It must have been my taunting of the Season of Chill that brought its own chill to my home and work environment this last week. Not more than twenty-four hours after my last post my area suffered what they call an Ice Storm. First came the meager snow, far from the epic house-high accumulations of which I wrote. Then came the freezing rain, rain that starts as water 5000 feet up, but due to the cold lower layer, freezes on contact. Well, it froze to the snowy branches of thousands of trees, trees that had long enjoyed a leisurely lean out over open fields and roadways.
And then this legion of woody soldiers all began to fall. And fall they did. By the hundreds.
Big, fifty to eighty year-old trees fell into roads and onto houses and cars and onto fields and open-spaces everywhere. If the tree was “branchy” and lopsided then it probably lost major branchage if not outright fell over.
Fortunately, the power returned the next day. But the internet did not. Six days later it’s finally been restored. I’ve had to drive over to a friend’s and work from their bedroom as their net connection remained viable. I mean, I work from home, but if I can’t connect… “Sorry, Mole, you’re no good to us — disconnected.”
Spending the evenings watching old DVDs (Harry Potter), as the cable was also kaput, was nice. But, oy, when you’re jonesing for the juice and even the cell-tower’s data is temporarily wounded, no power, no net, no cell-coverage… It felt like the 90’s. The 1890’s that is.
How good we have it. How much we take for granted. Sure got cold. Maybe if it hadn’t been winter…
Oh, and WP’s Block Editor really does suck. If Microsoft Word had used such an idiotic block metaphor it would have died along with Clippy. No editor worth its salt forces such a paradigm on users. Adding blocks TO a document is vastly different than forcing all content to be blocks. If Word or Google GDocs ever adopted such a draconian technique I’d go back to writing in Notepad.
I suspect WP might have done this to make it easier to inject ads into posts as content is schlepped around the net.
By morning, a dusting of snow had softened winter’s dark lines and sharp angles. Throughout the day, the storm sifted down a deafening silence of eyelash soft flurries. When we awoke the next day we reveled in the blurry white embrace of a rounded world. Fence posts topped with mushroom perfection. Cedars and firs bowing with their pillowed gifts. All things flat had gained marshmallow hats and the unbroken smoothness of the streets and yards beckoned for footprints. We obliged them.
By the third morning, with the plows having somehow missed our street, if not our town, and the snow never quitting its powdered sugar descent, worry snuck in. By week’s end we began to plan our escape. When we ventured to trench our way beyond our side door, we got as far as the street before turning back. Too much to shovel, too soft to wade through, exhaustion overwhelmed us. We’d hoped to break through to some gap, some sign of rescue. Only the occasional hallo from a neighbor, no, we’ve neither seen nor heard from anyone but you and us.
Twelve days now and our homemade snowshoes are ready. We’re leaving out the second story window over the garage. We wear our ski clothes and goggles as the blizzard conditions have scarcely let up. The power has been out for days, but the gas stove has kept us alive. We boiled snow and ate down our stores, cans and sacks we never imagined we’d use but are grateful for their presence. Thank god for our ancestors’ habits. Whoever thought lima beans could taste so good?
It took all day, but we’re finally to the grocery store. There’s a ramp down to the entrance and there are lanterns burning inside. National Guard soldiers keep the peace, they nod to us as we traipse into the dimly lit entry way. We can buy only so much, and the selection is limited, but we’re relieved there’s anything at all.
We’re told to head to the high school where most of the town has gathered for warmth and food. Generators are running and the place is ready for us.
We spend the night, and the next. The snow never quits. We stay until supplies, the Guard says, that should have arrived, never show up. You might be better off fending for yourselves, they tell us. We take what they offer, and the remaining supplies we didn’t share and head back toward home. We have trouble navigating as the snow covers the street signs and what looks like a road is just an open patch without trees. But we make it.
A few neighbors have candles burning in third story windows, their second stories are mostly buried. We, ourselves, only have an attic. We have to dig down to reenter our window. With the stove fired up and warm porridge in our bellies we sit on cushions and blankets in the attic and stare out the circular window at the snow that continues to fall.
Surrounding the Arctic Ocean, the continental shelf harbors thousands of gigatons of of methane in the form of methane hydrate, fire-ice. This substance, methane gas surrounded by water ice, forms when microbes eat organic sediment and release methane (like in the bowels of a bovine) which gets trapped by high water pressure and low temperature.
Were just five of these gigatons of methane to be released into the atmosphere the concentration would double methane’s current contribution of 25% of global warming.
Fifty gigatons would wreak an environmental catastrophe. Five hundred, released in a continuous stream around the Arctic would induce another PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum).
Deep beneath the East Siberian Sea stretching across the straight into the Beaufort Sea and around to the Barents Sea the earth is shifting. Tectonic forces have been pulling apart the crust, magma is seeping upward, and now the once frozen methane hydrates are thawing. Swelling. Bubbling to the surface.
Vents along the Siberian coast crack open and haphazard lightening strikes have ignited the plumes of methane. Volcanoes of flame burn hundreds of meters into the sky. What doesn’t burn, drifts high into the atmosphere where it traps the reflective solar energy. The Arctic has become a tepid bath. Greenland’s ice cap and its hundreds of glaciers steam and melt. Measurements along the Eastern Seaboard measure an inch a month sea level rise.
Life is about to experience Sauna Earth.
Bring your beer and spruce brushes because we’re gonna get sweaty.
DNA and the mechanisms of aging have been selectively engineered to maximize population growth and the saturation of an ecosystem by any and all species.
We are born, grow, procreate, raise offspring and die.
DNA depends on this cycle. If there were no natural selection of dominant (maximum ecosystem exploitation) species, then at some point, such a non-optimized species would most likely experience a calamitous shock, unable to adapt, move or cope, the result would be extinction.
Natural selection expects you to die. In fact, extending our age well past the viable range of procreation and raising offspring is counter-productive — as far as DNA is concerned. Old, you’re just a waste of resources.
We were designed (not really, but the end result might be thought of in this way) to die by age 50. By twenty-five, you would have produced offspring and would now be in the throes of raising them. By fifty, your done. In most cultures, by fifty, you’re already a grandparent having already passed on any wisdom to your children and potentially your grandchildren.
It’s like Logan’s Run but Carousel happens at 50. Your little red jewel glows until 49.364 and then — wink — out it goes. DNA is pretty much Logan’s run, but without the big bang at the end marking your “Ascension.”
Oh, sure, some will argue that elders impart existential experience and advocacy for the species. But this is just bollocks. The fact remains that throughout human existence this fifty-year maximum (on average) was pretty much the standard. Only in the last few hundred years have we breached this lifespan threshold.
And sure, there have been long-lived sages of old who wrote stuff down on tablets, scrolls, papyrus and whatnot. Information that has been tumbling along, building like a snowball to provide us the incredible advances we enjoy today.
But DNA does care about that stuff. It’s Eat-Pray-Love, but for all organisms.
Eat. Grow. Fuck. Die. That’s DNA for ya.