Have You Ever Seen The Rain

It’s been over two years since I was in New Orleans—along with Memphis, I rate it as one of the world’s top music cities.

But New Orleans is also the real Mississippi delta—geographically, a delta is a sedimentation area where a river meets the sea—the water body between the two is the estuary, but as a river widens into the ocean the currents slow and the solids carried by the river deposit to form the delta.

But the mighty Mississippi has another delta—not a river delta, but the home of the delta blues, stretching from Memphis to Vicksburg, all the way down highway 61 to Clarksdale, Robert Johnson’s famous crossroads, and then on to Vicksburg, right on the Louisiana border.

The whole Mississippi delta area is cotton country—seven thousand miles of alluvial floodplain, but before the civil war, this was hardwood forest—the whole thing was cut down to make way for plantations, run by whites, worked by black slaves, and the birthplace of the blues.

The real Mississippi delta, where the river drains into the Gulf, forming the MARP—Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Plume.

New Orleans is regularly hit by hurricanes that take their toll in human life and destroy property. The latest arrival was Ida—when I was down south, I was told hurricanes are named after women because when they arrive, they’re wet and wild, and when they leave they take your house and your car.

There is a consensus that climate change is causing an increase both in frequency and intensity of hurricanes—the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a multi-agency task force that researches climate change, states:

The recent increases in activity are linked, in part, to higher sea surface temperatures in the region that Atlantic hurricanes form in and move through. Numerous factors have been shown to influence these local sea surface temperatures, including natural variability, human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases, and particulate pollution. Quantifying the relative contributions of natural and human-caused factors is an active focus of research. Some studies suggest that natural variability, which includes the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, is the dominant cause of the warming trend in the Atlantic since the 1970s, while others argue that human-caused heat-trapping gases and particulate pollution are more important.

The key in this paragraph is the ‘relative contributions of natural and human-caused factors’, because this is where the political and social disagreements sit when it comes to policy choices such as the Paris Agreement.

Wherever you sit, there’s no doubt the effects of climate change are increasingly severe, dangerous, and costly. And when biblical deluges hit urban areas, the combined effect of calamitous precipitation and large-scale impermeabilization translates into the kind of flooding that recently occurred in New York and New Jersey.

The problem is that folks can only react to short-term issues, both in time and space. Stuff that happens near you right now is far more important than the plight of refugees on the Afghan-Turkmenistan border, even though there are children dying as you read this article.

No politician or policy-maker will dare tell you that if you’re forced to drive only two-thirds of what you drive now, or watch one hour less of TV or internet per day, or switch off your cellphone at night, in three years there will be a ten percent reduction in serious floods or wildfires. Or even that in ten years there will be a three percent reduction.

Of course, if you lost your house in Greece this summer, or live up in the Santa Cruz mountains in California, you may see things differently—but for the majority of the voting public, radical measures that affect them have no vote appeal except indirectly, for instance through taxation.

Climate change is a hugely complex problem, with effects widely varying in time and space—exactly the kind of issue politicians hate to tackle. And yet, despite the pandemic proving unequivocally that we are not the masters of the universe, we stubbornly cling to the idea that we are.

Even death is something we refuse to consider, until the man in the dark hood comes and leads us by the hand.

We can solve everything, we can shape our world. Good luck with that, but…

Have you ever seen the rain?

The India Road, Atmos Fear, Clear Eyes, and Folk Tales For Future Dreamers. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

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