Polar Vortex Deux

The ice formations along Devils Hollow Road in Frankfort, KY.

The ice formations along Devils Hollow in Frankfort, KY.

With the unwelcomed return of these body-numbing temperatures, it can seem ironic to discuss the idea of global warming, considering the lack of warmth available.

I suppose that is part of the point. Anymore, rarely are there normal weather patterns. It doesn’t get just a little cold; we get a polar vortex, where temps drop over 50 degrees in under 24 hours. Subfreezing temperatures are accompanied by -50 wind chills and four feet of snow.

Rain is the same way. Light sprinkles are a thing of the past. Instead the skies open and torrential downpours saturate areas causing flash flooding, like we saw in Colorado this past September. In a matter of three days 17 inches fell, exceeding the yearly total for the state. At least eight people died as a direct result, and damages went above $2 billion.

Temperatures don’t get a little hot; they set records and cause droughts, such as in 2012. During the peak heat in July, 81 percent of the U.S. was at least abnormally dry, costing more than $35 billion in losses for the Midwest, and a drop in the gross domestic product for America, equating to a loss of $75 to $150 billion.

A tornado doesn’t touch down and cause a bit of damage. Several funnels descend like grim reapers in the dark of night and wipe unsuspecting towns off the map. On Nov. 18, 2013, 16 tornadoes ripped through Illinois and Indiana.

Wildfires, sinkholes, mudslides, typhoons, earthquakes – they only come super-sized these days.

A common scene in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans after Katrina.

A common scene in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Previously, storms like Sandy or Katrina were considered at least 100-year events. Now they occur on a yearly basis.

It begins to feel like our planet is fighting back, against the overpopulation, commercialism, deforestation, and marginalizing of various animal populations.

The land ends up getting raped of its natural resources and we turn a blind eye to the crime, and the improper waste disposal, so we can get a cheaper commodity.

It’s easy to get caught up in the rapid pace of modern life and assume others have the job of making sure that how our food and energy arrive to us is taken care of in a responsible fashion.

Yet we are our own global guardians. Political will is often bought and sold. It takes big money to run for office, and there is a lot of wealth surrounding the procurement of energy and private enterprise – so don’t look for those stakeholders to do the right thing. They are only in this to maximize profits in the short run.

The beach cleanup effort in Grand Isle, LA during the BP spill.

The beach cleanup effort in Grand Isle, LA during the BP spill.

They will cut corners, pollute our waters, and risk lives to make more cash. Look at how irresponsible the general business practices of BP were as they extracted oil off the shores of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico prior to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

After the explosion on the oil rig and its sinking, oil gushed from the sea floor for 87 days, discharging an estimated 4.9 million barrels into the water, impacting 68,000 square miles of ocean. That is equivalent to the size of Oklahoma. The spill killed marine life at record levels, permanently damaged fragile ecosystems and changed the way of life in that part of the country.

Eleven employees were killed in the blast. Their bodies were never recovered. BP pled guilty to 11 felony counts related to their deaths, including manslaughter, obstruction of justice, obstructing Congress and lying to federal investigators.

Prior to the blast it was shown BP supervisors knew they were operating the well dangerously and they kept doing it anyway in order to hit production marks. The possibility that investigators might catch up with their violations were of little concern.

spongebobIt’s not like the Deepwater Horizon is the only well rig, coalmine or other regulated facility that voluntarily chooses to operate under dangerous conditions. It just happened that the explosion occurred; otherwise they would have kept right on doing what they were doing.

State and federal budgets continue to get trimmed in the post-recession. There is less oversight available to adequately inspect all the equipment and production practices undertaken by commercial ventures. Instead many choose to run afoul of the law and risk fines because it’s impossible for our government, much less those in foreign countries, to sufficiently keep them under watch.

These supposed “business leaders” act like spoiled children getting over on their absent parents. They know the watchful eye is lax and take advantage of the situation instead of doing what is ethically right, what is best for the planet, or what is best for its inhabitants, all for G-R-E-E-D.

It’s true the rest of us working stiffs are always looking for bargains. Money is tight, and higher prices on plastics, food and fuels are a delicate balance. We all witnessed what happened in America when fuel prices went above $5 per gallon. The system buckled, as commuters could not handle the expense. People are living paycheck by paycheck more than ever before, most with little to no savings, so cheap is considered good.

This is where leadership is required. Don’t artificially bring down costs of essential products. That just prolongs peoples’ poor behavior.

Trust me, you piss this planet off bad enough it will come through with a global climate change that will wipe away the human slate as we know it. We’ve pissed away so much of our time and resources into pork barrel projects and decreased energy costs, that our infrastructure, power grids, and education systems have been left in shambles.

Prolonged extreme heat or cold could change our privileged and frivolous lifestyles in the snap of a finger. Rising sea water around the east, west and southern borders of the United States will cause an inward migration toward safety, and quickly developing water shortages in other parts of the world, but also in the western portion of the United States, are the kinds of things wars are fought over.

Grand Isle CrossesThese hard truths require personal responsibility and sacrifice to address. The United States continues to be a reactionary populace. It generally takes a trigger event to finally get people to truly pay attention.

After-effects from Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy continue to be felt around America. Unfortunately those types of devastation can no longer be overlooked as isolated regional events. Climate change and natural disaster come in many colors, and death has been laying its cards on the table all across the country.

Similar devastation can come calling anywhere these days, and city planners, political officials and emergency management acknowledge this fact, but they continue to mostly plan how to react after tragedy strikes. What nobody has the courage to address is what we as a responsible population should be doing NOW to help prevent the next disaster.

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