From flooding rains, heavy snow, and hell freezing over in northern Europe to raging fires, drought and heat exceeding all recorded temperatures, everywhere on our Earth, the shorthand term for these extremes of amazing weather is misery.
Whether this a "new normal" or a bad stretch of crummy weather, we are reminded of the old tongue-twister:
Whether the weather be mild or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold or whether the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not.
And indeed that's the rub, isn't it: We have to put up, endure, survive and somehow plan to do the business of commerce and of our lives, despite whatever Nature's weather cycles throw at us, from super-storms to super-fires, whether we like it or not, and regardless of international consensus followed by actions taken to attempt to slow climate change, should such a miracle ever happen.
From Mesopotamia to the Maya to new but old predictions from MIT, bad weather is found at the root of social collapse. It's really very simple: drought, unstable food supply, lack of water and extreme weather result in large scale misery and wars and social collapse-- for the lucky ones, migration to somewhere else — have ruled human history's lists of winners and losers. Add to the list of losers in such times wildlife, natural habitat unable to rejuvenate quickly (two the three decades is quickly; two or three hundred years more realistic) due to overuse and degradation and, well, it's quite a mess for our plugged-in children who know little to nothing about survival techniques of a wild Nature.
As an article in Scientific American last spring quoted Dennis Meadows, Professor Emeritus of systems policy at the University of New Hampshire and the former head of the MIT team behind the then-radical — and now radically omnicient — report entitled Limits to Growth (1972):
"'I see collapse happening already,' [Meadows] says. 'Food per capita is going down, energy is becoming more scarce, groundwater is being depleted.' Most worrisome, Jorgen Randers [another of the MIT original modelers and author of the new book 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years] notes, greenhouse gases are being emitted twice as fast as oceans and forests can absorb them. Whereas in 1972 humans were using 85 percent of the regenerative capacity of the biosphere to support economic activities such as growing food, producing goods and assimilating pollutants, the figure is now at 150 percent—and growing."
So what's a community to do, whether New York City and the East Coast of the US, the land mass known as Australia, the teeming populations of Rio sweltering this winter at 109 degrees or northern Europe freezing at 50 degrees below zero? Is there any reasonable way for any community to "plan" for our new 'normal' of extremes?
This is the challenge before us, regardless of location and regardless of whether the planners are in small communities, large crop-producing bread-baskets of the world, urban areas with millions of people or coastal-dwellers facing rising sea waters or salinization of fresh water rivers. Planning for such large-scale weather extremes is daunting, and raises interesting and important questions:
Whose responsibility is it, do you think, to plan a response for these ongoing weather events that are stretching budget and resources?
Do you think Government, whether local or national, should lead response planning?
Might Government-sized emergency response units, whether at the NGO level or a national government level be the responsible party?
How about your local first responders?
Or is action and planning to be taken at a neighborhood or family level?
How are you planning to begin sorting out your business or family response for the extreme weather showing up at your doorstep and to whom do you expect to appeal for help when the weather hits hard in your home territory?
Part Two will consider what a plan for extreme weather might consider...To Come.