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Friday, April 25, 2014

The Climate Change

Jaime R. Vergara

Severe winter day in September, I called it. A freak occurrence, said others. No, we did not have snow on the ground. But close. September in the temperate zone is the end of summer and just the start of autumn. But the official website of the Aerospace University jests that there is no autumn in Liaoning. Summer goes directly to winter. So it was with the blast of cold winds one day in September.

Dong Bei China boasts of four seasons: two weeks of spring, two months of summer, two days of autumn, and the rest is winter. The numbers, of course, do not compute, but that is hardly the point of the boast.

The two-layer-shirt day of September winter did not come as a surprise to many. It just meant adding layers of clothing to protect the body from the elements. But it wobbled our knees, and at our age, that is just like trying to walk straight while the earth shimmied under our feet.

Weather-wise, the October National Holiday week was glorious. Two of my students trekked up to Changbaishan, that crystal clear Crater Lake 8,000 feet above sea level on the border of China and North Korea, and they made it to the top. Their sole complaint was that there were too many people who made the journey. Last year, when I attempted the feat, we did not even make it to the foothills as it snowed up to our ankles down close to the river.

But it was the two-layer-pant day here in the plains that got our knees beyond shivering this sudden winter October that followed. Happily, we already winterized our closet so the long johns are accessible. I thought that two years of severe winters in the prairies of Saskatchewan, Canada, and exposure to the icy river of Dillingham, Alaska would have inured us to the sharp whiskers of old man winter, but no such luck. Our knees complain along with our freezing butt.

Steam in the radiator, for the university and the rest of the city, will not be turned on until Nov. 1, our convenient excuse, against our MD’s advice, was to stock up on a few bottles of single malt whiskey!

My discomfort on climate change here in China’s northeast is understandable since we are basically hot-blooded honcho tropico, but when the locals find the conditions severe as well, then the change might be more radical than just the normal descent of the mercury down the thermometer tube.

We are not really given to complaining. We take the global climate change simply as an occasion for the human of the specie to adapt to a changed situation. Forecasted catastrophes produce adrenaline-rush in doomsday movies but like the boutique drugs of the contemporary scene, the descent from the artifice is often too costly to bear. With the grasslands of Inner Mongolia dotted with coal-burning plants to generate electricity for China’s industries, and the barreling coal trucks 24/7 from Shanxi feeding the monsters, we are not about to see a clearing of the skies from carbon anytime soon.

A town in Alaska encourages folks to forego showers this autumn and winter, as public works was unable to get all the water it requires to meet the whole town’s requirement. Ironically, with the polar cap melting more and faster as a consequence of global warming, the atmospheric temperature near poles gets cooler earlier than a town’s normal schedule to pump water into its reservoir. Fresh water is already frozen. It will not thaw again until spring, and that is a long way off past April.

On the other hand, Thailand is bracing for the onslaught of more monsoon rains, a bit more prepared this time than it was last year when flooding cost them an economy and a half. Still, it is getting more water than what it normally can handle.

Settlements in the U.S. southwest are finding their ponds and lakes drying up, a boon to archaeologists who are discovering interesting items on the newly exposed terrain, but the parched land does nothing for the agricultural requirements of flora and fauna.

These floods and droughts are wreaking mayhem on many settlements around the world but it is also surprising many farmers as they either get water and sunshine more or less than what they normally get. The table grape growers in Liaoning this mid-autumn festival offered sweet and juicy fruit of the vine they were expected to provide, much also to the delight of the vintners.

Heat, even when the radiators steam, do not really get a drop of sweat even from the super active, so we rely on the double-layer shirts draped by all kinds of cardigans, cashmeres, angoras, mohairs, flannels, wools—nah, these garments for export aren’t affordable around here. Down jackets and nylon apparels left over from last year’s inventory from overproduction are more in our price range!

Occasionally, we daydream of those year-round sunsets along Saipan’s lagoon that we relished even as we occasionally got drenched in the afternoon showers. A Riben tourist once commented: "Gee, I work all year to afford coming over for a couple of weeks, and here you get to sit under the coconut basking on lagoon breeze all year round!" Ah, but we should all be so lucky.

Pass the Glenfiddich, please! Now, where did I place that darn scarf? Kiss my freezin’ Alz!

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