Saturday, July 22, 2006

Power's Back On...

We had a rough 45 hours or so here at the McIntire-Strasburg household with the combination of a power outage and a heat wave (which, thankfully, subsided yesterday), but not nearly as rough as other folks in St. Louis. My next door neighbors, for instance, ended up with a tree on top of their car as a result of Wednesday night's storm. Others have dealt with greater property damage, fires, heat exhaustion, etc. Four people have died so far. Another storm of similar fury blew through St. Charles and north St. Louis county yesterday, stranding many others without power.

Despite sweating buckets, having little energy, and being very thankful to go to work (where the power was still on -- took my dog with me yesterday so she wouldn't have to deal with the heat), I can't help but think about the big picture surrounding all of this. First, it really hit me hard how dependent we are on electricity -- our lives literally come to a standstill when the power goes out. While I'm mighty happy to have the AC back on and the refrigerator running, it's a bit alarming to find out how helpless most of us are when we don't have electricity. Consider the electrified lifestyle is only about 100 years old in the US, I'm amazed at how far away we've gotten from knowledge on how to live without power.

Of course, the other big thing that hit me was global warming. John Laumer, one of my Treehugger compadres (who also had power woes this week), emailed and noted that we were likely suffering the effects of climate change. While we can't say that the storms here were directly caused by global warming, we can say that the extra greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have probably destabilized things enough to make freak storms like the ones we saw here this week more probable. We're certainly not suffering at the level of, say, the folks on the Gulf Coast after last year's hurricanes, but an awful lot of us are feeling the effects of a climate system that's unable to regulate itself as thoroughly because of the extra CO2 that we still pump into the atmosphere. The heavy rains this summer in the Northeast can likely be tied to climate instability also, as well as droughts in the South. The point of all of this is that the factor of human suffering is raising its head, just a bit, here in the US. I'm using "just a bit" comparatively -- we've certainly got people suffering badly, but not the sort of widespread pain seen in other parts of the world -- we can't forget the tsunami that just hit Java, for instance. I have to wonder how much more destruction we'll see before those that have the power to really move things along "get it."

While I'm always a bit skeptical about the effects of these things, the League of Conservation Voters has created a petition asking our leaders in Washington to make climate change a top priority. Sign it if you think you think it will help (LCV certainly has as much political muscle as any environmental organization), and encourage others to do so. The petition itself probably won't make a huge difference, but we need to continue to remind, even nag, our leaders to address these issues in a substantive manner. Political or government action alone won't solve the problems, but the government needs to at least get up to speed with the business sector, which is taking action, even if it's not as quickly as many of us would like. While we can all make more changes in our own lifestyle, until we see systematic change, the kind that only our most powerful institutions can create, we're going to see more of the kind pain we've experienced over the last few years.

Just thinking out loud... I'll get back to news and commentary shortly.

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