Earth Day, A Day Late

(Was all set to sit down and write this yesterday but our Noel took a freefall down the stairs and we had the parental fun of rushing him off to get his head stiched up (again). The good news: it wasn’t so bad that we had to go 25 miles to hospital. The very good news: our local doctor was literally stitching him up within thirty minutes of the accident. And though I could have done without witnessing the codeine injection in the middle of his forehead, the very very good news was that, come evening, despite a slight Frankenstein look to him from the two stitches above his eyebrow, he was banging the drums like nothing had happened. Kids, huh?)

It’s a beautiful morning up here in the Catskills.
Again. Like it has been almost every day for the past couple of weeks, the sun is out, and the mountains look stunning under the blue sky as they gradually gain their foliage; we’re making the most of the view from our house before the trees turn fully green and block the mountain range. Meantime, we’ve been witnessing, for the first time in our new home, what we presume are all the usual welcome signs of spring: the return of grazing birds, of woodpeckers, of wild turkeys, of turkey vultures flying above them, of baby rabbits and baby deer alike bouncing through the grass – and all this in our garden! The nights are clear and the full moon has been rising over our bedroom windows, almost eliminating the need for nightlights. Nature is a beautiful thing.

The reverie was interrupted yesterday by the sight and sound of helicopters flying across the mountains, battling a forest fire near Minnewaska. Wait, back up. A forest fire? In the Catskills and Shawungunks? In April?!!? This is spring time, mud season. In fact it’s usually flood season, when a drive alongside the creek or through Phoenicia’s main street is typically accompanied by the sight of sump pumps emptying out the flooded basements. It’s the time of year when the hotels close down after ski season, because it’s so wet and unpleasant and nobody but the fly fishermen want to visit. And yet here we are, with a complete ban on all outdoor burning across three counties, our dirt road so dry that I may (Seriously) have to wear a dust mask to run it again, no rain since the night my brother came to visit twelve days ago, and the daily temperature being way up in the mid-high seventies almost every day during that time. Saturday afternoon, the temperature on our (admittedly south-facing) deck hit 105F; in the shade, it was measly 84F. If this is April, what the hell is July going to be like?

img_7113.jpgIt’s beautiful as anything; it’s also dry as Black Rock City during Burning Man.

At the Phoenicia Earth Day event last Sunday, hosted by the local elementary school’s PTA which has implemented a thriving Green program that adds several more Rs to the tradition Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, a local writer asked me: “If you knew our planet only had a few years left, would it change what you write about?” It’s a loaded question to which I’m not sure I can fully answer with any precision. I know that Planet Earth will survive the climate change we’re enduring; it has that capability. It may just decide to eliminate the majority of the human race to do so, and the time that we have to make peace with it and prevent it from doing so is fast running out.

Given all of which, I dearly wish the Presidential Campaign – or at least the Democratic Primary race – was more deeply involved in solutions for the survival of our species than with the name-calling and smear tactics that I would say are dragging us into the mud but for the lack of such mud around here. I sit out a lot of the media bs, but it was depressing to see that last week’s televised debate between Clinton and Obama did not even raise a question about the economy – despite admitting that it is “the most important issue among voters” – until the second half of its two-hour embarrassment. It was mildly more heartening to hear Obama, this Wednesday morning, talk about the Democrats as follows:

“We can be a party that says and does whatever it takes to win the next election. We can calculate and poll-test our positions and tell everyone exactly what they want to hear.

Or we can be the party that doesn’t just focus on how to win but why we should. We can tell everyone what they need to hear about the challenges we face. We can seek to regain not just an office, but the trust of the American people that their leaders in Washington will tell them the truth. That’s the choice in this election…”

But then given that he just lost the Primary in Pennsylvania, perhaps taking the high road is not the right road.

No doubt the current heatwave and dry spell will end soon enough, and locals will be complaining about an unseasonably cold May, or a frustratingly wet July, or harking back to the recent winter that seemed so harsh only because what would normally have been snow frequently fell and froze instead as ice, perhaps not realizing that every variation from the long-standing norm is yet another mark of Climate Change. It’s always a thrill to see our local kids participating in Earth Day; it will be an even greater thrill if they grow up to have a habitable planet on which to raise their own children. I continue to believe that you Think Global, Act Local, and that a continent full of small changes can create a world full of larger ones. But somewhere in the midst of all that, this November we in America have the chance to elect a President who can, should he or she desire, make some truly effective changes to set an example to the rest of us.

Earlier on in Obama’s same post-election speech last night, he said,

“It’s easy to get caught up in the distractions and the silliness and the tit-for-tat that consumes our politics; the bickering that none of us are immune to, and that trivializes the profound issues – two wars, an economy in recession, a planet in peril.”

To which he only needed add: “and they’re all connected.” Peace.

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4 Comment(s)

  1. Auctioneer

    23 April, 2008 at 9:45 am


    I fear we are witnessing the Democrats gift John McCain the election in November. We are still many months off but here is what I think is clear. Hillary Clinton was always borderline unelectable as President and Barack Obama has revealed himself as as close to being just as unelectable. This is a center-right country. He may get younger voters. But as a candidate nationally I think he is pretty close to being dead in the water after the Reverend Wright comments came out and worse still his frankly condescending comments about “bitter folks clinging to guns and religion”. Add the fact that he has some policy ideas about things like taxation which are a throw back to a generation ago and I think you have a candidate who won’t win crucial States like Ohio and Florida. How frustrating for the Democrats to blow it in a year like this one and at this time in history.

  2. Geo

    23 April, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Yet, the furore that resulted from the Rev Wright remarks indicates how out of touch the rest of the country is with the African-American community.

    And Tony, we’re expecting a boy down here so your Noel stories really, erm, scare me.

  3. 24 April, 2008 at 8:43 am

    Congrats Geo – oh are you in for some fun. Get to know which of your local hospitals has the quickest emergency room. You will surely be seeing much of it.

    Noel is especially rambunctious – he seems like an archetypal boy, playing drums, guitar, DJing, kicking a ball, running, and falling off chairs and stairs.

    Point noted about Rev Wright too.


  4. 28 April, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Tony – I’ve been so busy later only just managed to catch up on here and sorry to hear about Noel’s accident. He is such a typical, lively little boy and as I’ve said before a real little trouper, but it’s so worrying as a parent when they even have so much as a bump on the knee let alone a knock to the head. My brother was the same – I’m sure they knew his first name at St. Thomas’ as he was there so much. Please give him a big kiss from me. X

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