Clothesline in Winter

Clothesline in Winter

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Freak Weather, or the New Normal?

These days at Good Hand Farm, there’s no water, no electric power and no heat.  Little more than  a month after the late summer floods inundated the broccoli fields, we now carry water in buckets from the rain barrels, burn candles in the evening, and haul firewood for the woodstove.  We sleep on my daughter’s apartment floor when it’s too cold at the darkened farmhouse. We’ve done this a lot recently. We actually got used to it in last year’s “freak storms.”

Good Hand farmhouse: Charming, and dark
We have a nice local hotel, and we’d consider staying there until the power's back on.  But they’ve endured a rash of floods and power failures the likes of which no one around here has ever seen before.  The municipal government has repeatedly closed roads and evacuated businesses due to the crazy weather.  And the corporate neighbors who comprise the hotel’s core customers are beginning to talk about leaving for higher ground due to the roughly annual occurrence of 100-year-storm events.

The hotel’s bank lenders are beginning to wonder if these “freak storms” are really all that freakish any more, or if they’ve become the new normal.  And if they’re now normal, whether their loan is all that safe, or whether they need to recognize a loss.  And if they have to take a loss, how much less they’ll be able to lend to other businesses….

And last Sunday, we cancelled services at our church due to falling snow-laden trees.  I sharpened the chain saw and headed for our pastor’s home, to cut up the trees blocking his drive.  But all the roads were blocked, with downed power lines and fallen trees everywhere.  I felt lucky to get home again safely, leaving my pastor’s family to fend for themselves.

Banks, hotels, churches, farms and more: all struggling with “freak” weather.

Are these things possibly connected?

We then page through the daily news and see freak storm events all over the place.  Right now, the nine millions residents of Bangkok are struggling with record floods.  And across the world from Bangkok, Thailand's floods are sharply curtailing Honda's manufacturing in the U.S., due to acute shortages of Thai electrical components. Pakistan is awash for the second straight year, in floods disproportionate to any hazard ever visited upon our western lands.  China, Russia, Brazil and Australia suffered massive agricultural losses that drove a 36% increase in global average food costs last year, continuing at a 15% clip as of this September.

Bangkok's streets aren't supposed to look like thi
Back at home, summer tornadoes hit Massachusetts. That's right: Massachusetts, of all places! A record Midwest tornado season was typified by the graphic devastation in Joplin, Missouri.  Or can you count the number of consecutive springs that the Mississippi River system has suffered “record” floods?  And then there was this summer’s record heat wave and drought in Texas, Georgia and the Southwest that burned an area the size of Connecticut

Speaking of poor Connecticut, 831,000 households are without power this week in the wake of last weekend’s storms (added to 750,000 in New Jersey), according the WSJ.  And since we don’t have time to recount all last year's craziness, for a look at that climate chaos, take a look here.

Are these things possibly connected?

If you’re wondering, take a moment and watch this great little video…

 …  Because even though no weather events can be simplistically linked to single causes, the changing global climate system affects things that happen everywhere.  And they just might affect your local food growers, or your bank, or even your church.

These things just might be connected.

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.

J. Elwood

“When the evening comes you say, ‘Ah, fine weather—the sky is red.’ In the morning you say, ‘There will be a storm today, the sky is red and threatening.’ Yes, you know how to interpret the look of the sky but you have no idea how to interpret the signs of the times!" Gospel of Matthew 16:2

Pakistan pedestrian traffic: Two years of record floods

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