Readers of J.R.R. Tolkein are familiar with Ents, those long-talking, slow-walking ancient creatures of Middle Earth. They are among the few beings to have survived to the current age. It seems they eventually took root, owing to their extreme slowness, and became what we know as trees, those flexible, sometimes giant, beings that wave in the wind.
That, I submit, is where we err on the cause-and-effect thing, It is the trees, being rooted in place and therefore doing the only thing they can do, who are making the wind seem to blow.
Sometimes, they feel a need merely to stretch a bit, especially on a warm summer evening, and cause molecules of air to gently waft across our human hide like the fingers of a young lass across her lover’s arm.
Sometimes, on a cold winter day, they shiver uncontrollably, stirring the air into a frenzy, so that it rushes around in every direction, seeming to come simultaneously from two, or even three, sides of our human-built structures.
And sometimes, when they become really frustrated with an environment over which they have virtually no control, they rage and crash those molecules of air to rip roofs from nearby buildings and pile waves on oceans and large lakes to surge and remodel the respective coastal geography.
It is easy to understand people living where I live being fairly certain we will not be affected by the threatened effects of a warming planet. After all, the oceans may rise only another few feet, and I live about 500 feet above the current sea level.
“Rural areas cover 97 percent of the nation’s land area but contain 19.3 percent of the population (about 60 million people),” then-Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said in 2016.
In 2010, 123.3 million people – 39 percent of our nation’s population – lived in counties directly on the shoreline. The seacoast population is expected to increase by 8 percent by 2020.
We humans love living by water, but we like it to stay outside our bedrooms. Hurricanes in 2018 proved that is no longer guaranteed. Scientists who study such things tell us Hurricane Florence was no fluke when she charged across Florida from the Gulf of Mexico last summer and left a trail of destruction across the Carolinas.
When those seacoast dwellers get tired of wearing wetsuits to check their mail, they will be in search of higher land. Yet even in Adams County, where Hamiltonban Township Supervisor Eddie Deardorff has been keeping track of precipitation totals for decades, some areas have been soaked by a record 86 inches of water.
I have trouble understanding people who know there are problems coming, yet focus their efforts on amassing as much profit as possible, knowing their heirs will be faced with the expensive cleanup and adjustments. That seems odd thinking in a culture that claims to believe “you can’t take it with you.”
Taxpayers continue to pick up the tab for flood insurance that encourages building and rebuilding in places awash in flood water. After all, most of us of an age to be counting wealth also are old enough we will be gone long before the end of the century, when the cleanup bill will be due for our heirs, and those who chose to leave early for high ground – already from places such as Florida and Louisiana – are building homes, schools and industries in the South Mountains.
To paraphrase a quote I heard the other day, from whom I don’t recall: “Nature is neither for you nor against you, but she’s mighty unforgiving of error.” The trees will not be happy, either.