Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Historical Fancies and Global Warming

I'm sitting here at my desk with the window open.  It's cool.  Not a warm summer day.  Fall is certainly in the air up here in Central Alberta.  And for a moment all I can hear is the wind through the leaves in the trees and the Catholic Church ringing it's bells as it does every day at 3.

For just a moment as I close my eyes to block out the glare of my computer screen, I can't hear traffic or any other human noises.  I'm working on a report and I'm reading about the 1840s.  For a brief moment I am sitting in a house in the 1840s.  Hearing the church bell, smelling freshly baked bread (which I bake every Wednesday for some friends of mine), listening to a crow squawking away, and the wind in the leaves.

It's a short moment, but for some reason it takes me back to a time I was never in - at least not in this body.  A time I'm not sure I'd want to live in, but with a hint of romance about it.

I'd like to live at a time when the air was cleaner, when the field was closer to the plate.  There are a lot of things I wouldn't have liked, but the few items on my wish list make me long for a day or two back then.

I've always loved history.  Maybe it really is the romantic in me who used to think the past was perfect, only the present is screwed up.  Not true, of course.  All time periods of history have human beings in them, so no perfection possible.  Or maybe it's just the amount we can learn from the past.  As a matter of fact, it really is the past that provides all of our learning fodder.  The present is fleeting, the future is the place to put our learning to use.  The past is where we look to see how we can do it better next time.

After my fleeting moment in the past, I hear the backup alarm on the construction equipment that is working at replacing the ancient sewers on main street.  And the hum of traffic from the highway creeps in.  I'm back in 2013, hoping that we haven't screwed the planet up completely and that we can survive whatever is coming down the pike.  Yes, when I think of 2013, I think of climate change and global warming, and the violent weather events that have been happening around the world.  Sad.  I'd rather not associate all of that with Now.

Maybe in this case we have no precedent to look back on to guide us.  We've never faced this one before at least not on such a large scale (sure, there have been deforestation issues in the past, and other small-scale environmental problems, but nothing this large - nothing this potentially catastrophic).  The only things in the past that we can compare the environmental crisis to are other crises that were averted.  Maybe our backward-looking goggles can't help us on this one.  Maybe it's too easy to say that we've made it through other crises that turned out to be nothing and this one will, too.

And as I ponder all of this, thunder starts to approach ...

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