One Big Joke

Reader Contribution by Lois Hoffman
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I have always believed that God has a sense of humor. I even have a painting with Him laughing hysterically; this is how I picture Him, especially this past week, for I am sure the weather we have had is a big joke on His part.

Even though it is only the third week of February, we worked in the yard nearly every day. Even though I have heard countless folks say that this marks the beginning of spring, I know in my heart it is way too early not to have some wintry weather yet. Even so, and against my better judgment, I cleaned out my flower beds. Some of my daffodils and other spring flowers were trying to push their way through the thick layers of mulch and leaves — I did the unthinkable and uncovered them.

I was not alone. Farmers were in the fields, turning soil, disking, and anything else, because even though they know it is too early, when the winter chill turns to balmy breezes there is a compulsion to be in the fields. People cleaned up the yards, the hum of motorcycles roared down the roads. Even the trees think this is the real deal and are budding out. Spring fever … in February. Even though I was pulled into the temptation like everyone else, I know God will lower the boom … soon.

So, what is going on? This is more than just the January thaw a little bit late. Even before last week, this winter has been unusually mild. As a matter of fact, the past few years here in the Midwest have been milder. Is there something to this global warming that we have been hearing so much about? Some think so, some not.

The official definition of global warming is “an increase in the overall temperature of earth’s surface atmosphere, generally attributed to the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons and other pollutants.” The greenhouse effect is caused by the interaction between earth’s atmosphere and incoming radiation from the sun. Solar radiation passes through the atmosphere to the earth’s surface, where it is absorbed and then radiated upward as heat. Gases in the atmosphere absorb 90% of this heat and radiate it back to earth, which is warmed to a life-supporting average of 59 degrees F. This is good.

Where this whole effect becomes bad is when human activity introduces too much of a certain gas back in the air and upsets the status quo. This is where global warming comes in. Weather is defined as “atmospheric conditions over a short period of time,” whereas climate is defined as “the average weather of a particular region over several decades.” Global warming will alter the climates of the world.

Even skeptics of the global warming theory cannot dispute the facts. Scientists have been documenting worldwide weather and climate changes since the 1800s. Earth’s average temperature is up 1.4 degrees F over the past century. Temperatures are predicted to rise between 2 and 11.5 for the average over the next 100 years.

Land ice is decreasing by 258 billion tons each year. The definition of a glacier is “a mass of ice and snow larger than 25 acres that moves.” Montana’s Glacier National Park once had over 150 glaciers, and now only 25 remain. Due to melting ice, the sea level has risen 12 inches per year.

What does all of this really mean for us? With the rise in sea level, areas that were not affected before may become flooded. Carbon dioxide is essential for plant growth, and all agriculture (our food supply) depends on steady water supplies. Climate change is likely to disrupt these supplies through floods and droughts. It is likely to cause more hurricanes, as we have seen in recent years.

This global warming will have a negative impact on our health and environment. There are likely to be fewer deaths from extreme cold, but more from extreme heat. Heat-related diseases will increase, since the conditions will be favorable for more disease-carrying insects to survive and increase. Mosquitoes and the diseases they bring will be on the rise.

Scientists have varying opinions as to whether global warming can be reversed. However, most of them do concur that it can be slowed if we as a race follow some guidelines, such as:

1. Reduce fossil fuel use. Burning these increase the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

2. Plant more trees. Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas. During photosynthesis, trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. This is why having plants in the house is so good for us. One tree absorbs one ton of carbon dioxide during its life. Planting trees and other plants can, if not stop, certainly slow the greenhouse effect.

3. Reduce waste. Garbage and other waste that is burned gives off pollutants in the atmosphere that compound the problem. Remember the slogan, “Reduce, reuse, recycle.”

4. Conserve water. At one time, we all never thought we would be faced with a shortage of this precious commodity. Water is one of the essentials to life. In times of drought, man, animals, and plants all suffer. Conserve.

5. Use less heat and air conditioning. Add insulation, install weather stripping and caulking. This can lower heating use by 25 percent, which in turn will lower the use of fossil fuels.

6. Drive less and drive smart. By driving vehicles that get better gas mileage, we save ourselves dollars at the pump and save fuel. Also, make sure vehicles are running efficiently, which will result in fewer emissions.

7. Buy energy efficient products. Avoid products with excess packaging, especially molded plastics. Reducing household garbage by 10 percent can save 1200 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

8. Use less hot water.

Many of these things will not only help the environment, but will also keep a little more jingle in our pockets. It’s a win/win situation for all involved. Whether you believe in global warming or not, these things just make sense.

Don’t let me kid you, I enjoyed these past couple of weeks just as much as the next guy, but I know that you can’t fully appreciate the summer without winter. So I do wonder if this is a joke God is playing on us, or rather a warning He is sending us to take heed before it is too late.

Photo by Fotolia/lily

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