Winter Breeze Makes Me Feel Not So Fine

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I’m used to the cold. I’m used to snow. I was a kid in Wisconsin in the 70s and 80s, and would be woken up by my mom early mornings to scrape ice inches thick off the car windows. I reveled in snow days and more than once thought about wearing snowshoes to get from the front door to the school bus waiting at the end of our drive. Winter doesn’t bother me. Snow and ice do not frighten me. As a teenager, in the snowiest months my sister and I would try to find a semi-truck to drive behind both to save on gas (less driving against the wind) and to clear the road ahead of us as we drove away from our home out in the country for a big night out on the town (in the nearby metropolis which boasted about 35,000 residents – a Mecca to us then). As uncomfortable as some of those winter-life adjustments may have been, they were normal and nearly painfully predictable.

So what has me and others calling this the winter of our discontent should come as no surprise. It’s the fact (no longer question or issue) of climate *change*. I wondered as I watched the State of the Union address last week whether it was the first time a President has referred to climate change in such a nonchalant way, like talking about oil and gas prices, education, unemployment, and other standard areas of common concern. My worry is that now that it’s a given, there seems to be a resigned acceptance. It’s like those fighting the battle to stem the tide of global warming had the wind taken out of their sails defending its existence and what they called it (global warming vs. climate change as if that makes any difference to the birds and seas, or to you and me). So wrapped up in the political fight(s), they got little done in time. And no one, it seems, really knows if it’s too late. And if it’s not, how to reverse the damage.

Here we are with summer in January in the should-be coldest parts of the world and winter sitting in the lap of the normally mildest. In January, it got colder in Chicago than in the South Pole. In Juneau, Alaska, flowers bloomed out of season. Water in the North Pacific is up to seven degrees warmer than most years. Meanwhile, more than 36,000 flights were cancelled due to extreme weather conditions, three times more than in the past two Januarys. An early count shows more than a thousand local records were set for snowfall in January in the United States, while California is shutting down ski resorts for lack of snow. A recent survey found that the water content of California’s snowpack is at just 12% of average, the lowest it’s been since record-keeping of the measure began in 1960. As a result, the state has announced it will not distribute state water supplies to its 25 million customers and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland unless there is an abundance of wet weather by May 1. These cities and farms that normally rely on state supplied water will have to look elsewhere. They will have to tap underground reservoirs, if they have any, and ask other districts to buy or borrow some. No doubt there will be significant costs involved, something municipalities in cash-strapped California and already facing the economic blows of drought can ill afford. Mandatory rationing of water has already commenced in some areas. If one thing is predictable, it’s that the painful effects of California’s drought, and I’m sure other consequences of aberrant weather, will be far reaching this year.

Welcome, I’m afraid, to the new normal.

Security v. Freedom. the Case of the Millenium

This may well be one of the most pressing conflicts of our generation.  How do we let loose the reins enough to ensure freedom, yet pull them in enough to protect the citizenry from threats to our health and safety?

Our fellow reveler Ralph posted a thought-provoking comment recently, noting a post on another website.  The host of that site (which could be described by some as a preppers site) was sharing an email received from a reader who had purchased seeds from e-Bay and was visited by a federal agent who seized their seeds, stating it was because of the risk of disease.  Here is what Ralph said about it.  I think his contemplation well reflects the mixed feelings many of us have about the tension between the need for privacy/freedom and the desire for protection and safety/security.

from Reveler Ralph…

I just read a story at:
http://www.preparednesspro.com/usda-agents-drive-4-hours-confiscate-10-seeds-purchased-ebay/
that I received an email about. Having just read the title and brief description from the email I thought I was going to read yet another story about our rights being taken away. After reading the story I am not so sure my initial thoughts were correct. Ignoring the feelings (mine included) about possible govt invasion into our lives, I was reminded of a question on one of the shows I listen to asking why certain plants and seeds were regulated and not allowed to be sent to certain states. Outwardly it seemed, even to me, that some of the regulations were put in place to prevent competition with commercial producers. Some plants were simply invasive and would cause all kinds of damage if let loose in the wrong places.

In spite of searching for the actual explanation I haven’t been able to locate it among the hundreds of shows on the site, so until I can locate it here’s what I can remember. Basically it boiled down to plant diseases and virus infected plants. While it seems that prohibiting certain grape seeds into California or orange seeds into Florida are giving large producers a monopoly on their markets, the real reason is that bringing a plant disease into these areas by infected plants or seeds could destroy commercial crops possibly ruining commercial producers and cause economic problems. Reading seed catalogs you can see notes that a particular seed resists some disease or virus. Seeds, somewhat like people may be immune to certain illnesses, but if a ‘foreign’ illness is brought in it will often spread ‘like wildfire’.

As for the corn in the story, corn can be pollinated by other corn miles away, so a contaminated field can spread disease far and wide. We have already seen this with GMO corn. While no fan of needless regulation, it is possible the seeds in question should not have been allowed to grow. That being the case, I would have to ask why e-Bay was selling them.

Here’s the link to the USDA site which I am going to look through when I have more time:
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/plants/plant_imports/smalllots_seed.shtml

 

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Thanks, Ralph, for this thought-provoking comment.  I am curious to know what readers are thinking about recent news about the National Security Administration’s data collection efforts and former CIA employee, Edward Snowden’s leaking the U.S. government’s mass surveillance practices.  I’m also wondering what others are thinking about the Illinois Deparment of Agriculture’s seizure of honeybees resistant to Monsanto’s RoundUp which were subsequently reportedly destroyed, the passing of the bill now known as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” and a slow but sure shift in farming legislation to acknowledge food and farming going on in the east coast.  There’s lots going on these days.  I’m wondering how everyone else is processing it all.

So, you know the deal.  Go ahead … gimme the dirt!