Mother Nature’s Autistic Summer

Summer 2018
Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding.  Scorching heat.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding.  Scorching heat. Bugs extraordinaire.  Make me run inside for shelter.  AC.  A spurt of sun appears.  Some tomatoes wear tough rain jackets, many others split on the vine while unlucky peppers turn soggy rather than red and basil’s aromatic gifts are non-existent this year.  The grill waited to be fired up but the fire and enthusiasm in me drowned out.

What to make of this autistic summer?  Although many people disagree on the “causes” of autism and of climate change, they both exhibit blatantly foreboding signs:

  • Climate change – an increase in the frequency and strength of extreme events (storms, floods, droughts) that threaten human health and safety.
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characteristics –  social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges, and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors.

Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding.  Scorching heat.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding. Scorching heat. Bugs extraordinaire.

Six full days at best I could work in the yard this summer, and grill on two.  Tall grass is as unkempt as the autistic’s personal hygiene.   Weeds are poised to take over.   They know I will not be tugging at them in the rain or with mosquitos biting my neck.  Arms.  Legs.  Scratching for relief.  Scratching.  Scratching.  Where is the relief?  Summer use to be a break from the long, cold, stressful winter but Mother Nature’s fighting, hitting, kicking, biting, throwing objects from her autistic corner.  Does she feel cornered?

Autistics struggle with severe anxiety, sensory dysfunction, and deficits in social  communication.  Half are considered aggressive toward others, and nearly one-third of autistic adults are unable to use spoken language to communicate.

I hear the thunderous banging and wailing.  Her words trail behind the clouds…the rain, and tears of desperation.  I see her utter frustration.

Climate Change – The Diabetes of the Globe

The climate use to be rather predictable.  At least until what we’ve seen recently.  Now, it too has a culture of anything goes.  What is going on?  Like the bad diet, little exercise and unremitting stress that provoke diabetes, haphazard behaviors and practices are radically affecting our globe.

I feel October coolness in August, August heat and humidity in June.  Downpours flooded out July, and April buds bloomed (then froze) in January.  These dizzying peculiarities are akin to the human body expressing more and more serious symptoms to get our attention…our care.  And sagacious change…for survival.

Spiked Numbers

  • Across the USA, fire seasons are two months longer than 50 years ago.  
  • Twice as many acres burn in the States now than 30 years prior.
  • Over 400,000 acres have already burned in California this year.  
  • West Nile virus, virtually unheard of two decades ago, has infected hundreds of thousands of people.
  •  Category 4 storms (winds faster than 155 mph) tripled in the last 40 years.

And to accommodate the more-recent monster storms Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann suggests adding a new Category 6 to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.  Really?  It’s escalated that much?

Like diabetes running rampant across the globe, too many ignore the symptoms until it’s too late.

Diabetes Worldwide
Comparative prevalence of diabetes in people aged 20–79 years by world regions. Data from IDF Diabetes Atlas (27).

“We have to recognize that by some measures, dangerous climate change isn’t some far-off thing we can look to avoid, ” Mann said.  “It has arrived.”

Until last year, for example, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) averaged a hurricane hit once every eight years and only in the most northern island of Anegada (which is Spanish for “drowned island” by the way).  Yet in 2017, a triplet of hurricanes within two weeks pummeled most of the BVI archipelago — first category 5 Hurricane Irma, then category 4 Jose, and finally category 5 Maria.

A year later the BVI is still trying to regroup.  Many landowners can’t afford escalating insurance rates and can’t afford to rebuild.  Supplies are unavailable for months.  Hurricane Maria, by the way, was the deadliest hurricane in Puerto Rico since San Ciriaco in 1899.  Think about that — the deadliest hurricane in 119 yearsHow can these warnings be ignored?

And like diabetes, it’s not just the weather change that affects us.  It’s the complications ravaging intricate bodily systems that lead to amputations…stroke…heart disease…blindness…neuropathy…complete kidney failure.  But, unlike diabetics, there’s no transplant list for Mother Nature to receive clean air, pure water, or more land.

The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study indicating that many storm-related deaths are from lack of access to medical care weeks and months after the storm.   Have you considered the devastating global effects of climate change?  Once clean air, water and acreage are eradicated, where will displaced populations go?   How much food and water supplies will be lost?  How many will be infected with West Nile or Zika viruses when the mosquito infestation multiplies from increased flooded areas? 

As with diabetes, ignoring the realities is catastrophic.  The only solution is to change our ill ways and practice healthier behavior.  Put safeguards into place.  Now.  Not after our legs have been amputated.  Not after the storm blacks out the power grid and its ability to provide proper medical attention, food refrigeration, or AC for that matter.  Puerto Rico is the neon warning of what’s to come if we remain unprepared…

Admittedly, I’ve been caught up by global warming.  Particularly after enduring a very wet, grey summer and attending Josh Fox’s masterpiece performance of The Truth has Changed.  I didn’t want to believe things are as critical as they are.  But, it’s not fake news folks.  All you have to do is see and feel what is going on outside.  There’s more to think about now than do I need a raincoat or sweater today?

Fighting for Her Life

Just take a look around and you may agree — this summer has been the exclamation point on climate change.  I fear the daily torrential rains, flooding, high humidity and disease carrying bugs are replacing the usual summers I’ve loved in the past.  Spring has been moving out the last few years.  Summer is packing its bags too.  Seems the oppressive grey gloom of winter is pirating the calendar and the full sun we use to have — one-fifth of the year.

Yet, seeing the global disrespect and exploitation of Mother Nature’s generous resources, I’m not so surprised by her increasingly loud protests through worldwide wrath.

stone-1534273_1280

Like a machete disfiguring a beautiful maiden’s face, we have ravaged her fertile soils, cut down her shade-giving trees, poisoned clear waters, and shamefully killed off wildlife — all for selfish convenience or greed.

Assuming Mother Nature will complacently stand by is as unrealistic as pretending there are no consequences for bad behavior.  She is literally fighting for her life.

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned

Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.

—William Congreve’s 1697 poem The Mourning Bride

A woman's fury
Feature photo by xuan-nguyen on unsplash

 

We Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

To retain my sanity and keep stress levels down, I take “news” (aka usually anxiety-producing biased content) in tidbits (not tweets) — morsels that are still so disturbing I cannot linger long.  Excessive hurricanes, fires, flooding; power cuts and flight cancellations due to excessive heat; people rushed to emergency rooms for heat exhaustion and dying from heat stroke — are all happening today.  Right now.  The reality of worldwide weather changes and what I see in my own environment confirm climate change stories first-hand.

A New York Times article reports 2014-2018 as the hottest years on record worldwide.  Think about that.  (And we still have the fourth quarter to go.)  “Seventeen of the 18 warmest years since modern record-keeping began have occurred since 2001.” And these hot temps are projected to continue to rise.  I find that astounding.  And worrisome.

Every day this summer I’ve thanked God for air conditioning.  I wasn’t so fortunate in my youth.  Residing in a 3rd floor walk-up with no AC, an oscillating fan kept me alive when I couldn’t escape the suffocating city heat —  and that was 30 years ago before even hotter temps.

So much is at stake — lives, food, clean water, breathable air, electricity to name a few.  Can the grid endure?  I wonder about a global outage.  We saw Puerto Rico’s plight with no electricity for 11 months…

Brian Petersen, a climate change and planning academic at Northern Arizona University noted in a Guardian article, “It’s only a matter of time until the west is completely insufficiently prepared for climate change.   If we really wanted to be prepared we would be doing a lot of different things that we’re not doing.”

Some cities are offering cooling shelters and promising to slash green house gas emissions but is it too little too late?  Have we poisoned what nature’s generously given and created our own Hell on earth?

Cities planting more trees to help alleviate the heat are like saying, “Oh Mother Nature, you were right.  You knew all along what we needed…yet, taking it for granted we foolishly followed our selfish ways.”

I wonder what your personal experiences have been with climate change, what differences are you noticing in your local environment?