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Location: Stevens Point, Wisconsin, United States

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Climate change

One of the homilies I enjoy repeating at this time 0f year, here in Wisconsin, is that "the climate guarantees it'll never be too crowded." As long as we have snow for xc skiing, the winters at nearly 45deg N are great. And there's plenty of free parking. For the most part, you don't even need to drive. (Yes, you can bike in the winter. As with everything else, all you need is the right gear.) Of course, for more than ten years now, we haven't had reliable snow all season. The climate has changed. The average temperatures at our latitude are now what they were 100m south of here when I moved to Wisconsin over 40 years ago. This warming trend, as even reactionaries have been forced to agree, is global. So there's general agreement that we have to do something about it. I'm all in favor of reducing our carbon footprints. It might make a difference for some future generations of humans. But not us. Twenty-five years ago three German hikers above Innsbruck came upon what turned out to be the corpse of a 5800-year-old Italian, nicknamed "Oetzi" after the Oetztal glacier where their discovery was made. I highly recommend a trip to see the corpse and fascinating details about his life--and murder--in the South Tyrol museum in Bolzano. The corpse was exposed because the glacier was melting. Six thousand years after that death we're taking notice of glacial melting worldwide. But the process has actually been underway for nearly 20,000 years. In that global-warming "window" the whole of human history has unfolded. Around 12,000 years ago it closed a little; that was the last "glacial age". Wisconsin gave its name to the ice sheet that was one mile thick here where we live now. Some years ago Jane and I climbed up to the limestone caves at Settimemama, near Guernica, in Spain's Basque country. I looked around and realized that humans then must have got good at spotting such outcroppings, where water was sure to be found seeping through the porous rock and deep shelter could be had. These are skills we'll evidently need again in a few generations. I'm practicing...

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