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Craven: The Big Storm

06/02/11 5:55PM By Jay Craven
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(HOST)  Vermont's recent bout of severe weather has filmmaker and Marlboro College teacher Jay Craven asking himself a few new questions.

(CRAVEN)  I was driving home from northern Maine when I picked up radio warnings that nature's fury and even a possible tornado were moving toward the Barnet/Peacham area where I live.  As the sky blackened, I strategized.  But really - what could I do?  Hailstones assaulted my car so I took refuge under a St. Johnsbury bridge, then plowed through flooded streets and sprinted south on Interstate 91 - but lightning bolted straight at me, exploding in an apocalyptic crash of spitfire and deafening thunder that threw me off the road.  So I retreated fast back to St. Johnsbury where more lightning filled the sky and hit one of the town's historic houses.  Filth and debris streamed down Eastern Avenue.

I finally darted home, passing abandoned vehicles swallowed by dirt roads that had become deep streaming gorges.  Extreme rain, intense thunder, and lighting shocks dominated the night.  It felt like aerial bombardment.

Of course, other Vermont towns were also attacked by extreme weather.  Lake Champlain has flooded homes-and people in our nation's mid-section are under siege by floods, wildfires, droughts, and tornados.

Nationally, politicians have cranked up the noise while ignoring hard choices we'd need to make to reverse the world's mounting fossil fuel crisis-a crisis that induces poverty, triggers war, spawns political corruption, spoils oceans and pristine habitats, melts the polar region, thwarts economic recovery, harms our health, and emits a blanket of carbon dioxide that warms the earth and skews the weather.

Some argue that there is no definitive proof of all this-except that we've always known that extreme storms result from climate instability.  And that warmer air holds more moisture and that wet warm air fuels hurricanes, tornadoes, and heavy rain.

We've already spent a lot of time on debate.  And it's important to be informed, but I think we should also trust our gut.  After all, what's the downside?

That we shift priorities to build fast trains and electric cars powered by solar kiosks at home or in town?  That we consume food that's grown in New England-and live in towns that produce decentralized renewable power as a means to reduce property taxes?  That we turn away from foreign oil-and the huge military expenditures required to maintain political stability in oil-rich but troubled parts of the world, like Africa and the Middle East?

I've wondered why so few people are talking about climate change in relation to this intensifying weather.  Then I saw a Washington Post editorial by respected Vermont writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben where he cites overwhelming evidence of climate change, but suggests that maybe it's just easier to pretend that it isn't happening.   

And I'm worried that our attention spans are too short-that we think of climate change as yesterday's news.  But extreme weather hurts our families, our neighbors and our communities.  Taking effective measures against it will be tough.  But once we're truly engaged, it's an effort that can unify us, and point us toward a hopeful future.

(TAG)  You can find more commentaries by Jay Craven at VPR-dot-net.
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