David Michael Miller
I used to know this woman who was obsessed with the idea that light dimmers caused cancer. Whenever I ran into her she’d push another piece of paper at me and go on and on about it. I would smile politely and look for the nearest exit.
Have I become the light dimmer lady?
I ask because I hated last week. You know, last week, which felt like May when it was supposed to be February. We set high temperature records several days in a row and recorded the single highest winter temperature ever.
People I met kept smiling and saying things like, “Enjoy the great weather!”
Local weather guys and news anchors kept going on about it as if it were all just the most wonderful thing ever. “Charlie, how long will this great weather last?!”
About halfway through the week I started snapping at people.
“This weather is NOT great!” I’d grumble. Then I would launch into my global-warming rant. Melting ice caps! Ten of the hottest years! Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree! Koch brothers! Big oil! Al Gore! The Supreme Court! Ralph Nader! Trump! Arrggghhhh!!!
The truth is, I have just always liked winter. I look forward to cold and snow. Even before climate change was a thing, I held people who complained about our fine Wisconsin weather in high contempt. If you hate our weather, well, just go someplace else. Who needs you?
I hold people who winter in warmer places in especially low regard, like deserters in battle or fans who give up on the Green Bay Packers when their record is four-and-six. (Don’t research past blogs on that last one. Just take my word for it.)
But here’s the problem. Most people actually like warm weather and sunshine, and it’s likely that the immediate effects of climate change in the Midwest will be mostly pleasant. It will be like — all too literally — slowly turning up the heat in a pan of water to boil a frog. We are the frog.
The other impacts of climate change are not so nice: coastal cities being flooded out, strong storms that destroy property and kill people, brutal heat waves, more tornados and hurricanes and “100-year rains” every year.
Here in the Midwest the effects are likely to be somewhat more subtle. Still, if our climate becomes more like Arkansas’, we can expect our plant and animal species to change and our economy and culture to take a hit as well. Are you a snowmobiler who denied climate change? Guess what? There’s no denying that your sport and your expensive investment are pretty much done. Do you like to fish for trout? Cold water is going to be harder to find.
Cold weather and cold water made the Wisconsin culture. It’s part of our history and a big part of our economy. If I wanted to live in Arkansas I’d move to the Ozarks. I don’t want the Ozarks to come to me.
And May weather in February is part of bigger changes that are destroying cities in other parts of the world and disrupting natural systems and human cultures and economies everywhere. We cannot take the nice stuff here without acknowledging the horrible stuff in so many other places.
Call me a crank, but if it’s 80 degrees in March do not ask me if it’s hot enough for me. You’re likely to get a lecture about frogs and pans of water and the Koch brothers.