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Global warming is often described as an abstract, distant issue. For any of us who grew up in Wisconsin in the 1980's, it is far from that. In 1988, as the news was breaking of the dire environmental threat of global warming, even worse than the hole in the ozone layer,the worst drought since the Dust Bowl era struck. It decimated  our lovely Wisconsin summer, the pay off for enduring frigid Arctic winters, and was the starting gun on what would become a painful, dry decade. For an area that's home to most of the planet's fresh water, where the lakes are both Great and plentiful, it was scary stuff. I remember that the fire of my environmental activism was further enflamed by those long hot summers.

Global warming is often described as an abstract, distant issue. For any of us who grew up in Wisconsin in the 1980's, it is far from that. In 1988, as the news was breaking of the dire environmental threat of global warming, even worse than the hole in the ozone layer,the worst drought since the Dust Bowl era struck. It decimated  our lovely Wisconsin summer, the pay off for enduring frigid Arctic winters, and was the starting gun on what would become a painful, dry decade. For an area that's home to most of the planet's fresh water, where the lakes are both Great and plentiful, it was scary stuff. I remember that the fire of my environmental activism was further enflamed by those long hot summers.

The fipside of the drought was floods further down the Mississippi, ravaging the lovely river communities that inspired my boyhood Huck Finn fantasies. They were everywhere, even in comics like  Doonesbury's "The Washed-out Bridges of Madison County." Again, it seemed obvious to everyone that these were not normal floods, that something extraordinary and horrible was occurring.

But now I find that what seemed completely obvious to me as a teenager is a taboo subject. I wish I could tell you that I was uniquely perceptive, but I wasn't. Like everyone, I was influenced by the news coverage. Even with my parents running a green business, I needed someone to make that link explicit for me, so I could see how obvious it was. I am grateful to the journalists of that time for doing so. And that is the role of good journalism and science: to connect what we are experiencing in our every day lives to deeper scientific truths. And as floods come again to the MIdwest, this time our reporting has fallen down, according to Media Matters.

   

"Indeed, climate change has been almost entirely absent from national and local reporting on the floods. Only one of 74 television segments mentioned climate change, on CBS News. ABC, NBC and CNN never mentioned the connection."

Environmental Action rallied with groups like Forecast the Factsto make sure that Hurricane Sandy's relationship to climate change was discussed. Because while we fight for making sure catastrophic weather is less likely, we also need to recover what was once common knowledge: that global warming is here and now: in floods, in droughts, in faraway lands and our own childhood homes.

Finally, to recapture the feeling of the time, here's my favorite song from 1991, PJ Harvey's Dry.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Warnings began in 1988? That's a new one on me. (0+ / 0-)

    "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

    by Neuroptimalian on Fri May 10, 2013 at 08:13:50 AM PDT

    •  A clear reference to James Hansen's 1988 testimony (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      maryabein, antirove, Bronx59

      http://www.nytimes.com/...

      Until now, scientists have been cautious about attributing rising global temperatures of recent years to the predicted global warming caused by pollutants in the atmosphere, known as the ''greenhouse effect.'' But today Dr. James E. Hansen of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration told a Congressional committee that it was 99 percent certain that the warming trend was not a natural variation but was caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide and other artificial gases in the atmosphere.
      But that said, of course, the physics of carbon dioxide's role in warming the ocean and atmosphere had been worked out for decades prior. The distinction here in Hansen's testimony was that he was declaring the ongoing global warming a result of the very physics.

      "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~Edward Abbey ////\\\\ "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships." ~W.E.B. DuBois

      by rovertheoctopus on Fri May 10, 2013 at 08:22:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, try to pay more attention (0+ / 0-)

      They started in the 1950s, actually.

      Your comment seemed sarcastic.

      •  Take it however you like. (0+ / 0-)

        I don't recall hearing anything about it more than, say, ten years ago.  Sometime before that, we were supposedly headed for catastrophic cooling.

        "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

        by Neuroptimalian on Fri May 10, 2013 at 10:47:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You seem to be parading your ignorance (0+ / 0-)

          as proof of something besides your ignorance.

          Which is rather extreme. Your ignorance, I mean.

          •  Yeah, the "global cooling" warnings ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Victor Ward

            must have been just figments of my imagination ... as are the 1.4 MILLION Google references to it.  Silly me.  

            "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

            by Neuroptimalian on Fri May 10, 2013 at 04:58:43 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Why yes! It's the grand global cooling scare again (0+ / 0-)

              Hey, could you do us a favor and produce some reputed peer-reviewed studies that align with the consensus of these "global cooling" forecasts? Because the first several hits I get from Google show amateurish, pseudo-intellectual "skeptic" blogs and then other sites with some backing documentation that point out that most scientists were anticipating a warmer Earth during the 1970s. And somehow, on the road to confirmation bias, the desperate and conspiracy-thirsty factions of media have recently exhumed some articles from.... sensational, debunked news magazine articles. Some conspiracy.

              This canard's been wrecked before, but perhaps there's a miniscule chance someone could salvage it from its intellectual grave. I'm doubtful and uninterested though, so I'm done here.

              "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~Edward Abbey ////\\\\ "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships." ~W.E.B. DuBois

              by rovertheoctopus on Sat May 11, 2013 at 11:04:34 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  1960's - for me (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rovertheoctopus

      It's possible that awareness of this issue depends upon one's understanding (or willingness to accept) that there's more than one way of viewing the passage of time.  For example, calendar time, Christian fundamentalist, political, news cycles, human generational time, and the like.  

      This understanding may be the result of culture or education.  I would expect paleontologists, geologists, and others with a longer view of existence to have been aware of the danger for much longer ago than the '80's.

      Anthropologists view human existence in terms of geologic time.  When I was a student in the '60's, we studied the effects of climate on physical and social structures.  The coming climate changes scared us silly even back then.  

    •  How about 1958? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rovertheoctopus

      Except that the 6 billions tons he is worried about is now closer to 30 billions tons.

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