November 10, 2013

Monkton train station on a bright, fall day.

Copyright 2013 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It was a beautiful fall day that begged to be used for a walk-temperatures were in the high 50s with plenty of sun.  Weather forecasts on the morning news, however, advised that it was going to be “windy” with “gusts up to 20 mph.”

Maple leaves in fall colour.

Copyright 2013 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Many of the trees were indeed stripped of leaves but there were some maples with plenty of vibrant fall colour remaining…

Various leaves in fall.

Copyright 2013 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

while other flora offered a more subdued palette that was nonetheless quite beautiful in its own quiet way.

Boken beams that have fallen in an abandoned house.

Copyright 2013 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The photographs in this post were made while walking along the North Central Railroad Trail in Monkton, Maryland.  There is an old, long abandoned house next to the trail that continues its graceful destruction as the weather and years take their toll.  The building has been there as long as I have been walking on the Trail and that has been over a decade.

It was this building, the advisories about the wind “gusts”, and the bright sky that brought me back to thinking about the Philippines.  Typhoon Haiyan did indeed create the massive damage and much loss of life as was feared-this is one story.  As is mentioned in the article, Haiyan may be “…the strongest cyclone ever” as it contained sustained winds of over 140 mph with gusts to 170 mph.  Locally, today, as was mentioned, we were advised by the forecasts to be prepared for gusts of 20 mph.  When did we get so sensitive that 20 mph is now a “gust”?

Indeed. In fact, it is difficult to imagine 170 mph winds as I have never been in anything close to that degree of velocity.  The frame of reference did ultimately come in the form of a comparison:  I am thinking about having the roof of my house replaced and my contractor said the new shingles are manufactured to withstand 130 mph winds.  I distinctly remember being impressed with that number and yet a brand new roof with state-of-the-art shingles and installed in compliance with stringent building codes would most likely have been peeled off and discarded by Haiyan.

Nature seems to have a sharp sense of irony.  Tomorrow, November 11, the 2013 United Nations Climate Change Conference begins in Warsaw, Poland.  The talks that begin tomorrow are a continuation of the process begun in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan and held in various locations over the intervening years.  Despite the talks, greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise and the planet has continued to warm.  Perhaps some concrete, legally binding, changes will be agreed to this year.  The next 11 days or so will provide an answer to that.

Time has certainly provided an ongoing list of catastrophic natural disasters of which Typhoon Haiyan is the latest. It would seem that at some point we will need to stop referring to these as “natural” disasters as the manner in which humans live life is amplifying the conditions under which such storms develop.  The fury of the weather is then most felt in the areas in which people either choose or are forced to live-along coastlines.  (That is not to minimize the wildfires and tornadoes that have occurred in the mid-and southwestern United States.)  Globally, an increasingly significant percentage of people live along or near coastlines.  Finally, so many citizens of least developed nations live in such profound poverty that their infrastructure is nowhere near up to the task of providing protection from these storms.  Of course, New Orleans and the gulf coast of the United States were devastated by Hurricane Katrina and the U.S. is the prototypic most-developed nation.  The common thread is poverty and poverty is a human-generated condition.     

There are a number of organizations providing relief for the Philippines.  Please consider a donation.

Take care.


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