2002 I discovered a good way to see how liberal so-called liberals actually were was to criticize the IPCC report. One was able to quickly ascertain whether a person was a screamer or not. As far as I was concerned, many liberals flunked liberalism.
As much as I liked the attention I got, I found the web a lonely place at first. In 2002 there were no sites like “Climate Audit,” “Watts Up With That,” or “Real Climate Science,“ and the sites I did find tended to be increasingly “disappearing” the Medieval Warm Period. I found it unnerving. Perhaps it was not as bad as actual people being “disappeared”, as happened in Argentina in the late 1970‘s and early 1980‘s, but it was creepy all the same, especially when I seemed to be the only one noticing.
It is when you are alone that the self-doubt sets in. It’s unpleasant, but probably a good thing, because if you don’t wonder if you are deluded, every now and again, then you probably are. Fortunately I’d been toughened up by rejection slips and, even tougher, the rejections of beautiful women, and had survived miserable moments which didn’t seem momentary at the time. Now I was unexpectedly a married man with a small business. What did I care if fools wanted to disappear the Medieval Warm Period? Yet I did care. Not only was a 500-year-long tale and mystery being forgotten, but the hard work of many scientists was being relegated to what Trotsky called “The dustbin of history.”
In order to survive the sense of being marginalized I reached into my bag of tricks, for ego-bolstering gadgets I’d used as an unsuccessful writer and a no-no-sexual. For example, it helps to tell yourself you aren’t the first to be laughed-at: There were people who stated that the Piltdown skull was made of two skulls joined together at the time of its discovery, who were scorned, and informed they were “merely jealous.” In like manner Alfred Wegener was not the first to be ignored for suggesting continents drifted. The applause of the politically correct is not the true measure of true correctness. Paul Simon traced a truth when he sang:
“Such are promises: All lies and jest, But a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”
Therefore I was prepared to hold my beliefs firmly, without being agreed with, but then came the delight of discovering I wasn’t the only one noticing the Medieval Warm Period being disappeared. Besides screamers, I met thinkers on the web. They directed me to John L. Daly’s website, “Still Waiting For Greenhouse”, and my delight increased.
In some ways I was slow to catch on to what was occurring. Dawn broke slowly on Marblehead. I initially had the naïve belief that scientists were not corruptible, as if the whiteness of a lab-coat signified sainthood. Mistakes might be made, but certainly not on purpose. Words beginning with the “F” sound, such as “fake”, “fudged”, “phony,” and “fraud”, were not to be used. But then, with a slowly growing sense of incredulity, cracks in the facade of the so-called “consensus” began to appear. Sites like Climate Audit popped up overnight, as miraculous as mushrooms, and, due to the tedious and painstaking work of men like McIntyre and Mckitrick, good, old-fashioned, liberal dialog occurred.
Personally, much of their math was above my head, but I do have a good nose for the reek of politics, and the stink of corruption was increasingly palpable. Event followed event, from the marginalization and de-funding of honest scientists like William Gray to the bloated, incorrect pontifications of Al Gore to the corruption of Wikipedia by William Connolley through the hockey stick debacle of Michael Mann and on to Climategate, until a person would have to be a complete moron not to smell a rat, it seemed to me, yet still the screamers behaved like see-no-evil monkeys. Increasingly they were like monkeys that screamed at you, but back before Climategate there were still a few who would try to explain their delusions in a articulate, civil and humane manner. (God bless them.)
Their explanations always seemed to involve petty details about whether minimum-maximum thermometers were reset at noon or at sunset, or some such quibble, and this quibble was then put into a computer and blended at the puree-setting, and in the end a sludge was extruded that suggested it was warmer now than in the Dust Bowl. I confess I simply didn’t have the patience and stamina of people like McIntyre and Mckitrick, who could follow them step by step through the quibble and “keep their eye on the pea.”
But why bother? I’d known old men who actually lived in Kansas and Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl, and who had fought to avoid becoming dispossessed Okies, and who won the battle, and kept their farms, at a time 2.5 million fled the parched landscape as refugees. The tales they told left absolutely no doubt. No modern heat-wave comes close to what they experienced. Where we whimper about the electrical bills our air conditioners run up, when a heat wave has a few days above a hundred, they experienced day after day with temperatures well above 110 degrees, with no rain, and with dust everywhere, even inside the icebox, and with static electricity so bad that men stopped shaking hands and cars dragged grounding-chains so the vehicle’s spark plugs would work correctly. Anyone who thinks it is hotter now than in the 1930’s is not merely a moron. They are dead wrong.
I mean, does it really matter all that much whether you are reading thermometers at noon or sunset, when the maximum, registered automatically, rarely is above 110° now, but was above 110° day after day, summer after summer, in the mid 1930’s? Do you have any idea what those people endured, without air conditioners? Are you trying to say they exaggerated, and were liars when they noted down the temperatures at their weather stations? Do you think it makes you look tougher than they were, to say it is hotter now? You’re an idiot.
It should now be obvious to you that I had (and have) a tendency to scream at the screamers. It has been my downfall ever since I attempted to slug my brother for saying pacifists were weenies. In fact the first time I ever had a comment “disappeared” from a website was not at an Alarmist website, (because I almost never commented there). Rather it was at Climate Audit, where I told Steve McIntyre he was too nice, because the people he was dealing with were….and then I used a lot of words beginning with the “F” sound.
Being disappeared from Climate Audit made me stop and think. The experience was as crushing as a rejection slip. But it came from someone I respected far more than the publishers who rejected my writing. After due consideration, I decided it probably was unwise to scream at the screamers.
I also decided that, to avoid screaming, I should avoid getting in over my head. I should avoid anything resembling Math class. I should avoid anything involving computer code. I should avoid anything that quibbled about when thermometers were read. Rather I should stick with what the thermometers read. I should stick with the bare knuckled stuff, the stuff that people who work outside actually experience.
For, when you think of it, the Vikings of Greenland had no computers. They had no maximum-minimum thermometers, so they didn’t have to worry about whether to read them at noon or at sunset. But they did have to survive, and in doing so they did stuff we can’t. They plowed fields where we can’t. They raised 2000 cattle and 100,000 goats and sheep where we can’t. They supplied hay in winter for these herds where we can’t. They supplied water for these vast herds, in the dead of winter where everything now freezes, where we can’t. And when they died, they were buried in graves where we would need a jackhammer to penetrate the permafrost. Most amazing of all, they were able to do all these things we can’t do, even though it was colder then than it is now.
Bwah-ha-ha! Do you see how diabolical I’m being? I’m avoiding all arguments with Michael Mann, ducking all his dweebie computer codes and math, for I’m agreeing that his malarkey-conclusions are correct. I’m facetiously saying indeed it was colder back then. But this makes the Vikings look even more amazing then they already looked, back before the Medieval Warm Period got erased. Where Herbert Lamb explained how the Medieval Warm Period made the Viking’s amazing achievements possible, Michael Mann’s revisionist history makes Vikings look superhuman.
In essence Michal Mann has proven that, if you leave Vikings alone, they can do superhuman stuff. This makes him a libertarian. The progressives will begin to regard him with deep suspicion, and start to consider sending him to a gulag to be reeducated.
(Bwah-ha-ha! Perhaps this is not called “science“. Perhaps it’s called “revenge“.)
Leaving Michael Mann to stew in his own juices freed me to compile some bare knuckled stuff of my own. I had to compile, because it had become obvious to me, when dealing with screamers in various chat rooms, that I was unarmed. There was a weapon used called “the link.” It wasn’t enough to simply say, “Look, buddy, I’ve spent 43 years studying Vikings, and what you are saying is horns-waggle.” They would demand a link, preferably to a peer-reviewed study. And then they would hit me with a link, usually to an IPCC study, which wasn’t very fair, for my pathetic computer would freeze up when I tried to download the massive things. Often I had to resort to trickery, typing something like, “Which point are you referring to? Please clip and paste.” In this way I didn’t have to read the whole damn IPCC report, but just got significant punch-lines. Somewhat accidentally, this turned out to be an important phase in dealing with screamers: Move the discussion from the general to the specific.
No one seemed very interested in what I had learned in 43 years of browsing. I knew trivia that might have lifted their eyebrows to their hairlines, but they were more interested in telling me I was wrong. Therefore I developed the strategy of asking questions, (even though I privately thought I knew it all, and they were the ignoramuses). This strategy turned out to be smart, for I not only learned I don’t know it all, and learned new trivia, but also it turned out that asking questions was a great way to move the subject from the general to the specific.
Once the subject became specific, another wonderful phenomenon might occur. A lurker in the chat room would get tired of watching me ask questions, and seeing me be lectured by a screamer, and they’d become exasperated. They would interrupt, in a sense shoving me aside and challenging the screamer with specific rebuttals, including the all-important “links”. This allowed me sit back and be lazy, and to check out both Alarmist links and Skeptic links at my own leisure.
The best discussions involved Alarmists who were only screamers part of the time, and had a streak of old-fashioned liberalism. Part of the time they allowed you get a word in edgewise. Battles of links occurred, not on a general level but a specific level, and, because things were discussed on a specific level, point by point various things asserted in the IPCC report’s conclusions were rebutted.
This could not happen in chat rooms that were too rigorously moderated. Strict moderators were too prone to “disappear” opposing views, leaving a situation that resembled parrots in an echo chamber. However, without moderation, things could deteriorate swiftly to a barroom brawl, unless the people in the barroom supplied some moderation of their own. Occasionally one could chance upon such a barroom. Occasionally one bumbled into a chat room where people were less concerned with “winning”, and were just plain curious.
For a short period of time in 2005 and 2006, one such place I found was the Accuweather Global Warming chat room. Initially it did resemble a barroom, for initially the moderator Brett Anderson was like a permissive parent, and allowed the children to run wild. However, in one of those rare moments when humanity behaves sanely, the people in the barroom moderated themselves, slightly, at least some of the time, and there was old-fashioned liberal debate, with people actually displaying curiosity about another’s views, and actually learning, (and all sorts of links flying to and fro).
The best exchanges were between an Alarmist who called himself “Brookline Tom” and a Skeptic who called himself “Patrick Henry”. They could be very rude to each other, but were rude with wit that made me laugh, and also they had the decency to supply links to each other to make their points. Consequently a great deal of learning occurred. Sadly the moderation at the site became far more strict in 2007, both were eventually banned, and then the learning ceased.
It might be fun at some point to dig up the old transcripts of that site, during its rowdier period, so people could see what it looks like to have a positive debate despite uproars, where learning occurs and one sees a movement forward. One thing I have noticed about some so-called “progressives” is that they don’t like such progress. Some believe debate involves out-screaming ones opponant. They don’t want to learn, and say things such as “the science is settled”, which are a stumbling block to learning anything new.
“The science is settled” accepts the presupposition that there is nothing left to learn. I don’t like the idea because it is, above all, very boring. It also suggests we were born with voices due to some sort of evolutionary mistake. While some husbands might grant that evolution made a mistake to give their wives voices, for the most part we recognize that we have voices for a positive reason. At the very least we are suppose to alert each other to unseen dangers, so adjustments can be made. Even the most despotic captain will have a sailor at the bow of the boat to alert him to hidden reefs and floating debris; a government without such feedback is like a ship without a tiller to change course with, heading steadfastly for a reef. Feedback is necessary to change course, and the necessary feedback often manifests as debate.
There are situations where the turning of the tide creates swirls in the entrance of harbors that look all the world like surf breaking on a shallow bar, though the water is in fact deep. There are also situations where a dredged channel at the entrance of a harbor is filled-in by storm, and a new sandbar abruptly appears where charts state the channel is safe. In truth the only changeless thing is change itself, and the captain who relies too much on any sort of autopilot, (and “the science is settled” is an autopilot), is liable to see his ship become an Exxon Valdez.
Anyway, if “the science was settled” there would have been no need for revisions of the IPCC reports. The very fact there were revisions either indicated a culprit was changing his alibi, or it proved the science wasn’t settled after all. Differences between the body of the report and the “Summary for Policymakers” were also unsettling. Furthermore, even if one accepted the idea of “95% confidence,” that also allowed for 5% doubt. Lastly, a lot of the “science” was the nitpicking monkeying-around that drives me to the verge of being a screamer, and who wants that?
I was far more comfortable in the bare knuckled world of the outdoors, and it became fairly obvious to me, early on, that screamers in the Global Warming debates were not all that familiar with the outdoors. This seemed odd to me, considering “climate” is not an indoors thing. So I asked lots of polite questions. I discovered that a few screamers had been on “field studies” as interns, and, when prodded, tended to wax romantically and even to miss the experience. However for most screamers such study was an experience of their youth, all but forgotten in their myopic concentration on flickering computer screens. And for others, screens was all they has ever known. They spoke of tree rings, but had never chainsawed a tree in their life. Their view of the sea was a satellite view. They didn’t know the sea a fisherman knows.
I recognized this put me at an advantage, for I had spent time at sea, in boats big and small, and had cut lumber and scanned tree rings, and worked on farms. Furthermore, I has met and talked with men who had spent far more time at sea than I had, cut and milled far more lumber than I had, and farmed far longer and more successfully than I ever dreamed of farming, and such people impart a wealth of knowledge, though not called professors. Lastly, one rule I had hammered into my head as a young writer was that you should not write about things you don’t know about, for, if you do, you risk looking like a fool.
Just as an example, I had some book-learning about buffalo, but no actual experience of how powerful they are until I saw a herd approach a road at Yellowstone Park. Traffic stopped and tourists busily clicked pictures, blissfully unaware they had created a bumper-to-bumper roadblock for the buffalo. A big bull then shifted a few cars and the herd crossed the road. This impressed me with how strong buffalo are, for I’d never seen cows shift cars like that, but then, the same summer, a tough cowboy down on the Arizona-New Mexico border informed me, (not really asking), that I was going to help him pick up a couple of buffalo and move them to a pasture beside his tourist-trap, as they would persuade tourists to stop. We had to transport them fifteen miles. To cut a long story short, the horse-trailer began with a square shape and when we off-loaded the buffalo it was a rounded horse-trailer. I received no college credits, but I think I know more about the strength of buffalo than people who have studied environmentalism in college, and who sometimes presume to lecture me.
The worst of such people honestly could not tell a buffalo from a musk ox, but are far too big for their britches. They are as foolish as a young no-no-sexual thinking he has a clue about monogamous marriage, and, because I have been that foolish, rather than telling buffalo-experts they do not know their ass from their elbow, I ask a question. In this example the question might be, “Have you ever moved two buffalo fifteen miles in a horse trailer?” How they respond will tell you a lot. If they show interest then there is hope, for they may be a true student. If they get huffy, and lift their nose, and sneer, then there is little hope they are anything but a dyed-in-the-wool screamer.
Despite the fact my temper occasionally ruins things, for the most part I have been a good student, for I have discovered others have done things I simply haven’t found the time to do. I may have moved a buffalo, but have never yet moved a yak, and therefore ,if I met someone who casually mentioned they’d moved a yak, I’d be all ears, and ask all sorts of follow-up questions.
I think I became a good interviewer because in my youth hitchhiking was a great form of public transportation, and this involved being picked up by total strangers, and it was only polite to ask polite questions. However I soon moved beyond mere politeness. Because I hitchhiked long distances, for example from Boston to Montreal or Florida, I had some long conversations, and heard some tales which were amazing. A man might have returned from Vietnam years earlier and, during a long drive into the night, chose to unload a tale he hadn’t even told his wife. I got the feeling most people live lives which are humdrum 95% of the time, but all have a 5% that is so mind-blowing that they deserve to be listened to. To call people “sheeple” is to miss something beautiful. It is like missing the most spectacular sunset in ten years, because you are engrossed with your cellphone, or contemplating your navel.
Though times have changed and hitchhiking is no longer the option it once was, I find I now have the same experience by studying history. 95% of history may be banal and boring, but 5% is astounding. I think this may have been what attracted me to Vikings in the first place. Their strange idea of heaven let them dare do stuff I‘d never dare. The more I looked the more I was amazed. Who were the “Rus” of Russia? Vikings. Who guarded the final Roman emperors of the Byzantine Empire? Vikings. Who were the Normans who conquered Saxon England? Vikings. Why is Northern Ireland different from Ireland? Vikings. What made the common law of Yorkshire different from southern England’s, (Daneslaw), and contributed to the independence of the dukes up there, and thus was part of what sparked the Magna Carta? Vikings. Who colonized Greenland successfully, for twice as long as the United States has existed? Vikings.
The Vikings are not the only ones who step outside the dull norm, and dare to be great. History has all sorts of examples of adventurers, both winners and losers. And it just so happens that some of these adventurers visited Greenland, and the arctic. Now that I’m too old to go to sea, (or to hitchhike for that matter), I hitchhike in a different way. There are so many great tales; so many great journeys to join.
Somewhat accidentally, if you go on these adventures with bygone men, you learn about sea-ice conditions. This enables you to recognize certain “reconstructions” of past sea-ice situations are just plain silly, for there is no way the adventurers could have sailed where they sailed without open water. (For a sailing ship could be halted by as little as an inch of sea-ice.)
For example, I never set out to learn the sea-ice conditions in Hudson Bay in the years 1610 through 1614. I just did some armchair-hitchhiking, and traveled up that way with Henry Hudson aboard the Discovery. I shared their joy as they came through Hudson Strait and headed south in Hudson Bay, thinking they were in the Pacific. I understood their dismay when they found no warmer lands, and became trapped when ice formed in the fall, and endured the long winter ashore in James Bay. The next spring, when Henry wanted to explore onward, the crew mutinied and set him, his son, and seven loyal members of the crew adrift in a shallot. For a day Henry and his crew desperately rowed after the Discovery, but finally they faded into the distance, and Henry was never seen again.
Two years later Thomas Button sailed the Discovery and another ship back there, searching for Henry but finding no sign of him, and continuing on to explore the west coast of Hudson Bay and perhaps up the Nelson River to Lake Winnipeg. They spent a winter frozen in at the mouth of the Nelson River, and then continued north up the west coast, searching for a route to the Pacific. The sea-ice was bad enough to cost them their second ship, the Resolution, and in September they headed back to England.
Now imagine, if you will, I am in a chat room on line and meet a young whippersnapper who is convinced we are now experiencing “unprecedented” melting at the Pole, and he directs me to a link that shows far more sea-ice in the past, and this link suggests Hudson Bay was inaccessible because Hudson Strait was frozen up during the Little Ice Age. Can you blame me for asking a little question? Namely, “How did Henry Hudson and Thomas Button get in there, if the strait was frozen?” Sometimes even a simple question like this can start the screaming, and get me called “a denier”.
It’s a pity, because screamers miss so many cool stories. For example, Luke Foxe battled sea-ice to enter the Bay through Hudson Strait in 1631, and explored down the west coast of the Bay, and what does he discover? Another Englishman, named Thomas James. (There is an interesting sidetrack here, about the rivalry and competition between the merchants of London and the merchants of Bristol, but I must try to keep on track.)
All these tales drifted about in my head during the last century, and people had a tenancy to roll their eyes when I shared what I knew. They dismissed me as a sailor spinning yarns, especially if they deemed themselves more educated than me. It is sad but true that education makes some people stupid. (In 1974 I witnessed an old lobster-man try to tell a oceanography student about the AMO, twenty years before it was officially discovered, and I’ll never forget how smug and condescending the young man was.) But one of the wonders of the internet is that you can search and find links. (Of course, one can always assume the link might be to a fraud, and sometimes they are.) But for what its worth, here’s a link to the meeting of Luke Foxe and Thomas James in Hudson Bay in August, 1631:
A lot of the adventuring I read about was prompted by the greed of merchants, and their hope to get rich quick. The French had monopoly on the fur trade, but two Frenchmen had heard there were rich lands, in terms of fur, up towards Hudson Bay. The French governor didn’t want power shifting away from the Saint Lawrence River, and forbid them from exploring, and when they headed north anyway, and returned with heaps of furs, the governor confiscated the furs. Bad move. The two men headed straight to Boston to stir up the greed of merchants there. That is how we know Hudson Strait was choked with sea-ice in 1663. The voyage up from Boston couldn’t get into Hudson Bay. The Boston merchants had invested in a “bad risk”. Then the two Frenchmen headed off to London, the Nonsuch sailed in 1668, and that is how we know Hudson Strait was open in 1668, for 1668 marked the establishment of the first post of the Hudson Bay Company, (and also of a hundred years of war with France in Canada, because the French didn’t want the English butting in to their fur monopoly).
In any case, my point is that sea-ice was never the focus of my armchair-hitchhiking. I simply couldn’t afford a yacht, because I never had a million-seller, and therefore had to go on vicarious adventures, sitting in public libraries to stay warm, or, when slightly better off, sitting in taverns with fishermen.
The college-educated tended to sniff and discredit many tales as “mere lore”, and to refuse to speculate without actual artifacts. But things did happen without leaving much of a trace. Even when they left a trace the trace might get bulldozed. For example, not far from Norumbega Tower there was a sandy field that had never been plowed, because it was deemed too sterile to be more than pasture. Yet the Massachusetts tribe had figured out how to use it to grow corn. They scraped the topsoil together into mounds, gathered herring from the Charles River, and stuck a herring in each mound. The lumps were still faintly visible in that pasture when my father was a boy. Now it is a parking lot. The proof is gone. That evidence has entered the world of lore, and stuffy archaeologists refuse to accept lore.
(I discovered there is actually a way to get stuffy archaeologists to speculate. Buy them a beer, and then another, and then another. Then you may see their eyes get dreamy, and learn some interesting lore, but the next morning you’ll find them cross, hung-over, and again dismissive.)
The further back you get in time towards the Vikings of Greenland the more you enter the landscape of lore. One reason for this is that merchants back then were secretive. You stood to have your goods confiscated if the government found out you didn’t have the proper permits. The Greenland Vikings were great traders, but towards the end faced taxes imposed by the King of Norway, the Hanseatic League, and the Pope. One could hardly blame them if they vanished from the official records and lived as smugglers.
Also one trade item of that time was human beings. Ships could swoop into coastal towns and snatch up people who didn’t run fast enough. This didn’t merely occur in Africa; there were over a million white slaves, in Muslim lands and even among rich Christians. In fact some theorize that may have been the end of the final Greenland Vikings. Pirates swooped in and they were swept off to the Mediterrean, which might have been a blessing in disguise. Most of their livestock had been killed by cold, and as slaves they might have even been better fed. Certainly they would have been warmer.
Also just as certainly such an act of piracy and enslavement would be talked about in waterfront taverns. There is all sorts of speculation about the coincidence of having two Italians, Christopher Columbus and John Cabot, both become interested in lands across the Atlantic, and in sailing west, at the same time. (John Cabot is also recorded as transporting at least one slave from Egypt and selling the slave in Crete.) They were both experienced traders and travelers, and both visited Bristol, where there was lore that men crossed the Atlantic in the 1470’s, (but no evidence).
The only evidence of cross-Atlantic-voyages that we have involves men who sought royal sponsors, and thus are men who still exist to this day, in yellowed parchments. It is likely there were other sailors who preferred to remain unknown, but, (unless you know how crazy sailors can be,) such likelihood is dismissed as “unfounded”. Adding to all the mystery is that John Cabot’s third and final voyage was funded by England but aimed into western lands the Pope had officially given to Spain, and there is no record of any return. In fact the textbooks of my youth stated Cabot had “died at sea”. Lore speculated otherwise, fueled by a map of that time which shows the east coast of North America despite the fact we have no official record of any explorer sailing that coast. The lore suggests the return of Cabot’s third voyage was top-secret, and that other top-secret voyages also occurred, with other captains. Why should things be so hush-hush? Well, Spain had it’s spies. And we do have a yellowed letter from a (perhaps traitorous) Englishman to Christopher Columbus, describing what John Cabot was up to before he left on his third voyage.
During my youth the only way to look at rare books and yellowed documents was to travel to far away places and get permission to see them. Most history came through a sort of filter, as the person who actually could afford to travel and look at ancient papers had to decide what trivia was important and what could be discarded. Different viewers would seize upon different items as important, and this led to all sorts of interesting variations stemming from what was in some cases the exact same documents. In other cases the inclusion of a single scrap of new, yellowed information resulted on a whole new take on what had occurred in the mists of the past.
Now such documents are scanned and made available on the web, and a person can, without leaving their chair, accomplish research in an hour that would have formerly taken thousands of miles of travel and years of effort. It is wonderful, even if it seems to stimulate as much wild speculation as it puts to rest.
One thing I greatly enjoy is to see some fragment of lore, which I was told was ridiculous to even consider, emerge and become, if not fact, at least plausible. For example, due to a yellowed letter of King Henry VII being discovered and published in 2007, an explorer named William Weston now “might“ have explored up to the mouth of Hudson Bay in 1499. He didn’t even exist, as an explorer, fifteen years ago. Not that his journey is an established fact, but it does suggest I wasn’t a complete dope to listen to lore and entertain hypotheses. And it is always reassuring to learn you not a complete dope.
Which is what the screamers do: Call people complete dopes. They completely close down a conversation, refusing to even entertain a new idea. I am at a loss to explain why anyone would want to be so narrow. But this narrowness seems to be important to understand, because, (to me at least), it seems screaming is becoming more and more commonplace.
I can only conclude there is a great dread of being “wrong”. A differing view is seen as a terrible threat, as if mankind’s Universal Mind is a one-party-system and all dissidents must be sent to a gulag to be reeducated. You had better be “right”, because the alternative is dreadful.
Oddest is that the very people who hold this narrow view pay lip-service to the idea of “respecting diversity”. Under examination, however, this “respect” entails never stating your personal view, because it might offend a differing view. It is a preposterous commandment. How can one be honoring difference, if one isn’t allowed to differ?
The escape from this downward spiral of fear is to stop being afraid of being wrong. Instead demonstrate it is good fun to be wrong. How? By showing that every time you see you were wrong you are opening your eyes to something new, something enlightening. It is actually pleasant to have a light bulb go off in your head.
This should also be the case when correcting another. You are not clobbering them over the head by calling them a complete dope. Reeducation shouldn’t involve the pain and penalties of a gulag. Rather it is enlightenment. (This was the idea behind the old liberalism, that now seems so forgotten).
Therefore, when faced with some rabid Alarmist who is utterly freaking out about the sight of melt-water pools on arctic sea-ice, I don’t tell them they are are a complete dope, for, even if they are 99.99% a dope, that is not a complete dope. There’s a little bit of God in everyone, even if it is only .01%, and you don’t want to tread on God.
Another word for “a dope” is “ignorant”, and we are all ignorant about some things. The best way to deal with ignorance is to arrest it with enlightenment. Ask questions, even if you are fairly sure of what they’ll answer. Ask them, “What’s so alarming about a melt-water pool?” Find out what the starting point is, and move on from there, keeping the emphasis on wonderment. For example, if they are stressing that melt-water pools are a new phenomenon, ask, “I wonder what caused the melt-water pool on the DC-3 runway on Fletcher’s Ice Island in 1959?” And don’t be snide about it. Ask as if you really want to hear, and wait patiently for what they come up with. It could be interesting.
Of course, some will never want to admit they never heard of Fletcher’s Ice Island, which is fun to watch, but there will be a few who will inquire, “What was Fletcher’s Ice Island?” Then you must seize the chance to tell a good tale of arctic adventure.
Make your eyes very round, and describe how crazy the pilots were, landing aircraft with no landing lights and terrible visibility and deplorable navigation aids. Tell of the first airplane to land at the Pole in March 1952, and how this national heritage artifact crashed on Fletcher’s Ice Island in November the same year.
Don’t forget to tell how the men on Fletcher’s Ice Island could only be supplied by airdrops in the summer, when the ice grew too slushy for landings, or about the time the generator failed and they all faced freezing to death as they frantically rebuilt it. You might mention the one murder, and also the complete chaos that descended another time, when two women were sent to the Island for a while and a multitude of men fell in love with them all at once. A lot happened between 1952 and 1978. And lastly, while your at it, you might casually drop a link to a scientific paper written in 1952 indicating plenty of summer melting occurred back then. Fletcher’s Ice Island had lakes and flowing streams (and gravel and a set of caribou antlers.)
The point of all this is to show that learning something new doesn’t need to involve a gulag. It can be filled with wonder and amazement. The arctic involves amazing tales of survival. I could tell fifty, but, as I am at risk of becoming far too long-winded, allow me to conclude with unseemly haste.
Members of the 1871 Polaris expedition saw their captain murdered, and then were abandoned on an ice flow, and drifted from Nares Strait 1800 miles to off the coast of Labrador, where they were rescued by a sealing ship. Not only does this teach about the tenacity of the human spirit, but teaches about the drift of sea-ice in Baffin Bay.
In like manner, the attempt of Nansen during 1893-96 to reach the Pole is an epic. (Blue line: Drift of the ship Fram locked in sea-ice. Green Line: Nansen and Johanson’s journey by sledge and kayak.)
There are lessons in failure as well. Three men died attempting to reach the Pole by balloon in 1897, yet we have film and records of their effort, discovered with their corpses on an Arctic island in 1930.
Of course, despite all the wonders one can see as a hitchhiker through history, some sour pusses prefer screaming, to being enlightened. With these, there is a final thing you can try as a last resort. Gently take their hand, pat it, and quietly say, “You are very sensitive, aren’t you?” You’d be surprised at the responses you might get. Some become bashful, and say, “aw shucks”, while other can abruptly burst into tears.
And also, of course, some still insist upon screaming. You can’t win them all.
However, as I look around this increasingly demented world, it seems wise to be completely out of the ordinary, as the Vikings were when they first appeared. Back then, what was “ordinary” and was deemed “politically correct” was for monks to collect loot as “donations” and to stash it in monasteries that held fabulous wealth. No peasants seemed to even think of objecting, or of stating such a society was not what Jesus proposed. Then along came the Vikings, and stated heaven was a rowdy, non-stop battle called Valhalla, and they looted the loot in monasteries. The Viking idea of heaven was utterly incorrect, according to the monks, but the Vikings didn’t care.
Currently it seems to be the idea of some, and even to be their “heaven”, to scream at any who differ, and then to seek to send them to a gulag for reeducation. Like a Viking, I don’t care what their idea of heaven is. I will march into their monasteries of screeching, and devastate them with the ways of wonder.