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Sheilas Brush and global warming


So much to catch up on in world affairs, so little time. If it's not New York governors making eyes at high-priced lassies, it's China cracking down on unrest in Tibet (and accusing the Dalai Lama inciting violence, of all things, which is like saying that your two-year-old robbed a major bank), or the American sub-prime crisis.

And don't forget the other ongoing newsmakers, such as suicide bombers, the seal hunt and global warming.
Global warming, did you say?
That's almost blasphemous, given the weather we're having right now in much of the island part of Newfoundland. Mention global warming right now and the words go over almost as well as a belch in church.
What do you mean, "global warming?" If we're supposed to get that kind of climate change, I don't see it. This is the crappiest winter we've had in Newfoundland in ages. And the rest of the country is no better. Don't forget other countries, too - didn't they have a snowstorm in Israel a while ago, and snow in Pakistan and China? At least Toronto is getting more snow than we have. Looks good on 'em.
Talk about a snit. It's not easy to think about climate change when your dreams of palm trees, sandy beaches and girls in bikinis aren't happening in accordance with your plans to secure pristine tropical waterfront property in Newfoundland.
Well, you can fulfill your dreams, sort of.
We don't have palm trees, but you can either bring a fake one along or settle for a short spruce tree while you're visiting some of Newfoundland's spectacular white sandy beaches in places like Burgeo and Shallow Bay at Gros Morne.
But that's probably as far as it gets, weather-wise, for the time being. You might even have to wait another 250 million years before continental drift smooshes Newfoundland back into Africa. Of course, by that time, any creatures bearing traces of your genetic lineage may have degenerated too much to care.
It's difficult to think about global warming when you're cursing the snowplow that closed off your driveway for the third time in a single day, but at some point we're going to have to.
Why? Given the facts that a good part of the Arctic is melting and glaciers in many parts of the world are diminishing rapidly, the storms hitting Newfoundland in rapid succession are probably connected to climate change as well.
This season, winter temperatures have been warmer. We haven't had as many stretches of really low temperatures this year. Actually, our winter in Newfoundland hasn't been as bone-chilling cold as usual.
As a result, ocean temperatures have been higher, which isn't good for the cold-water species like the Atlantic cod. And when the ocean is warmer, even by a degree or two, that means a system passes over the water, gets more energy and has the potential to develop into a full-fledged storm.
But even if this storm is not directly connected to climate change, but is a more extreme version of the work of Saint Patrick's handmaiden - the usual Sheila's Brush (more like Sheila's 1000-HP snowblower) - that doesn't excuse us from not being good environmental stewards. We don't need to be racing around in our monstrous SUVs, ATVs and snowmobiles, or zooming at top speeds in our flashy cars. We don't have the God-given right to be shopping left, right and centre for things we don't need.
And there's nearly seven billion of us. We're crowding our living space. What happens when one person goes into an empty gym? Nothing - but as the gym fills up with people, the room gets warmer, and warmer, and warmer.
This it is with global warming. As we get busier on this planet, we turn up the heat, whether we like it or not.
Just weather out the storm this time around. It will start getting hotter soon enough.
Sue Hickey

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