Every summer of my childhood, my Aunt Georgia would arrive for a weeklong visit with my grandmother, where I spent a lot of my days. Aunt Georgia was a white-haired, erudite pontificator who had four great effects on my otherwise-trouble-free preteen days: She rooted for the San Francisco Giants (yuk), decried my drinking ice tea (you’re going to kill your kidneys, kid), made me watch “Jeopardy” rather than reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show” and, because she lived in a mysterious place called Coral Gables, Fla., provided my introduction to hurricanes.
I know from photographs that hers was a traditional, flat-roofed, banana-shrouded Florida home a few miles inland, and those images formed the foundation of my imagination as I heard then-less-frequent-but-no-less-dire alerts to an oncoming maelstrom that might hit this place or that and leave vast and unimaginable destruction.
Irony No. 1: A few years later I found myself sleeping through Camille, one of the most destructive storms ever, 100 miles north of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where we were vacationing with my mother’s family and 100-mph winds roared.
Irony No. 2: I set up shop for nearly three decades in Central Florida, where hurricanes were a routine but dramatic departure from normal heat and rain, a danger to be monitored, anticipated and, because I was a journalist, reported to the masses. The paths of Andrew, Katrina, Hugo and Charley are etched and sketched into my mind, and storms became binge-watching bounty long before that was a thing.
All that turmoil and disruption was to be expected living on that land mass that protruded between the warm South Atlantic and the warmer Gulf of Mexico, but I’m typing this from 500 miles farther north. Florence is coming. For the third time in as many years, our state is being threatened by a massive cyclone that could chew at our already gnawed coastline and pulverize homes and businesses for miles inland.
Same irony, different state. And we owe it all to the warming conditions of our planet, the unrelenting heating of the atmosphere that exposes more and more coastline and residents to more frequent and powerful natural calamity.
Which is the ultimate irony: Our climate is changing before our very eyes, except those closed because they don’t like the “cite” of real-time data before them.
I’ve never understood why climate change is a political issue. Is it because Al Gore became the concept’s P.T. Barnum? Is it because Hollywood made documentaries? Is it because scientists were all educated at ivy-walled bastions of liberalism? Or is it because the rest of the world likes the idea and the United States has to be a leader even if it is going in the opposite and wrong direction?
Science is science. It doesn’t lie. Animals and plants evolve. Air gets warmer because humans help heat it. Warmth causes water vapor to accumulate. Cold places warm. Warm places boil. Storms spin.
But are we to believe the human role in this cycle of change is unimportant because that change would happen without the humans? Too bad we didn’t have coal and carbon dioxide during the Ice Age. But then there were fewer humans, I’ve heard.
So we as a country watch this happen and then try to comprehend it along a political divide? And because of that divide we allow our habits and processes to pollute and heat our atmosphere and exacerbate and accelerate the scientific equation being factored before our eyes? Are today’s dollars worth more than tomorrow’s sense?
Whatever it is, it’s irresponsible, and I hold in contempt any leader at any level of government who efforts against the protection of our planet, because I see that blindness as selfishness and a personal attack on my children and grandchildren who shouldn’t have to grow gills or wear armor to endure the world outside. Or, worse, die of thirst and hunger because we won’t protect our resources.
Some discard climate change as science fiction because of Christianity. Yes, the flooding is biblical, but people aren’t helping themselves as God suggests we should. The destruction, erosion and pollution will continue until someone decides we have seen enough and shows leadership to inculcate our future.
My wife’s family has a condo hard by the shore in Litchfield Beach, S.C. Starting with Matthew in 2016, the dunes and cross-over stairways behind that building twice were decimated by wind, rain and storm surge. Their third-story apartment had water damage through the balcony doorways and from drainage in damaged rooms above. That happened up and down the beach, behind condos and expensive homes.
And here we go again.
Final irony: In all my time living in prime hurricane time, I never saw such a possible threepeat performance anywhere. And I’m pretty sure Aunt Georgia didn’t either. Our climate is changing. Deal with it.
Contact Steven Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org.